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Published August 14, 2015 | Multidisciplinary

Help! I Have 150 Messages in My Inbox This Week!

Many teachers have noticed an important change in their task in the last few years. One of these changes stems from new tools such as the Moodle and LEA platforms and messaging systems. Is it possible to be efficient and effective while working with these tools? This article provides some tips to use these technologies to their full potential.

Two things I have found:

  • Teachers receive a great number of messages and e-mail from their students.
  • Students generate a great number of text messages in their social life and are transferring this habit to tools offered by the CEGEP. This has been the case for the Omnivox system (MIOs).

Students need to develop good habits for the use of Information and Communication Technologies while learning to distinguish between their social and professional lives. The Docq, Lebrun et Smidths research group noted that one of the benefits of technology is to help students get acquainted with the technological tools (that will be the same tools for their socio-professional future.

How should one prepare to support students in their use of technology, while maintaining effectiveness and ensuring that this support promotes student success and motivation?

Netiquette

The young adults in our classrooms often send us messages as if we were their friends. It is important to set boundaries by establishing rules that will help them in the future. Each teacher can specify their own rules but should strive to limit the number of rules to five, and then have the students apply them. For example:

  • Messages must be written using correct English, including spelling and grammar.
  • Begin messages with a salutation (such as Hello) and end them with a complete signature (first and last name, program of study).
  • Avoid writing sentences with capital letters (which is the written equivalent of SHOUTING).
  • Use respectful and non-defamatory language.
  • Write complete sentences (subject, verb and complement)

Show your colours the first day of class.

These simple rules will help you to avoid receiving messages similar to what you receive through text messaging. What’s more, you can refuse to answer messages that don’t follow one or more of the established rules. You may also opt to respond with a simple message: “This message does not respect the established rules of netiquette. I invite you to rewrite the message and resubmit it to me.”

The various Learning Management Systems (LMS) that are offered by colleges, such as Moodle and LEA, offer many features that each have distinct purposes and applications. According to Rolland Viau (2009), one of the motivating factors for the millennials is to “favoriser une interaction interactive entre l’étudiant et la machine” (use an approach that allows for interactive interaction between the student and the machine).

The function of an e-mail is to send a message to a particular person, sometimes with one or more file attachments. If you receive a question that you think many students might be interested in, should the answer be sent to everyone? If the answer is yes, e-mail is not the right tool. A discussion board (forum) in LEA or a knowledge base in Moodle would be more appropriate. If your college doesn’t offer these services, it may be possible to set up a shared space in the cloud (Office 365, Google Drive, or other).

Are there any other situations to avoid? Here is a table to illustrate a few problematic scenarios and some potential solutions.

Problematic scenarios

Scenario 1

Avoid: Responding to questions related to the course material through e-mail or other messaging system.

Instead: Encourage students to post their questions in a shared space, such as a forum in LEA or Moodle or a shared document on Google Drive or Office 365.

Advantages for the teacher:

  • Answering the question one time only while ensuring that everyone gets the same information.
  • Ability to keep questions for future courses.

Advantages for the student:

  • See all of the questions and responses in a centralized location without having to search for the message when it is needed.
  • See questions that they may not have thought of, which is a learning opportunity for the student.

Scenario 2

Avoid: Asking students to submit their assignments by e-mail or through a messaging service.

Instead: Create a repository for assignments in a submission space (Moodle assignment, LEA work, Google Drive or Office 365).

Use an automated correction grid in Moodle.

Advantages for the teacher:

  • Download all of the assignments in a zip file, mark them and return the copies to the students.
  • Avoid loss of data
  • Save time

Advantages for the student:

  • Rapidly see if the assignment was posted successfully.
  • Easily access an original copy and the marked version.
  • Direct access through the Internet.

Scenario 3

Avoid: Answering logistical questions through e-mail (room number, office hours, assigned exercises, course material purchasing info, scheduling an appointment, etc.)

Instead: Answer that the information is available in the Learning Management System instead of answering their question.

Post the information in a Moodle course in the form of a lesson plan (etiquette, section title, submission of documents and links).

Post a study guide in PDF format in LEA that can be read by any device (smart phone, tablet, laptop, etc.).

Advantages for the teacher:

  • Save time by not responding to logistical questions.
  • Feel more organized and prepared for classroom management.
  • Increase student ownership of their studies by inciting them to consult the Learning Management System.

Advantages for the student:

  • Obtain the information more quickly, without waiting for the teacher to respond.
  • Increased research and study organization skills.
  • Take responsibility for one’s own success.

Scenario 4

Avoid: Requesting digital copies of an assignment for a plagiarism tool, but print out a copy for marking the assignment.

Instead: Ask students to submit a paper copy in class and to submit a digital version in an assignment repository (LEA, Moodle, et al).

Advantages for the teacher:

  • Recover digital copies quickly in zip files without managing dozens of messages.

Advantages for the student:

  • Develops the student’s habit of using the Learning Management System.
  • Obtains an electronic confirmation that the assignment was successfully submitted to the teacher.

Scenario 5

Avoid: Fielding complex questions that are difficult to answer through e-mail or a messaging system.

Instead: Prepare a document to answer the question and place it inside LEA or Moodle, or share a link in Google Drive or Office 365.

Advantages for the teacher:

  • Answer while making the solution available to everyone.
  • Keep the solution for future semesters.

Advantages for the student:

  • Quickly and easily access solutions from anywhere, at anytime.

Scenario 6

Avoid: Requesting that teams send different documents (minutes, agenda, logs, tables, assignments, etc.) by e-mail or a messaging system.

Instead: Create a forum for each team in LEA or Moodle and ask them to add shared links or documents

OR

Ask one of the team members to create a folder on Office 365 or Google Drive, and subsequently share it with the teacher.

Add comments directly in the team’s space, while ensuring a degree of confidentiality.

Advantages for the teacher:

  • Accessing all of the team’s information in one centralized place for the duration of the project.
  • Follow the evolution of the work during the whole process.

Advantages for the student:

  • Quickly find documents and comments from the teacher in the same spot.
  • Easily access the information proposed by each of the team members at any time.
  • Add comments and information that are available for each member of the team.

Scenario 7

Avoid: Request that students schedule a meeting with the teacher.

Instead: Create a scheduled meeting (with a deadline date in Moodle and ask students to choose a time fram and indicate a deadline.

OR

Create a Doodle survey or Google Forms survey and add a link inside the LMS.

Advantages for the teacher:

  • Quickly see the chosen dates in one place and save time associated with scheduling the meetings.

Advantages for the student:

  • Quick access to the different choices and ability to choose a convenient meeting time.
  • Quick viewing of possible choices.

Do any of these situations resonate with you? Don’t be surprised. It’s normal.

Several years ago, e-mail and messaging systems were the innovation. Since then, many teaching and learning platforms such as the LMS have been developed. These innovations bring new opportunities with them to be more efficient and are beneficial for everyone involved. That’s why it’s time to relegate e-mail to its primary role, which is to send personal information to one person (emergency, confidential message, etc). Transmitting documents to a group and submitting assignments is more efficient through the LMS.

The LMS makes our lives easier and promotes student success. Centralizing information in a repository for just-in-time downloading is aligned with the busy lives of students (who have ubiquitous Internet access across many devices such as their smart phone, tablet or laptop). What’s more, the different resources allow students to plan their activities while offering a complete digital lesson plan. Let’s use the LMS to provide our students with the "4 A’s" – and let anyone learn at anytime, anywhere, and anyhow they want.

About the author

Chantal Desrosiers has published many articles on Profweb and in the Clic newsletter (in French). She also wrote an essay in 2013 on Learning Management Systems in blended learning (les environnements numériques d'apprentissage en enseignement hybride ).

1 comment(s)

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    Nicole Perreault wrote August 18, 2015 at 12:48 PM

    Thanks Chantal for this text. Its content is in link with following skill of the ICT Profile for College Students : 4. Working in a Network. More specifically, it is in link with two objectives of this skill : 4.1 Remote Communications -> Apply best practices in virtual communication and 4.2 Content Sharing. Thanks again !

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