An important part of building community is to develop shared expectations around the type, tone, and frequency of communication between people in the community. When designing your course, you should make sure that everyone understands what communication channels you will use and how, and how often, you will use them.
Online communication can easily end up feeling like a “firehose” of information. Thus, it’s important to streamline communication by limiting the channels of communication you use with your students. These channels should be clearly explained to students in the syllabus and on the first day of class.
Good strategies include:
- Use the Canvas Inbox and Announcements tools for communicating with students; this is preferable to email. Learn more about Inbox and Announcements.
- Use Inbox to communicate with one or a few of your students
- Use Announcements to reach the whole class
- If you must email your students, use the Google group automatically created for your class. The group automatically updates during drop/add and can help you avoid leaving a student out of the loop. Learn about using these Google groups (link is a video).
- Assign due dates for each assignment in Canvas. This is one of students’ most important requests to faculty! Here are written instructions for how to add a due date to an assignment.
- Use Modules as the primary way to organize assignments, listing them by units of study or weeks. This enables students to focus their attention on course content rather than on figuring out each instructor’s idiosyncratic Canvas setup.
- Create office hours signups in Google Calendar and use them to manage your time and avoid long waits. Learn more about creating office hours as appointments in Calendar.
The easier it is for students to manage the logistics of your course and communicate with you, the more likely they are to be able to be full participants in it. Students who feel uncertain or ill-prepared tend to hang back in group work and class discussions, while students who are prepared are more confident in their interactions with others. Making sure that everyone is able to participate on an even footing is also an important way to promote inclusiveness, which is an essential ingredient in a successful classroom community.