Using WebCampus as the locus of communication for your class can help to alleviate confusion and ensure students know where to go when they have questions. Establishing a clear communication policy and making it known to students is also essential to successful communication in your course. This page shares considerations for creating a communication policy, including how you will communicate with your students and how they will communicate with you, in general and within WebCampus.
Communication policy considerations
Establishing a communication policy is valuable to you as an instructor in setting manageable expectations for yourself and your students. Your students will appreciate clear guidance on how communication in your course will take place. As you create policies consider the questions below. Once you have your communication policy, consider including your policy in multiple places including: your syllabus, the “Getting Started” materials in your WebCampus course, your welcome message/announcement, and/or your instructor biography page.
When are you available? This depends on your schedule. You may want to include a rough estimate of when you are available to quickly reply, participate in a conference, or take a phone call. Sample policy statement: “I’m generally available Monday through Friday after 5:00 p.m. for appointments by request. If you are unavailable to meet during that time, please contact me to try to set up a different appointment time” might be helpful.
How quickly will you respond to students? You may want to carve out a window of expected response time that you would be comfortable adhering to. Sample policy statement: “I will reply to emails within 24 hours Monday through Friday, and 48 hours on the weekends.” Of course some flexibility in your policy may be needed at times. If you will be out of town for a conference or vacation, for example, communicate that to your students, letting them know when you will be available again. Generally, students are much more forgiving if you give them a heads up about a period where you may not reply.
How would you prefer to be contacted? Below we discuss the handful of communication tools built directly into WebCampus that you may consider in planning how you would like to be contacted by your students.
- Email/WebCampus Messages: This is the most popular option for one-on-one contact with students. Most instructors are used to communicating via email, but other options do exist. One recommendation is to use the built-in messaging tool in WebCampus, as it’s available to all students, and can help you to organize emails by class. Using external emails runs the risk of having student email addresses bounce back depending on their email client. Sample policy statement: "WebCampus email/messages are my preferred communication method. When you contact me this way, please indicate your class name and number in the subject line of the email."
- Chat: The Chat tool makes it possible to communicate with the entire class in written format, similar to a chat room. Often instructors will use this as an open office hours location, where students can drop in, ask a question, and then sign out. Questions and answers in chat are available for all students to see.
- Discussion Board: Many instructors create a Q&A discussion board on which students can post questions. You can ask that other students answer their peers’ questions, or make a plan to enter the Q&A every morning to answer questions yourself (or do both!). This provides a place where students can review previously-asked-and-answered questions, so you don’t get email after email asking similar questions from students.
- Zoom: Zoom's conferencing tool makes it possible for students and instructors to interact in real time, via audio and/or video and is well-suited to office hours and other meetings.
How will you communicate with students? As you think about how you will communicate with your students, both individually and as a group, you will likely use many of the same tools mentioned above. In addition to the above, two tools within WebCampus you may want to use for the purpose of communicating with students include Announcements and the Gradebook.
- Announcements: You can use announcements to communicate with the whole class at once. Using the Rich Content Editor, you can even include videos, images, or files, or can link to pages or assignments elsewhere in the class. Announcements can also be helpful in that you can write them and arrange for them to be sent at a later date, meaning you can pre-plan communication about a specific topic, activity, or course management issue (such as relaying that you are going on vacation and won’t answer emails as quickly).
- Gradebook: You’ll generally use the gradebook and SpeedGrader to communicate grades and feedback to students. You can also use the gradebook to “message students who…”, which automatically will message students who have not yet submitted, or who have scored lower or higher than a percent of your choosing. This is good to remind students when something is due, or that they need additional help from the tutoring center. You may also use this tool to congratulate students who did well on an activity, which can help them feel "seen" in the class.