Level of Difficulty
Unit Size Evaluated
SELF-PACED ONLINE MODULES
This pattern is concerned with how to use regular announcements to communicate with students when delivering a unit in a blended or hybrid mode, where synchronous lectures have been re-shaped into SELF-PACED ONLINE MODULES. Regular communications from the Coordinator to students across the semester helps signpost key learning moments, keeps students on track, and can build a sense of teacher presence and a learning community.
In large units where lectures have been re-shaped into SELF-PACED ONLINE MODULES, regular announcements are imperative to keep in touch with students by giving updates on learning activities across the semester, such as when a new learning module is available for self-paced study.
Regular teacher to student communication has been shown to be an effective engagement strategy in online learning (Martin & Bolliger, 2018). Sheridan & Kelly (2010) show how the communicative aspects of teacher presence, including announcements, are perceived by students as a valuable contribution to a successful learning experience.
In the context of a delivery mode that includes SELF-PACED ONLINE MODULES instead of traditional lectures, students need regular communications about new learning content becoming available online and activities requiring completion. Without the regular touchpoint of a synchronous weekly lecture, students may require additional online communication and signposting of their journey through the semester’s learning. Students may also feel less connected to their lecturers or the rest of their cohort when learning via SELF-PACED ONLINE MODULES.
Regular ANNOUNCEMENTS from the Coordinator throughout the semester is a simple but effective way to support student learning in blended or hybrid delivery modes. ANNOUNCEMENTS sent via the LMS to alert students when new modules are released helps keep everyone on track. These communications also have the benefit of creating a sense of teacher presence and can help build a sense of students being part of a community of learners, especially during the asynchronous elements of their learning experience. Regular ANNOUNCEMENTS assist with signposting and orienting students in online learning experiences by creating a narrative of the semester’s journey. ANNOUNCEMENTS can also help with setting expectations around how to learn in a certain delivery environment.
01 > Implementing this pattern requires an LMS with the functionality to send email announcements.
02 > At the outset of semester, take a moment to plan your regular announcements.
03 > Consider the frequency of announcements. Set a regular time to communicate to students. For example, posting every Monday morning.
04 > Consider what events will trigger announcements. The following is a suggested plan:
- Welcome message to introduce yourself and the unit (can include Welcome video).
- Regular (weekly) update to students when new online modules are released and when they should be completed by.
- Update when an assignment brief is released.
- Reminder when a summative assessment is due soon.
- Instructions for students to complete an online activity (e.g. online group formation).
- Update when assessment feedback/results are available.
- Updates on industry examples as they emerge from current events.
05 > Consider your communication style and tone. Try a fun, friendly and clear tone of voice. Be succinct and concise. Aim for a logical structure.
06 > Consider including personal perspectives or insights to increase the sense of teacher presence (e.g. “This topic is one of my favourites because xyx...”)
07 > Consider curating interesting industry examples from “real world” current events to increase engagement and relevancy (e.g. “This topic relates to a current debate on xyz in the news right now, here is a link to an article”.)
08 > Consider using rich media, such as embedding a video message of yourself, or including images, links etc. into the text announcement.
09 > Consider whether you want students to be able to reply to your messages and, if so, allocate resources to manage this correspondence.
10 > Archive your announcements at the end of each semester so you can re-use and recycle relevant wording in the future.
Examples of pattern in use
Example 1: Marketing
This pattern was tested in a postgraduate unit called MKTG6007: Consumer Behaviour with approximately 200 students.
The pattern was iteratively developed and implemented. We acknowledge the Unit Coordinator from the Marketing discipline, Dr Christina Anthony.
As part of developments in the unit to re-shape weekly lectures into SELF-PACED ONLINE MODULES, we needed to ensure students were up to date and aware of when they should be asynchronously studying certain content. When studying SELF-PACED ONLINE MODULES instead of attending weekly face-to-face lectures, students may feel less connected to their teacher. Communications from the Unit Coordinator can address this problem by creating a sense of teacher presence and also building a sense of a community of learners, as students feel they are in the experience together.
The Unit Coordinator sent regular announcements that were friendly, encouraging and clear. These announcements were made regularly every Monday morning to update students when a new SELF-PACED ONLINE MODULE was ready for study. As this self-directed mode of learning was new to some students, information was included on how to best study in this format, such as prompting students to complete interactive activities and post to the discussion board within the module. Important aspects of pre-work required as preparation for synchronous workshops were highlighted.
The Unit Coordinator also sent announcements regarding assessment milestones, and instructions on tasks requiring completion such as reminding students they needed to form themselves into groups online. Some of the Unit Coordinator’s announcements were more informal with easy fun examples or inspiration from news/current events to continually provide relevant context and “real-world” links to theory and concepts taught in the unit (See KFC example below). As this is a marketing unit, the Coordinator was careful to model persuasive language, approaching the announcements like ‘mini adverts’ that reflect and tie in with the weekly topic.
Technology / resources used
This pattern uses the Canvas LMS Announcements feature, making sure the option was enabled for students to view both current and previous announcements. Sometimes other rich media was embedded in the announcement, such as links to news sources or YouTube videos.