The learning management system (LMS) used at the University of Sydney utilises a number of integrated communication tools to promote conversation between you and your class. Blogs, Journals and Wikis have been updated with improved tool interfaces as part of the recent upgrade for Semester 1, 2014.
You can communicate to the students through a number of tools :
- Announcements go to all students, with the option of emailing all students at the same time
- All students through course blogs, public journals or a discussion board or by commenting on a wiki
- Groups of student through group discussion boards or group blogs or journals
- Individual students through private journals, emails from the retention centre or by emailing individuals or groups of students through the email interface
- Commenting on individual blogs or journals
These communication tools have different levels of privacy, depending on group settings and how you have set up your UoS course.
Announcements are the most commonly used communication tool. Best practice is to include the 'Announcements' tool in your left-hand side menu. This is automatically included in most sites. Using the 'Announcements' tool makes it easier for both you and the students to access your announcements from any device. Instructors have the option of both posting an announcement, but also sending an email to all student's email addresses. You can attach a link in your 'Announcement' to any area in your in UoS website or to an attachment (Word doc, or PDF) that is emailed to the students. However, they will need to login to the LMS to access the attachment. We recommend using the Announcement tool as the 'Announcements' are recorded in Blackboard, and archived as a permanent record.
Blogs are public chronological posts. These posts are displayed according to date of entry. Blogs in the LMS are only visible to people enrolled in the unit of study (UoS), and by default can be seen by all enrolled students.
Course blogs can be used as an ongoing collection of links or suggestions of media related to the course. All students are allowed to post or comment on a blog by default. It is best to treat posting on blogs as 'public'. Blog posts can be edited after posting.
You can create discussion forums and threads in individual UoS websites, and add a 'subscribe' function so that students (and yourself) can receive automatic emails when there are new postings.
You can make students 'moderators' in a discussion board, and enable 'ratings' for posts. Discussion boards also allow students to email each other directly.
Images, web links and attachments can be added to discussion boards. You can enable grading on a discussion board which allows you to see how often students post, how many words they post on average and also their post response ranking - whether they start posts or respond in general.
Only people enrolled in the UoS website have access to the discussions.
Journals can be graded, or used for reflection. The default settings for journals are set to private and shared only between you and an individual student. You can make journals public, so they are viewable by the other enrolled students in the UoS website, but students are unable to comment on other student's public journals.
A wiki is a collaborative tool which allows students to contribute to and modify web pages. It can provide a means of sharing and collaboration between the whole class or a restricted group. Pages can be created and edited quickly by the members of groups, and it allows you to see a comparative history of who has edited, added or made changes to the wiki. This makes collaboration between multiple writers in tutorial groups easier and allows students to edit online, in real time.