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Communication

Communicating with your students is a key part of engaging them. As you are unlikely to have your students in a classroom with you on a regular basis, you need to ensure that this communication is shared via other methods, and that it is proactive in reaching out to your students and modelling the behaviour you wish to receive from them. Here are our key tips: 
Be Proactive

Whilst we expect students to take charge of their learning with tutors facilitating as a "guide on the side", it is still vital that you take a leadership role in the learning and are therefore proactive with your communication. Get in touch with the students, encourage them to engage with the study material - and then react to their comments, submissions, questions as well. It is particularly important to front-load your communication in the first two weeks of a module as this will set the tone for the remaining interaction levels on the module. 

Set Expectations

Make sure that students understand how and when you will be communicating with them - and if they communicate with you, when they can expect a response. For example, many of your students may be studying on the weekend - how quickly can they expect a response to any issues they face? 

Be Present

Teaching presence is a critical part of the educational experience and a significant influence in building a community of inquiry. You should encourage community building, allowing the students to get to know each other and you. It's also useful for students to have a single point of contact to go to for help - online learning tutors can be a positive help here. 

Be Clear
Most of the communication that you will have with students will be written, so it is important to ensure that you are clear as you will not be able to use tone of voice or non-verbal cues to indicate meaning. Whilst maintaining clarity, it is also helpful for you to employ different methods of communication to reach people's preferred style - you could use text, audio, visuals and screencasts. 

Communication Plans

Having a communication framework with a plan of scheduled communications to students is a really helpful method of maintaining engagement. Here are the basics: 

1) Pre-course
Ensure that you communicate clear and appropriate messages to your students via Welcome and any other channels such as emails. 

2) Course Induction
Use a course induction to share all relevant information (perhaps highlighting the key bits of information in a synchronous session) and to start community building.

3) Email announcements at the start of a teaching week
Use introductory emails to describe the content of a week, what you expect students to do and to encourage them to engage with activities. 

4) Email announcements at the end of a teaching week to summarise
Use emails to summarise what's gone on in a teaching week - perhaps highlighting contributions or encouraging engagement where necessary. 

5) General posts of interest in the Google Course Community
Whether this is current news or posts highlighting things of interest to the students, relating their learning to current events helps students to see the relevance of what they're studying and engage with it on a deeper level. 

Most importantly, set aside specific times in your week to do the above and remember to check in with your students. 

Examples of good email communications

Plus Icon Course Leader Welcome email

Dear Growing and developing in a social world students,

We looking forward to getting to know each of you this semester, and we are excited about the prospect of seeing you succeed.
And on that note, we would like to share with you the two things you can do to succeed in this online module.

1 – Set a regular time. Decide on a regular place and time where you will do your work for this module. This may seem obvious and overly simplistic, but it’s really important. Without the rhythm of coming to a physical classroom each week, it’s easy for an online class to get put on the back burner. It is not unusual for otherwise brilliant students to fail at an online course simply because they forgot about it. We would recommend accessing the course site every Monday, on Wednesdays, then again on Friday. This is because we send out an important weekly message each week that will help you organize your work and review what is due.

2 – The students who are most successful in online modules regularly do one more thing: they keep in communication with their tutor and with their peers.  We want you to feel free to communicate using the discussions boards and email. Why? Because this is part of the learning process. We respond to emails within 5 working days, often a little faster, but you can always count on us getting back to you by five days at the very latest. However, we regularly participate in the online discussions, so feel free to ask us or your peers questions there, or share your insights. And it’s important to know that when we ask you a question via email or in a discussion, that we not just throwing it out into cyberspace, we really want to hear what you think. We learn just as much from you, as you learn from us and your peers. So, let’s all make this class a highly interactive experience by engaging one another.

Finally, you’ll notice that we have set up a question of the week discussion on the module site. The questions change each week, this week you are asked to discuss your favourite book. Each week we contribute to the discussion board, but the questions are designed to get you all talking to each other. Our hope is that they will ignite some great discussions. We are looking forward to reading your responses.

It’s going to be a great semester!

Maria Zammit & Ellie Willard

Plus Icon OLT Welcome email

Hello XXX and welcome to the XXX course.

I just wanted to get in touch and introduce myself as the Online Learning Tutor. My name is XXX and I will be working with you during your studies here at Leeds Beckett University. I will be on hand to provide you with any extra support related to non-academic content. This could include research skills, study skills or any other learning support. Whilst I am not an IT expert, please also do get in touch should you have technical problems and if I am able to help, I of course will, but if beyond my knowledge, will pass you on to someone else that I can.

I am aware that XXX our School administrator has been in touch with you to advise you that the first module you will study is XXX . Today then marks the start of the course induction which is available to you within MyBeckett, with the module induction released next week, w/c XX. Teaching week 1 will then begin on the XX.

If you have any queries at all, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and I will be more than happy to assist you. My work days are XXX, but I do pick up emails over the weekend and so you will always receive a response from me within 48 hours.

I will also shortly send you an invite to our Google+ Course Community. You will need to set up a Google+ account if you do not already have one in order to access it, using your student email address. We use Google+ not only at a course level, but on all of our modules too. The communities are a space where you can share thoughts and ideas with course staff and peers. Please be reassured that these are closed communities and only you and other course students and staff have access. You will also receive an invite to the XXX module community in due course. You may find the following web page of use in setting up your Google+ profile. See https://support.google.com/plus/?hl=en#topic=3049661 for further details.

I look forward to working with you throughout your studies here and as before, please do not hesitate to get in touch should you need anything at all.

Best wishes

XXX

Need more help? Contact us

distancelearning@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

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