Communicating with Students

Communicating with students is a crucial part of any learning environment regardless of the modality.

In a face-to-face classroom setting, teachers can rely on informal opportunities for formative feedback through verbal and often non-verbal exchanges with their students. (Things like body language, eye contact, and even silence can tell you a lot about a group’s readiness to learn new things.) These exchanges help us discern whether students are learning what we’re trying to teach. In an online setting, however, these formative feedback opportunities need to be plentiful and more consciously developed and integrated into the course.

strategies for increasing student engagement in the online environment

Here are five ways that faculty can increase student engagement in the online environment:

  1. Reward student success
  2. Enable students to monitor their own progress
  3. Create an open, accessible environment for students
  4. Help students set achievable goals in the course
  5. Allow students to participate in building the curriculum.

See a breakdown of each strategy

Set up a meeting with our Instructor Designers or Faculty Facilitators to further discussion additional strategies.

How to do I start my first online class?

Ice breakers are a great way to open your first class and to help students feel comfortable in a remote learning environment. Contact the TLX to set up an appointment with a Faculty Facilitator to discuss various possibilities.   

different ways to engage students on Blackboard forums and social media

Discussion forums and social media tools are great engagement tools to increase student participation. Schedule a meeting with one of our Faculty Facilitators to discuss the different ways of incorporating social media tools within your lesson plan.

Sharing Content

What is content?

"Content" refers to materials provided to students and can include readings, videos, audio, graphics, links to articles, or any other material containing information.

Does content need context?

It does! When sharing content, consider the student experience as they encounter it -- have they been informed what the resource is about, why they should view it (i.e., its relevance to the learning objectives or the field or even their growth), and what they should do with the information? This kind of context helps generate motivation and gives learners a sense of how to approach the material.

Can I simply post content without an associated activity?

Whenever possible, it is a good idea to have students do something with new information.

In order to help learners recall new information and apply it later, consider creating opportunities for them to encode this information as soon as possible after viewing it -- for example, they could be asked to consider specific questions as they watch a video, or complete a brief self-check exercise that is not for marks, or discuss an article in a discussion forum. Presentation of content can also be woven into parts of assignment tasks. Remember that if learners are not somehow interacting with the content or doing something with new information they've just seen, it may be difficult to recall or apply later on.

How much content should I post?

​Less is more. A good rule of thumb is to provide just enough content as a foundation for active application and demonstration of the learning outcomes. Making a large amount of content available without an opportunity to process/encode it may compromise learning off-campus.

​A wise person once said "Course design is not complete when you cannot add any more content to it. It is complete when you cannot remove anything more from it."

communicating with your classes at a distance

Blackboard Tools

Blackboard Learn is GBC's official Learning Management System. It has several tools that can be used to foster communication between faculty members and students, and between students themselves.

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

Consider using Collaborate as a tool to enhance your presence in an online class and to check in with your students.

Blackboard best practices for great sessions

Online Discussion Board

Blackboard Learn App

Students can download the Blackboard Learn app to their smartphones. They will receive notifications every time there is new content, an update, announcement, or course message on their course site.


Microsoft Outlook is the standard email tool at the College. Log into GBC's Outlook for Web with your GBC employee/student ID and system password.

​In addition to emailing students individually, you can email your entire class through MS Outlook. In the “To:” section of the message, type in the CRN of your class like this CRN-xxxxxx. ​

Microsoft Teams

Some professors use MS Teams to connect with students. You can set up a team for each class, then add the students by CRN. (Note: that if you have not used tools like this with your students before, a significant learning curve may be required.)

Other Tools

You might be interested in using other communication tools for connecting with your students, or facilitating communication between them. If these tools will be altogether new to your students, try to be mindful of the learning curve for them at this time of disruption as well as constraints on their access to hardware and to wifi -- tempering creative new solutions with an intention to keep things as streamlined as possible seems a good approach to take at the moment.