Distance Education

Communicating with students

When working online, students need a good deal of support from you and interaction with their peers to feel a sense of connection, learn the material, and not fall behind. Fortunately, the OpenLab is designed for communication and collaboration.

Regular communications

There are several ways to communicate with students using the OpenLab:

Students will receive email notifications in their City Tech email accounts when they receive messages, or you post to the discussion forum or site.

Note: Only students who are members of the course will receive email notifications about course messages and discussion or site posts.

Asynchronous class discussions

There are multiple ways you can conduct asynchronous class discussions on the OpenLab:

  • You can use the Discussion forum on the Course Profile.
  • You can create a post on the Course Site with an introductory prompt, and have students reply to you and to each other with comments.
  • You can ask students to post on the Course Site themselves.
  • If you would like students to discuss either an open-source text (i.e. a text that is freely available online) or a post on your site, you can use the Hypothes.is plug-in (it is also available as a Chrome add-on) to have them annotate the text.

Synchronous class discussions

It’s important to note that students may have limited connectivity when off campus and may not be able to join synchronous class meetings.

Faculty use video conferencing tools, such as Webex, Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom, or Google Hangouts, alongside the OpenLab. Not all of these tools are college-supported; information about college-supported tools can be found on the college’s academic continuity site for faculty.

You can use the OpenLab to provide information on how students can join the meeting, along with any special instructions. If you record the meeting to make it available for students who cannot join, you can post the links to those videos on the OpenLab

Helpful Links:

  • Kate Poirier is doing both these things on her Course Site, under a menu item “Video class links.”
  • Tips for Students includes Tips for Online Video Conferencing, and Online Meeting Class Tips that you may want to pass along to your students.

Things to remember

When communicating with students on the OpenLab, there are some important things to remember:

  • We encourage all interactions to be friendly, supportive, and respectful, and have developed a set of Community Guidelines that everyone should follow. You may wish to pass these along to your students.
  • It’s important to consider student privacy and respect students’ wishes if they have chosen to use a pseudonym instead of their real name when working online; in that case, use their pseudonym if you are communicating with them in a public space.
  •  FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) protects student record privacy, which includes student grades. It would be a violation of FERPA to grade student work publicly. While faculty can give students public feedback in the form of comments on their work, actual grades must be given privately.

For more information: