Chickering and Gamson’s “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (1987) is the framework against which the quality of instructional materials has been informally evaluated for decades. Given the increase in online and blended learning spaces today, as well as a trend toward asynchronous models of delivery, we will discuss how the Brightspace platform can be utilised to help achieve and support good practice.
Principle 1: Encourage contact between students and faculty
It comes as no surprise that appropriate teacher presence can inspire students and reduce learner anxiety. Puzziferro and Shelton describe the importance of frequent contact and communication in supporting overall student motivation and involvement in a course: “Contact fosters accountability and accountability is the core of quality” . Today we will discuss Announcements and Activity Feed, two communication tools conveniently located on the Brightspace course homepage, which allow for both spontaneous and proactive faculty-student communication.
The Announcements tool within Brightspace allows you to rapidly reach out to your students without having to leave the course homepage. Keep everyone in the loop about upcoming deadlines or cancellations, and quickly share resources, bite-sized learning, or messages of encouragement. Achieve your ideal level of presence without bombarding your students, because Brightspace provides you with one centralised location that students will know to consult, similar to a physical classroom bulletin board. Students can even customise their Notifications to suit their individual needs—would they rather receive an email or text message, or simply log in when they’re ready to see new announcements.
When it comes to asynchronous delivery, there is, of course, a whole new array of challenges. For instance, students may be consuming content at different paces. To maximise efficiency, use Announcements to communicate just once, while allowing students to view the announcements multiple times and at their convenience.
Alternatively, with the Activity Feed, not only can you convey information to all of your students, you can build rapport and increase engagement by also allowing them to comment on your messages! Use the Activity Feed to answer student questions just once, for all to see, instead of replying to multiple individual emails with similar responses.
A second challenge is achieving personalised communication. Hutchins suggests that “instructors who frequently refer to students by name succeed at establishing rapport with students and often motivate future contact (Principle #1)” . Although this strategy may appear to be particularly challenging, you can actually bridge this gap easily in Brightspace by using Replace Strings in your Announcements so that each student sees his or her own name displayed in a message’s headline or content—how engaging!
The Activity Feed is one of the most effective tools within Brightspace for enabling peer-to-peer collaboration because you can empower your students to create their own messages. As such, they may share resources with each other, launch discussions surrounding course topics, and engage in student-driven learning—again, all without leaving the course homepage!