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Leveraging D2L/Brightspace to Enhance Equity in Your Course: Part 1 of 6

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One of the priorities of the YESS initiative and strategic plan at PCC is 

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. Reinforcing racial justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion as core to improving student outcomes.

The goal of this series of blog posts is to set an intention of moving toward all teaching being inclusive and equitable, and away from having to define what inclusive, equitable teaching is. Additionally, we strive to move toward a framework where equity and inclusion inform everything we do as instructors and faculty support. We want to embrace equity as the framework from which we make decisions, create resources, and interact with students. In this three part blog post, we will explore tools in D2L Brightspace that can be used to enhance equity and also make life easier for instructors! 

Good teaching = inclusive teaching.

Why Target the LMS?

D2L Brightspace is the common denominator among almost every course offered at PCC. For all Remote and Online courses, there are minimum expectations for use of D2L that include things like announcements to students, course information/syllabus, and grade updates so students can track progress. PCC offers support to faculty who are using and learning D2L for online teaching. Students at PCC in 2021 reported high importance but lower satisfaction with the quality of online instruction, feedback, and consistency in the quality of instruction from one online course to another. We can use the tools in D2L Brightspace to address consistency and quality very easily. Lastly, leveraging the LMS is a low cost, high impact strategy for faculty to save time and energy in delivering strategies for students that increase equity and support organization.

Use Announcements to Build Connections with Students 

Whether students have a connection with faculty is one of the most important factors in whether or not they persist with education. A sense of belonging is an incredibly important factor for students whose identities are underrepresented in college. In her book Effective Online Teaching, Tina Stavredes notes that “the quantity, timeliness, and quality of your interactions with learners are critical to helping them persist in the course and achieve the course outcomes.” 

The Announcements tool in D2L enables you to create news items that help communicate course updates, changes, and new information to your students quickly and effectively. You can use Announcements to welcome students to the course at the beginning of the term, and let them know of any important deadlines or materials that have been added to the course. When you write announcements, think about the tone are you conveying and use encouraging and welcoming language.

Here are our recommendations for using the Announcements tool:

  • Keep announcements short, think of them as headlines. Give detailed instruction in the course content area, or on individual assignments.
  • Send a weekly announcement early in the week (Sunday or Monday) sharing what students will be working on that week. 
  • Depending on length, keep 2-3 announcements visible at a time.
  • It’s best to set an End Date for announcements that you would like to keep for future use.
  • Teach students to use the announcements tool for updates by avoiding sending email to the whole class. Reserve email for one-on-one interactions.
  • Use the replace strings feature on your announcements to personalize your messages.

Read the Online Learning documentation about Using the Announcements in D2L to apply our suggestions to your course.

Check out these other opportunities to learn about building connections with students through equitable communications.

We hope our suggestions are actionable and helpful, and inspire you to think about simple changes you can make to your course to enhance equity. Look for the next post in the six part series on how to use feedback to build connections with students. Please share your experiences using announcements in the comments below!

This post was inspired by a presentation given by Amy Ort given at the Peralta Online Equity Conference on April 23, 2021
A recording of the presentation is on YouTube.
The slides are available here.

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There are 9 comment for this article. If you see something that doesn't belong, please click the x and report it.

x by bryan hull 7 months ago

Interesting. Is there research that shows the announcement tool is more equitable or more effective than email in reaching students? I use the two in really different ways. What’s the research (if there is any) say?

x by Jean Mittelstaedt 7 months ago

I would love it if the Announcements would be automatically emailed directly to students. It’s my understanding that it isn’t and that I have to manually do it, unless this has changed? I’ve used other LMSs where Announcements are automatically emailed.

x by Usha Ramanujam 7 months ago

It is mentioned that ‘Teach students to use the announcements tool for updates by avoiding sending email to the whole class. Reserve email for one-on-one interactions.’ Weekly announcements that students expect to get updated at the beginning of each week can be reasonably expected to be read by them. Wouldn’t email be more equitable for any quick mid-week class updates, during first and last week of classes, etc. as it lands in every student’s inbox and gets their better attention? Some students may not be checking all the announcements.

x by Michael Trigoboff 7 months ago

Does PCC pay for those workshops?

x by Max Macias 7 months ago

Thanks for your efforts Alyson.

x by alyson.day1 7 months ago

Thank you for the comment @bhull. I agree that email and announcements should be used in very different ways. I personally don’t think one is better than the other in general. Rather, deciding what kinds of messages you are going to send with each tool and being consistent are essential. I do not know of any research that indicates one or the other is better.

x by alyson.day1 7 months ago

@Jean Students can control whether they are notified when you post a new announcement. Feel free to email me if you want more details about how a student can set it up. (alyson.day1@pcc.edu)

x by alyson.day1 7 months ago

@Michael, the workshops I mentioned are paid for by PCC. You can register through MyPCC, and PT faculty can get a stipend for finishing the course. There are more details in the link below or you can contact Greg Kaminski. (gkaminski@pcc.edu)


x by Carolyn 5 months ago

These are great ideas. I’ve been sending weekly e-mails, and wish I’d seen this before! But I’ll use it winter term.

Add to the discussion

PCC offers this limited open forum as an extension of the respectful, well-reasoned discourse we expect in our classroom discussions. As such, we welcome all viewpoints, but monitor comments to be sure they stick to the topic and contribute to the conversation. We will remove them if they contain or link to abusive material, personal attacks, profanity, off-topic items, or spam. This is the same behavior we require in our hallways and classrooms. Our online spaces are no different.