Communication & Collaboration
One of the big advantages of using digital tools in an educational context is how they can enable collaboration and communication between instructors & learners, and between learners & other learners. This section will look at the communication & collaboration tools that come built into Blackboard and will consider how to use them and for what purposes.
The Announcements section in Blackboard provides you with a simple but powerful communication tool. Announcements made here show up in the Announcements section itself and if you tick a checkbox can also be automatically emailed to all course users. These time-specific messages can inform your learners of upcoming deadlines, important course updates or simply help to maintain a conversation outside of class between you and your learners.
Here's a short tutorial explaining how to create announcements in Blackboard
More information available from Blackboard
Online discussion forums provide an excellent opportunity for engaging with other learners in an asynchronous (and normally text-based) conversation. This can extend a discussion started in class or can operate as a standalone resource. Modern forums allow attachments, video-embedding, emojis/emoticons and other techniques to enrich a conversation beyond the written word.
To implement successful discussion forums, you may wish to follow the following guidelines:
- Establish ground rules for how to post in forums and to manage expectations. Encourage a positive environment of mutual respect and exchange of ideas and encourage discussion between peers rather than just student-instructor
- Frame the task clearly and if the forum posting is in direct response to a question, make sure that the question is open enough to generate discussion and hopefully lead to deeper learning
- Encourage sharing of ideas and responding to posts rather than a stream of non-connected individual posts. You might want to instruct learners to ‘reply to at least two posts’ to promote a dialogical approach
- Practice constructive forum moderation: post replies that invite further discussion; make occasional ‘summary’ posts that give an opportunity for those who’ve missed some posts to getup-to-date in the conversation; ‘weave’ different threads together to help unite conversations and reduce the number of distinct conversations covering the same ground; let the students have time to discuss between themselves before giving instructor input
- Consider grouping large numbers of students into more manageable chunks – this can promote more active involvement, reduce ‘lurking’ (forum members remaining silent in discussions) and reduce the information overload of active forums
- Try letting students post anonymously to see if it increases forum participation of more reluctant learners
In Blackboard, forums are created by teachers on the main Discussion Board and students and teachers post threads.
This video shows how to create forums on Blackboard
This video shows how to manage discussions on Blackboard
A blog is a kind of online journal with contributions made at different times usually presented in reverse chronological order and a comment section for each post in which readers can share their thoughts. Bloggers often comment on and link to each other’s work creating a community of bloggers. In education there are three main blog formats: a course/class blog, in which all class members can make posts and add comments; an individual blog with one main writer and others making comments; and a group blog with a small number of main writers and once again, other learners able to comment.
There are multiple possible benefits of using blogs:
- Blogs are an easy to use online publishing technology
- Blogs offer learners a high level of ownership and autonomy
- Blogs enable co-creation and easy sharing of knowledge, easily aligning with a constructivist approach to education
- Blogs promote critical thinking and reflection via a negotiation of meaning and refining of ideas
- Blogs provide a flexible medium for information storage, searching and retrieval
- Blogs can be used as a tool for social interaction and can extend from purely course-related content to other non-predefined topics at the control of the multiple writers and contributors
- You may prefer to use blogs for structured activities with a clear learning objective that directly refers to intended learning outcomes of the course
- For graded/assessed blogs, establish clear marking criteria in advance
- Explain in advance the time limitations on the blog, the quality and depth of the expected student input and the level of collaboration expected if you are using a co-authored blog
What is a wiki?
A wiki is a web application allowing users to collaborate. Users can add, edit, modify, delete wiki pages and its structure collaboratively.They can also view changes made by other users. Many wiki systems allow pages to be rolled-back to earlier versions. So you can see when edits have been made, where and by who.
You can refer to this video to have a brief idea of what a Wiki is.
Wikis in Plain English
User: VietCALL VN - Added: 12/15/13
YouTube URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cf3fLAct0OQ
Why do we use wikis in teaching and learning?
There are multiple possible benefits of using wikis for teaching and learning:
- Wikis are a relatively straightforward way to author multi-page digital resources which include internal and external-referencing links and easy navigation
- Wikis are flexible and can easily be adapted to the needs of the community or task, from simple to complex and detailed
- Wikis promote asynchronous contributions, allowing time for considered responses from learners
- Wikis promote (co-) construction of knowledge supporting a constructivist approach to learning and an addition of hyperlinks allows a connected/linked overview of the subject matter
- can establish a sense of task ownership, in which each member of a group is equally responsible for contributing towards the process and the creation of the end-product. This can improve group cohesion and provide valuable experience of collaboration
- Wikis produced in one course can be used as a resource in later courses, allowing for a systematic community-based construction of knowledge
Are there any concerns of using wikis for education ?
The answer is yes. Please be mindful for the following possible concerns:
- Students may be uncomfortable in the role of knowledge creators in this student-centred approach and may prefer to have a more teacher-centred approach
- As with all technologies, there is a learning curve associated with wiki production which can be daunting for some
- In the worst case scenario, the less-monitored approach of wiki production in which students are relatively autonomous may lead to low-quality work or minimum effort expended by the learners
- Frameworks for assessing wikis are not as mature as for other more established assessment forms, so care must be taken if wiki activities are to be used for assessment
Any tips for making use of wikis ?
Here are some tips for successfully using wikis for your teaching:
- Give detailed instructions and technical support on how to use wikis and provide clear expectations of what the learners are supposed to produce
- Post etiquette and rules to guide the wiki production process, including groupwork instructions if relevant
- Assign meaningful and authentic tasks that can capture the learners’ imagination and fit appropriately within the wiki paradigm
- Give a clear definition of student roles and encourage real collaboration to try and prevent problems with inter-group dynamics in collaborative tasks
- Model the wiki activity or give examples of what can be achieved