Here are some easy ways to get students to pay attention to your missives:
• Start with a policy (see below): Decide how you will communicate and how often. Put this policy in the syllabus.
• Be consistent: Post on a regular basis. If there is a Twitter or Facebook group, decide if participation is mandatory and keep up with your own participation.
• Be dependable: Deliver on time! If you say the paper topics will be posted at 10am, students will start checking at 9:45 and will hit “refresh” every 6 seconds. Post any delay by 10am.
• Don’t bombard: Limit communications to one a day.
• Be brief: You can include a link with more details. Twitter has a limit of 140 characters so it enforces brevity. (Both text and Twitter make it easy to embed a web link.)
• Be transparent: Tell everyone before you tell individual students. If you tell a student in the hall that you have decided to make the test a take home, they will tweet this to everyone; it is better coming directly from you.
• Use the right channel: Some forms of e-communication are more passive and less urgent. You can post a news story as your Facebook status, but if you want to remind students where the exam is, use a more active communication (like tweets, email or text).
• Archive: You should keep a record of every message (and the initial channel used) and keep this log posted either in a blog or in an LMS.
Developing an E-Communication Policy
A clear e-communication plan for the semester can stimulate your community of learners and make you more available to help your students
• Establish in the syllabus how you will communicate. This should include your maximum e-mail response time and if you accept chat, Skype, Facebook friend requests or other networks. How to contact you is vastly more important to most students than your office hours.
• Limit the forms of communication. You probably do not need to do both Facebook chat and Skype. Don’t try everything at once. Ask students for casual feedback after class, but stick to your plan for a while before you try different or multiple channels at once. Do not randomly change your mode of communication.
• Create a schedule for yourself, follow through for an entire semester and then re-evaluate. When is the best time or the best day of the week to announce new assignments or provide your feedback on the last test?
• Do not mix the personal and the professional.
• It is fine, and even useful, to use multiple methods of communication as long as you are clear and consistent. You might, for example, let students know that e-mail is used for announcements and information about the readings, but that you will Tweet study questions. You could just as easily reverse this, but clear. Students are used to filtering (i.e. blocking) certain stimuli so it is essential to let students know that information coming on their phone can affect their grade.
The best way to contact me is: ________________ (email, FB, Google+, LinkedIn)
I will respond to e-mail (or FB chat, messages etc.) within _____ hours,
except on ___ or between ________ (9pm and 9am etc.)
I also accept chat, Skype, Facebook friend requests or other networks.
I do/do not accept friend requests on Facebook, but I appreciate your connections on LinkedIn etc.