The guidance in this section is designed to help you meet the recommended best practices for Communications & Interactivity. 

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.

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 if they have chosen to use a pseudonym display name 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 post student grades publicly. While faculty can give students public feedback in the form of comments on their work, actual grades must be given privately.

Tip: You can look up your students’ real names and email addresses by going to Dashboard > Users to view their real names and email addresses, along with their display names. 

Regular Communications

Best Practices include welcoming your students, and making regular announcements to help your students stay on track.  There are several ways to communicate with students using the OpenLab.

The most common approach is to create a post on the Course Site. You can use posts to make announcements to your students at any time. The timely posting of weekly class agenda posts and reminders is an important part of regular communications. A customizable Welcome Announcement post is included in the Course Template to get your started. See Setting Up Your Course Site for details. 

Other communication methods include:

Students will receive email notifications in their City Tech email accounts when you send an OpenLab message, or post to the site or discussion forum. Note: Only students who are members of the course will receive email notifications.

Asynchronous Class Discussions

Best Practices include facilitating introductions among your students, conducting regular discussions throughout the semester, and encouraging students to interact with one another online. You can use posts to hold discussions with your students at any time. An example Discussion: Introductions post is provided with the Course Template to facilitate start of semester introductions. See Setting Up Your Course for details.

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

  • Creating a post on the Course Site with a prompt, and have students reply to you and to each other with comments. 
  • Asking students to post their coursework or a discussion topic on the Course Site and encouraging peer comments.
  • Using the plugin or Chrome add-on where students discuss and annotate an open-source text or a post on your site.
  • Using the Discussion forum on the Course Profile.

Baruch College’s Center for Teaching and Learning provides a helpful guide for approaching Attendance and Participation in Online Courses.

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 Zoom, Webex, Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom, or Google Hangouts, alongside the OpenLab. You can use the OpenLab to provide information on how students can join the meeting, along with any special instructions. If you wish to record your class for the benefit of students who are unable to join at that time, remember to follow CUNY’s guidance for obtaining student consent and respecting student privacy, and ensure videos are captioned for accessibility according to CUNY’s guidelines. See Preparing Course Content for more details.

Baruch College’s Center for Teaching and Learning has created a comprehensive guide to teaching with Zoom that contains important advice and considerations that are applicable for all video conferencing platforms.