Developing a Communication Plan
It is critical to keep in touch with your students during an emergency situation such as an outbreak of COVID-19. Communicate with them early and often. Keep students abreast of any changes in schedules, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations.
If you have already prepared an online course communication plan for your class, the plan will likely need to be reviewed and modified in response to a COVID-19 disruption. Here are some basic best pratices for preparing or modifying a communication plan for an online course.
When teaching online, it is important to be clear on how the instructor intends to communicate with students and what students can expect in terms of a response from their instructor. In general, communicating with students takes place through email for conversations with individual students and through Brightspace/D2L announcements for the entire class. Instructors may also hold virtual office hours at a designated time through the Brightspace/D2L chat tool or web conferencing tool such as WebEx (MSU Licensed and Supported), Zoom, or Skype.
Tips and Strategies for Communicating with Students
Create an email policy that clearly states what email you prefer to use--MSU Outlook or the Brightspace/D2L email messaging system--and indicate that you will respond or at least acknowledge their email within 24-48 hours. Students may have an urgent concern that needs to be addressed. If you find that multiple students are asking the same question or think that it is information all students should know, create an announcement addressing it for the entire class. If you are going to be unavailable via email during certain timeframes, just make sure students are aware that you will be unavailable and try not to make the time when you are unavailable close to when major assignments are due.
See example of course contact and email policy below.
Announcements can be an effective way to provide important updates to the class, summarize progress, wrap up content, and provide important reminders of due dates. When creating and sending out announcements, follow these tips:
- Be sure to let students know that you will be using announcements to communicate important information and that they need to be paying attention to the announcements and have this feature turned on.
- Try to limit them to 1-2 per week. Sending announcements too frequently may make students less likely to read them all.
- Send them out consistently at the beginning or end of the week so students know when to look for them.
- Start with the most important information in the first paragraph or two.
- Use bolded headings to organize the information.
- Try to keep the announcement to one MS Word document page.
See example of weekly online course announcement below.
Use of an Ask Your Instructor Discussion Forum
For frequently asked questions, it may be helpful and more efficient to have an online discussion forum where students can post questions about course policies, assignments and course materials that all students can see the answers to. However, it is important that you check and respond to this online discussion forum regularly. The online discussion forums in Brighspace/D2L have a subscription feature that sends alerts to email when a student has posted to the forum.
Example of Course Contact and Email Policy
Because of the online nature of this course, I realize that you may need to contact me at random times for questions. The best way to contact me will be via email at email@example.com. I have a 24-hour turnaround policy, meaning that I will respond to your inquiry within 24 hours, with an exception for weekends, where I may need some more time.
I also hold virtual office hours every week from 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM on Mondays and Wednesdays (excluding holidays). I will be available for Skype calls and chats under the username @…...... Feel free to drop in to discuss anything from academia generally to course material. If you need to set up a Skype conference outside of that time period, let me know via email and we can set up an appointment.
Example of Weekly Online Course Announcement
We are approaching the home stretch in the semester with about a month to go! Hope that you are benefitting from a break from the readings and routine assignments in the course.
Here is a grading update and a reminder to submit your outline for the Political Crime Problem Analysis and Policy Proposal assignment by tomorrow, Sunday, 11/3 at 11:59PM.
Module 5 Group Discussion Grades Posted: The grades and feedback for the Module 5 public corruption case analysis have been posted. I was pleased with the results and applications of the definitions, means, levels and CPI index scores to the real-world cases provided. There were some interesting historical and recent cases offered by the groups, including the recent political upheaval in Lebanon that was spurred by cases of public corruption, the high profile and infamous college admissions scandal perpetrated by wealthy people, and even the performance enhancing cheating by Russian athletes in the Olympics. Unfortunately, the breadth of these cases across various areas of our world show that corruption is very widespread and systemic but does tend to more or less fit the patterns and concepts found in the book!
Current Course Grades: I was able to create a column in the grade book that shows your current course grade. I apologize if that was not available for you to view before. If you are unable to see this or have questions about your current grade, please let me know.
Outline for Political Crime Problem Policy Analysis and Proposal and Resource: The outline is due tomorrow, Sunday, 11/3 at 11:59 PM. I came across a good list of leading political science journals that can offer peer-reviewed material or articles for your political crime problem areas. These journals should be available through the MSU Library. While you may not be able to incorporate these sources into the outline, it may help build out your sources for the final assignment. https://guides.lib.berkeley.edu/Intro-to-Political-Science-Research/majorjournals
Upcoming – Module 6 Controlling Political Crime: We will be returning to the standard two-week module format for Module 6 starting next week with the reflection due, Sunday, 11/10. Note that the Module 6 Group discussion activity has two due dates: Part 1: Wednesday, 11/13 and Part II: Sunday, 11/17. You will be revisiting some of the prior books on how to control political crime in general and public corruption that may help frame your final assignments.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions and let’s keep up the momentum and finish the course strong!