What if you entered a face-to-face classroom and found no instructor to welcome you to class, give you an overview of the semester, or guide you through your projects? Or what if your instructor made an appearance the first day of class, but slowly became less and less engaged as the semester progressed?
You’d be in the dark for most of the semester and probably pretty frustrated with your instructor, right?
Unfortunately, this happens far too often in the online classroom. Many online instructors neglect to post announcements, let alone meaningful ones. Other online instructors over post—making it difficult for students to know what they’re expected to do.
As both an online student and an adjunct instructor, I’ve come to understand and appreciate the importance of an instructor’s announcements in an online course and how they can be used to encourage, motivate, and guide students.
Today I’m going to discuss the announcement traps instructors can fall into and provide some tips to help you craft your own meaningful announcements.
One of the biggest pitfalls an online instructor can fall into when posting announcements is neglecting to post any announcements at all. As a result, students have no guidance or context for the course.
One reason for a lack of announcements is what educator and Instructional Designer Darby Flower (2019) describes as a common misperception of online classes: “Online classes are like slow cookers: Set and forget,” which she believes is “a recipe for disaster.” Flower (2019) concludes that, excellent online teaching requires instructors “to make an extra effort to help students persist, learn deeply, and experience transformation as a result…”
This extra effort includes posting announcements at the beginning of your course, as well as throughout, to provide students with course expectations and to remind them that you are there to guide them.
While some instructors post too few announcements, others do the opposite: they post frequent announcements loaded with too much information.
Have you ever been in an online course where the instructor posts an announcement that’s the length of a novel? Not only is it overwhelming, but you’re probably more likely to skim the announcement or skip it all together, right?
In her article, Karen Costa (2019), an adjunct faculty, learning community facilitator, and faculty coach at Southern New Hampshire University, asserts that “giving students too much information all at once in multiple announcements results in cognitive overload for students.” So how can instructors create informative announcements that don’t overwhelm students?
When I teach my online speech course, I use a combination of written and video announcements. I usually post a weekly video announcement on Mondays. I record them during the weekend and schedule the day and time they will post in my course.
With the exception of Week 1, I review highlights of the prior week before jumping into the current week’s overview and assignments. Throughout the week I post small, concise reminders about assignment deadlines. If a student asks me a question and I feel the other students would benefit from the answer, I post my response in an announcement and/or the discussion board.
Depending on your course and your students, you’ll need to decide what types of announcements, and how often they’re posted, will benefit and engage them most. However, keep these following announcement tips from Costa (2019) and Darby (2019) in mind:
Tips for Crafting Announcements
- Be Personable and Intentional: Let students know that you are approachable and that you care about their growth and success in your course.
- Be Prepared: Plan announcements in advance whenever possible.
- Be Concise: Posting concise, quality announcements a couple times a week can go a long way toward engaging your students.
- Be Timely: Use your course announcements to remind students of upcoming assignments, to clarify difficult concepts, and to provide just-in-time learning resources.
- Be Creative: Don’t be afraid to be creative with your announcements. The addition of occasional cartoons, memes, photos, charts or videos can really personalize your course.
- Be Resourceful, but Recreate if Necessary: In the past I’ve had professors who reused announcements from previous semesters, but they were often out of date. If you want to reuse announcements, do your best to make sure they are neutral. In other words, don’t refer to specific due dates or holidays.
The right number of announcements, and the amount of content in those announcements, help students know your expectations, allowing you to guide them and help them succeed in your course.
What are some creative ways you’ve written or recorded announcements for your online class? Which tip resonated most with your experience as a teacher or as a student? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!
Costa, K. (2019, February 1). The art & science of quality course announcements: How to avoid the trap of the info dump. Retrieved from Faculty Focus website: https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/the-art-science-of-quality-announcements-how-to-avoid-the-trap-of-the-info-dump/
Darby, F. (2019, April 17). How to be a better online teacher: Advice guide. The Chronicle of Higher Education.