Communications

Find tools for communicating with your students online at UBC. All tools recommended by the LT Hub have passed a UBC Privacy Impact Assessment and receive central technical and pedagogical support.

Announcements

Announcements can cover any important information you want to share with the class (e.g., grade releases, assignment updates, changes to the schedule).

General Tips

  • Use announcements consistently with students to establish and maintain an online presence, especially in fully online courses.
  • If you plan to use announcements as weekly check-ins, share them at the same time each week, so students learn when to expect them and pay attention.
  • Help keep students on track by linking directly to any assignments or materials mentioned in the announcements.
  • Include audio or video clips featuring you or your teaching team when appropriate, to make announcements more engaging and bolster the sense of instructor presence in the course.

canvas-logo

Cost:
Free

Bandwidth:
Low demand

Privacy:
Complies with FIPPA by default

Canvas Announcements

Broadcast information in Canvas to the whole class or with specific sections using general posted announcements.

What are the benefits?

  • Students can use the “Announcements” area of your Canvas course to access all announcements, making this information potentially easier to find than in an inbox.
  • Students also receive email notifications of new announcements in your course by default (although they may opt out).
  • You can draft announcements and post them at a future date and time.

Canvas Inbox

Message information in Canvas to the whole class, specific sections, or individual students using an email-like format.

What are the benefits?

  • The Canvas Inbox is useful when you want a two-way communication channel for reaching all or part of your course’s students, as they can reply to it just like an email.
  • You can use the Canvas Inbox for private or individualized communication that is more targeted than an announcement.
  • You and your students will also receive email notifications of new messages by default (although anyone may opt out).

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UBC Blogs

Cost:
Free

Bandwidth:
Low demand

Privacy:
Complies with FIPPA by default

UBC Blogs Posts

Share information in a date-based way outside of Canvas, using a post on a course website.

What are the benefits?

  • You can invite interactivity by letting students comment on posts or share information through posts of their own.
  • Students can receive automatic email notifications of new posts, once you add students to your site.
  • Since UBC Blogs can be shared publicly, you can use posts to communicate broadly, including with guests, partners, or students not at UBC or not enrolled in your course.

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Virtual Office Hours

Virtual office hours provide a real-time, online space for students to meet with you to work through questions they have, either one-on-one or in small groups.

General Tips

  • Keep your instructions and requirements for office hours simple to encourage attendance.
  • Consider having attendance at one office hour mandatory for each student early in the term, to help students feel comfortable both with using the technology and meeting with you one-on-one.
  • If you are using Canvas, the Canvas Scheduler tool can help you manage scheduling office hours with your students.

 

Cost:
Departments provide funding per teaching team member

Bandwidth:
Low demand

Privacy:
Complies with FIPPA by default

Mattermost Channels

Chat in real-time using a channel (i.e., a space for conversation) specifically for office hours.

What are the benefits?

  • Chatting with students gives them immediacy without the intensity that can come from using video and/or audio formats to connect.
  • You can use private channels to chat privately with individual students or groups.
  • Alternatively, you can host all or part of general office hours on a public channel, so anyone can observe the questions and answers. This approach can be helpful for students who may not know what to ask initially.

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Cost:
Free

Bandwidth:
High demand

Privacy:
Complies with FIPPA by default; however, you should advise students not to sign in to free Zoom accounts, as these accounts store metadata about tool use on U.S. servers

Zoom Breakout Rooms

Interact with students using video, audio, text chat, and screen-sharing during web-conferencing sessions.

What are the benefits?

  • Zoom provides a real-time space to meet with students for interactive sessions.
  • You can use a feature called breakout rooms to meet privately with individual students or groups during general open office hours.
  • Zoom also offers a waiting room option, meaning you can admit students as you are ready to meet with them.

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Individualized Messages

Individualized messages refer to communications that are tailored to specific students in the course. Typically, these messages provide feedback on learning outcomes.

General Tips

  • Student email addresses at UBC are considered private, which is why using one of these alternatives is recommended.
  • Reaching out to students in a personalized way can give them both motivation and reassurance, while strengthening their learning.

canvas-logo

Cost:
Free

Bandwidth:
Low demand

Privacy:
Complies with FIPPA by default

Canvas Inbox

Message information in Canvas to individual students using an email-like format.

What are the benefits?

  • The Canvas Inbox is useful when you want a two-way communication channel for reaching your course’s students, as they can reply to it just like an email.
  • You and your students will also receive email notifications of new messages by default (although anyone may opt out).

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Cost for use:
Free

Bandwidth:
Low demand

Privacy:
Complies with FIPPA by default

OnTask Messages

Send targeted messages to groups of students who meet specific learning criteria (e.g., those performing well or poorly on a learning activity).

What are the benefits?

  • With OnTask, you can streamline and automate personalized feedback for students, even within large classes. The tool will take a custom message you write and send it to a group of students while personalizing specific variables (like a student’s name or grade).
  • The messages you write can use outcomes from Canvas learning activities like assignments and assessments to give actionable next steps to students based on their performance.
  • Students receive your messages through the Canvas Inbox, so you don’t need external email addresses.

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