Artistic representation of a communication network with icons of individual students networked together with arrows, digital data, and other representations of digital communication

Establishing an Instructional Communication Plan

Communication during a disruption is key to keeping students on track and overcoming barriers to learning due to stress and external circumstances. In case of prolonged campus closure, you will need to communicate regularly with students about assignments, procedures, course expectations, and ongoing progress toward course goals. Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety and help you streamline your communication strategy should the unexpected occur.

Communication Principles

  • Communicate about communication right now. While you are still seeing students in the classroom, outline your communication plan should you need to switch to remote teaching strategies. Let students know how you plan to communicate with them, and how often. Show them the areas in Blackboard where they can expect to find your communications, and tell them how often you will expect them to check their email, and how quickly they can expect your response. 
  • Encourage students to share with you their communication needs: Take this time to find out from students how many of them will be accessing the course through their smartphone only if the campus needs to close. How many will have unstable wifi networks and may need to work in a store parking lot to complete work? Help direct students to talk to the IT Help Desk to see if they can check out equipment or work with the Student Success Center to identify resources that can support them if they cannot be on campus. Find out if your own program, college, or school is setting up resources to address your particular students' needs.
  • Communicate early and often: Let students know about changes or disruptions as early as possible, even if all the details aren't in place yet, and let them know when they can expect more specific information. 
  • Manage your communications load: Expect that some students will want to talk to you on the phone, while others are happy with email or Blackboard announcements. Some may need more guidance that can best be accomplished through Blackboard Collaborate. Know your capabilities and share your lines of communication with students in advance. Let students know they might get a group reply to a great question if the answer could help the whole class, but avoid identifying the original student as the source of the question.

How-To Resources for Finding Student and Advisee Emails and Phone Numbers

Tools for communicating with students


Email can be an effective tool for communicating with individuals and groups, especially when you want recipients to have the opportunity to reply to your messages. The easiest way to send email to your students is to use the Create Announcement tool in Blackboard, then select the "send email immediately" option. You can also use the Send Email tool to email individual students, groups, or the whole class. You can have Blackboard send a copy of the message to you for your records.

If you prefer to use Office 365 for email, be sure to confirm your students' middle name or email address to avoid sending emails to the wrong John Smith. You can find a full list of student email addresses in the Blackboard Control Panel under Users and Groups / Users.

How-To Resources for Emailing Students


The Blackboard Announcements tool offers a great way to provide updates that do not fit into other course categories in a way that calls attention to new information. By selecting the "email a copy of this announcement immediately" option, you can ensure that students can find your announcement both in their inbox and when they enter your Blackboard course. To make sure that students see new announcements when they access your course, add an Announcements menu item in Blackboard and set your course entry point to "Announcements." Then encourage students to check there first for answers before emailing you.

How-To Resources for Announcements

Blackboard Collaborate for Live Audio or Videoconferencing

On occasion, you may need to communicate with an individual or a group of students in real time. The Blackboard Collaborate Ultra tool is a great way to share screens, video, audio, live chat, or even whiteboards and files. You and your students can access Blackboard Collaborate from any device, and there is even a phone-only option for users without smartphones. You'll need a headset, or a microphone and speakers for audio, and a webcam for video, or use your smartphone's built-in communication capacity.

How-To Resources for Blackboard Collaborate Ultra