EPD - eHelp - Best Practices - Communication

EPD supports several options for meeting and communicating, including messaging, email, and web/audio conferencing. There are also many other technologies available for real-time communication such as Google Hangouts, Skype, instant messenger, etc., that can be used for student group communication.

Communication Protocols
In our learning management systems, users are able to see who else is online at the same time, and they can contact other online users in multiple ways. In the interest of each others' time and preferences, communication protocols have been established for the following tools.

Email vs. Discussion Forum Posts

Before sending a message, consider whether other students would gain from the information in the message. If so, post the message to an appropriate discussion forum within the learning management system. Otherwise, use email to send a message only to those who need to receive it.

Discussion forums enable students to share ideas, get feedback, and benefit from the knowledge and experiences of classmates and instructors. Use the following best practices and suggestions below to help make discussion as valuable as possible.
  • Read what others have posted before making contributions, check if anyone has asked it already and received a reply. Just as you wouldn’t repeat a topic of discussion right after it happened in real life, don’t do that in discussion boards either. Searching the forum first can help with this.
  • On a similar note, before asking a question, check the class FAQ, syllabus, etc., or search the internet to see if the answer is obvious or easy to find.
  • Keep messages brief - usually no more than 1-3 paragraphs.  If you write a long dissertation in response to a simple question, it’s unlikely that anyone will spend the time to read through it all.
  • For longer posts, it is a best practice to write your discussion post in a text editor such as notepad, and then copy-paste the message into the course site discussion forum.  This can safeguard from accidentally losing your entire post if the website should timeout or become unresponsive.
  • Help keep discussion forums organized in their respective forums and threads.  Make sure you understand when to reply to an existing discussion thread, and when to start a new thread for a new topic or question.
  • Be professional, courteous, and respectful of others' thoughts and time.
  • Do not be afraid to politely disagree with someone or state a different opinion - that is what discussion is supposed to be about, but be professional and respectful.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity, with messages that are motivating to read, a good use of time, and constructive pathways to learning.
  • Use the notification or subscription tracking features to help manage time and attention.
  • Stay on topic for the particular discussion forum.  Don’t post irrelevant links, comments, thoughts, or pictures except in the appropriate forum.
  • Don’t type in ALL CAPS! If you do, it will look like you’re screaming.
  • Don’t write anything that sounds angry or sarcastic, even as a joke, because without hearing your tone of voice, your peers might not realize you’re joking.
  • Be forgiving. If your classmate makes a mistake, don’t badger him or her for it. Just let it go – it happens to the best of us.
  • Jump in and help answer questions from classmates.  If you do reply to a question from a classmate, make sure your answer is accurate! If you’re not 100% sure when the paper is due, DO NOT GUESS! Otherwise, it can just create confusion.
  • If you ask a question and many people respond, sometimes a summary post of all answers is a benefit to the whole class.
  • Run a spelling and grammar check before posting anything to the discussion board. It only takes a minute, and can make the difference between sounding unprofessional and sounding knowledgeable.

UW Email

Use UW Email, filters, forwarding, or a mixture of these strategies to keep the emails related to your program and/or course separate from your work or personal email. For additional information, including information on filtering and forwarding. See EPD - eHelp - Technologies - Email.

As a student of UW-Madison, your primary campus email address (UW Email) is the destination for official university correspondence. Students are responsible for all information sent to their University assigned WiscMail account. If a student chooses to forward their University email account, he or she is responsible for all information, including attachments, sent to any other email account.

Communicating in Real-time (synchronously) via Web Conferencing

In some of our online courses we create extra Blackboard Ultra rooms so students can collaborate or meet in real-time. These are modified Blackboard Ultra conference room that we call MeetNow Rooms. See Blackboard Ultra documentation for additional information on MeetNow Rooms. Students are also encouraged to use Google Hangouts, which is available through UW Google Apps account.

Learn@UW-D2l Email and Instant Messaging

From the classlist in a Learn@UW course you can send email or instant messages to classmates. For more information see:
Learn@UW Instant Messaging
Email Students Using the Classlist Tool

Other Online Collaboration

Although several tools are provided for student use, there are many other real-time communication and collaboration tools available that students may choose to use for group or team collaboration. Below is a list of possible tools that students may decide to investigate and use, however, these tools are not officially used or supported in the program.

Keywords:EPD eHelp, email, instant messaging, IM, online collaboration, communication, Discussion Forums   Doc ID:46158
Owner:Paul M.Group:Engineering Professional Development - Department Resources
Created:2015-01-13 11:23 CDTUpdated:2016-08-24 13:38 CDT
Sites:Engineering Professional Development - Department Resources
Feedback:  3   1