Granular announcements for better communication - inside and outside courses

Idea created by mb0047876 on Jun 4, 2019
    Under review

    Communication with students is one of the key needs that administrative staff and teachers have, and which they use the VLE to solve. A lot of communication is two-way, but there is also a lot of one-way message postings (letting them know a lecture is cancelled, or "sign up for the extra-curricular seminar here". etc). Currently, Learn (and I assume also Ultra) allows a teacher to post announcements to a course, or globally. This feature is used a lot(!) but could be greatly improved - especially since the app started supporting mobile notifications. There is a need to prevent students from becoming overloaded with information not relevant to them, and we don't want them to stop using the app because of the lack of relevance.


    I am sure these two problems are especially relevant to larger institutions, who may have courses with many students (like us, some courses have 1000+ students).


    Crucially, there are two needs which I have workarounds for, but which the users keep returning to me with requests for improvements. 


    1)  The need to inform a segment of students within a course.

    This can currently be solved by emailing them. Or, the admin could create a course containing only these students. Both of these options are only half-good: the information to various segments do not appear in the same places (not consistency), or we create a lot of extra courses just to use a single feature. This makes it harder for a student to keep track of what's relevant and what's not.


    A possible solution is to allow the instructor to send an announcement to selected course groups. This gives the instructor the ability to define the groups they need to message, f.ex. "everyone in that seminar parallel", or "everyone in the course who is doing it part-time". Announcements are still all visible in the same place to students, and the notifications for the app are more relevant to each user.


    2) The need to inform a wider group of students spanning courses: a whole programme (regardless of year), a programme class (year), all students belonging to the department, all students, all employees in a department etc.

    Again, this can be solved by creating a course which has the relevant users enrolled, which would mean creating a course just to use the announcement feature. This clutters, and it gives staff the task of maintaining memberships manually (unless it is handled by the SIS integration). We use Qwickly to post the same announcement across multiple courses, but it has proven cumbersome as staff needs to look up every single course code in the programme, and students get the announcement from multiple courses and thus get spammed.


    A possible solution is to allow instructors to send an announcement to a segment of users without the need of using a course as the basis of the announcement. I.e. more granular global announcements, where the staff picks out which programme, class, institution role, course role in courses, or another segment they need (data can come from SIS for example), and post the announcement. The institutional hierarchy could determine which segments a teacher is permitted to post the announcement to, and/or admin privilege could manage this. This feature allows students to keep up with the feed more easily as it contains information only relevant to them, and not lots of extra information for other segments of students. Admins can post global announcements to just students, just employees etc (very useful when it comes to f.ex. version upgrades). Effectively, it ensures de-cluttering of announcements for all users.


    Both of these feature suggestions in combination makes the announcement feature a lot more powerful, and prevent the use of extra courses created for communication needs. It also still operates on the same two levels as before, inside and outside of the course context, and thus requires no large change to the logic of structure in the platform.


    I want to add on: a lot of communication tools nowadays (including other LMS providers) allow for comments on one-way type information. If you add a checkbox to allow instructors to turn on/off comments on an announcement, this would help those instructors who want students to engage with their information more. I think this is also in line with the current way you are designing Ultra, with discussion threads on more and more types of items in the VLE.

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