Day 1: Communication #bright5d

Hi! Welcome to our online course. Each day we’ll be posting course content for your to peruse at your leisure. There will be a brief introduction, some useful links and some short activities so you can try out the ideas for yourself. There are also some practical workshops on campus if you want to pop along and explore the topic further, or just get some help. Ready? Lets go!

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We all know that in this ‘digital age’, communication has been radically transformed by technology. Our choices about how and when and where we communicate with others have radically increased, offering us so many choices.

When it comes to communicating online, particularly with students, many of you will be used to using email. It’s simple, and we are comfortable with it. However many of us are using email when actually there are far better tools out there. For example, how many times have students often asked you the same question about an assessment? Or have you wished you can communicate better with other professionals around the world?


Tool 1: Twitter


A social networking tool that allows users to ‘tweet’ information in less than 140 characters.


This is a great tool for encouraging discussion between staff, students, external professionals –  in fact anybody, anywhere.Its simple to use and the character limit cuts prevents waffle!

It’s also a really useful CPD tool – if you follow the right people, you can pick up really useful information.

Need to know:

  • Unlike some social networks, you don’t need to sign up as ‘yourself’ if you are concerned about privacy with social media. For example, you can use an alias, or sign up as a department/course (e.g. UoB Podiatry, Student Services)
  • The guidance from Twitter themselves is pretty good at getting you started, step by step. There’s no need to tweet right away!
  • Hashtags allow users to categorise tweets in one place. For example, if you search for #bright5d on twitter, you’ll see a rolling discussion about the content in this course.



Tweeting using a hashtag is a great way of encouraging discussions around a theme. This could be synchronous (e.g. at a scheduled time, often called a ‘Tweet Chat’) or asynchronous (a rolling conversation happening all the time). You can get involved in current discussions, or create your own.

Specific to teaching, you could decide on a hashtag for a module or course. Staff and students can then discuss their studies on this platform, with the opportunity to bring in guests from outside the university if you wanted. Users can share useful resources they’ve found, comment on recent events/articles or just engage in topical discussion. Some great examples are:

  • #LTHEchat – a discussion around Learning and Teaching in HE. A rolling discussion with a live ‘Tweet Chat’ on Wednesdays 8pm-9pm.
  • #PhDChat – a discussion for those undertaking a PhD anywhere – great for networking early career researchers.
  • #WeNurses – Whilst this is specific to Nursing, this is a discussion around nursing in the U.K. (and has lots of derivatives, such as #WeMidwives)



Tool 2: Studentcentral (Blackboard) discussion boards


A discussion forum within studentcentral.


Allows students to discuss their learning in a secure environment. All students have access to studentcentral, allowing a common platform for communication. Users can get answers to questions, discuss their learning, share files and links, and a whole lot more!

Need to know

  • A module discussion board is included in every studentcentral module area – it is hidden by default.
  • If you want to encourage discussion board use, encourage your students to use the Blackboard Mobile Learn app – this allows users to get notifications of new posts on their device.They can also click ‘subscribe’ to get an email notification of new posts.
  • Brief your students on using the discussion board – and when emailing you is/is not appropriate.
  • Encourage students to pose general questions about assessments, module content etc to the discussion board. Your reply will then be seen by everyone, meaning you don’t need to answer the same question repeatedly. Even better, students may answer each others questions!


Many staff around the University use discussion boards in studentcentral to facilitate communication with students. Here are some examples:

  • HE685/HE785 (Developing Professional Learning) – Dr Raija Kuisma uses a discussion board for students to discuss their learning. The module is unique in that it only includes 5 days of delivery, spread across the summer months. The discussion board allows students to continue their discussions out of the classroom, both with and without the module tutor. The last iteration of the module had 161 posts, so it is well used!


Today’s activity

Choose one (or both!) of the tools discussed today and complete the activity. Share your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #bright5d



Sign up for a twitter account (its free, its easy and you can use an alias if you wish). You then have three tasks:

  • Search the #bright5d hashtag to see how a discussion works on twitter. If you want to reply to someone’s tweet, feel free to! We’ll be using this all week to discuss the course material and ask questions.
  • Search for some useful people to follow – fellow professionals, colleagues etc.You could start with other colleagues on this course!
  • Think about how you could use a tweet chat in your teaching – a rolling discussion about a module, a community of practice, a research network… more ideas here if you need inspiration!

Studentcentral (Blackboard) discussion boards

Firstly, familiarise yourself with using this tool by checking our page on discussion boards

  • Try a discussion board – click this link, log in and join in the discussion in this practice module area.
  • Plan to use a discussion forum in one of your modules, where appropriate
  • Think about how you will ensure students engage with the discussion board – you could ask other course members,, colleagues or the eLearning team for guidance

Useful Resources

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2 thoughts on “Day 1: Communication #bright5d

  1. I’d like to find out more about BB. There used to be a general discussion board (in around 2014 I think), but I don’t remember seeing more than a dozen comments on it. It would be great if it could be relaunched. I liked that staff and all students could use it.

  2. Thanks Nina, thats a nice suggestion. I’ll raise it with the team

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