Online Learning Pedagogy

Do Students Even Read our Announcements?

"I skip right over those!" 

"They're a waste of time!"

"What announcements?"

I often hear that students don't care about the announcements that many of us take the time to craft and post in our online courses. Many of these perspectives, however, have come from campus students taking online courses who have a very distinct educational experience from our online student populations. First, campus students have a face to face experience even if they are taking a few online courses along the way. Second, their campus-course professors who choose to use I-Learn organize their content in I-Learn very differently from how we organize our online courses.

BYU-Idaho's online learning program puts a lot of stock in the announcements widget, meaning we tell instructors to put a lot of effort into those announcements because it is one of the ways we can communicate presence in our courses. Whether students actually engage or consume those announcements is one of great debate amongst teachers. One year ago, I posted a discussion called "Do Students Watch Our Instructor-Made Videos?" The discussion that ensued among instructors was wonderful! And I am happy to report that my videos have gotten better.

But what about announcements in general?

Does the benefit of posting announcements outweigh the cost of making them?

The only data I have to determine if students read our announcements are the videos I often embed in those announcements. For context, I try create an intro video each week and I keep those videos to three minutes or less. I try to cover important content for the week and infuse my personality into those videos to foster "social presence" theory. Because I post my videos in YouTube I can get view rate analytics on those videos. My experience has been that around 2/3 of my students watch the videos for at least 2 of the 3 minutes. Not great, but at least I know something about the extend to which they consume my content. 

What are your thoughts about announcements? I will likely submit an evaluation project request to our on-campus course improvement evaluation team to help us determine "announcement impact" on students, but I am interested in your take.

What return have we experienced from our investment in announcements?

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Replies

  • I made a survey last semester and asked my students about how often they read the announcements. I had good response rate (probably due to the little, end-of-semester, extra credit ;) ). I was surprised to see that they read most of them most of the time. I should note that I emphasize reading them in the welcome email and welcome announcement and refer to them in grading feedback when helpful.
    • That is really good to know Monica. Your survey/comment leads me to believe that online instructors can be doing some things to help inculcate a culture of consuming our announcements. 

  • Thank you for posting this, I too wonder how many students actually read my announcements and I am pretty regular about posting twice a week. I know students read my emails because of the responses I receive from students thanking me for information or asking me follow up questions. I would love to work on an evaluation project to see what form of communication students would prefer. It is pointless to put time and effort into something students won't use. If we can find what they will use or find a way to make announcements mean more to our students then we have a win win situation.

    • I just checked my video announcement stats for this semester and they continue to be fairly low (between 30% to 60% view rate) not to mention the total view duration time for those who do watch the videos. It would seem that an evaluation project from our Online Research and Evaluation Team would be good if it hasn't already been done. :-)

      • Jerrod

        Since you are on campus, is there any way to find out if such a study can be conducted? If the study can be conducted, I volunteer to help in any way that I can.

        Jen

        • I submitted the following project request in November of last year but have not heard back about it. (I will follow up.)

          **Problem:**

          General lack of knowledge as to whether or not online students consume instructor announcements and whether or not instructor-made announcements have a positive impact on the student experience online. Also interested to know if there is a difference between online students and on-campus students regarding their perspective on instructor-made announcements

          **Questions:**

          - Do online students read instructor-made announcements?

          - Do instructor-made announcements positively impact a student’s online course experience?

          - Do campus students taking online courses feel differently about instructor-made announcements than online students?

          - How much time do online instructors spend on crafting and posting announcements?

          - How many announcements per week do online instructors post in their courses?

          - What is the anatomy of an instructor-made announcement? (spiritual thought, videos, quotes, personal testimony, memes, course specific highlights and tips, etc.) Kind of looking for a pie chart here with average percentages.

  • This is an issue that has come up for me recently. A student emailed me in part, "The announcement section of the course is not only rarely looked at by me and by fellow students but it is often completely skipped over when accessing assignments." I've found that the most successful students are those that read the announcements. I point out through the icebreaker, the introductory email, and my Overview information the importance of reviewing the announcement each week and setting up their notifications appropriately so they receive a notification when there is a new announcement. I look forward to reading other instructors ideas on how to better encourage the students to engage with the announcements. I wonder if there was an announcement link at the top of the screen next to "Content" or "Discussions" if it would help the students remember that they are there. I've had a number of students tell me part way through the course that they can't remember how to find the announcements.

    • Not that it completely matters John, but I would be interested to know if the email you mention in your comment happened to come from a campus student taking your online course. I am beginning to think campus students share the mentality you cite above more than online students do. This idea stems from the fact that campus faculty rarely use the announcement feature in I-Learn because they can give announcements in class and, therefore, campus students are not accustomed to relying on those announcements when they happen to take online courses. Thoughts?

      • The particular student who sent me the email lives in Arizona so, at least in this case, it is not just on-campus students who have this mentality. In my experience a lot of off-campus students say to me at some point in the semester "Oh, I forget about the announcements!" Ideally they should be getting a notification email when a new announcement is posted, but I've been told that they receive so many notification emails from all of their classes that either they turn the notifications off, start ignoring those emails, or just don't read their email. Someone mentioned giving a few points for reading the announcements. Maybe if the announcements were in every week's content, and they received some points for at least opening up the announcement, then maybe they would be more likely to read them.

        • I really like this idea.  I have no idea how many of my students read my Announcement page.  I know at least a few of them do.  However, I really like the idea of giving the students a point each week if they read the Announcement page.  Even just one point per week would probably incent them to at least read it.

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