Communication Plan


Photo credit:

An assignment for my EdTech 535 class (Advanced Online Teaching) involves the creation of a Communication Plan.  What?  Why?  I relate this to the most important book I read in my undergrad program, Harry and Rosemary Wong’s book, “The First Days of School:  How to Be An Effective Teacher.”  When it really came down to those final days before new students would walk into my first classroom, do you think I was reviewing all my textbooks on theory, my class notes or my notebooks of reflections?  NO- I was rereading Wong’s book with step-by-step plans for what to do in the first days of school that would ensure a successful first year of teaching for me.

ImageThe following Communication Plan is for me to refer to in those final days before my new students log into my first adult online course, my own “First Days of School” to prepare and remember the practical strategies that will ensure a successful first semester.  Don’t worry, all the Master’s learning and theories kick in while developing the course and responding to questions from students.  But, first things first.  This no-nonsense plan includes:

My Communication Plan


Photo credit:


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
-George Bernard Shaw

What to do to keep communication consistent and establish a strong online instructor presence:


  • Check and respond to email
  • Participate in live chats and phone calls as initiated by students

Every other day:

  • Read and respond to discussion board posts
  • Grade submitted work and post grades and feedback
  • Prepare and post week’s work for two weeks from current week


  • Prepare synchronous lesson

Week’s End:

  • Facilitate and record synchronous lesson


“Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” – Plato

How to start prompts to promote critical thinking questions to push students’ thinking on textbook material:
(Just fill in the blanks from material from the textbook)

Bloom’s understand level:

  • How would you classify the type of…?
  • How would you compare…? Contrast…?
  • Will you state or interpret in your own words…?
  • How would you rephrase the meaning…?
  • What facts or ideas show…?
  • What is the main idea of…?
  • Which statements support…?
  • Can you explain what is happening…? What is meant…?
  • What can you say about…?
  • Which is the best answer…?
  • How would you summarize…?
  • Can you explain why…?
  • Can you write in your own words?
  • How would you explain…?
  • Can you write a brief outline…?
  • Can you clarify…?
  • Can you illustrate…?
  • Does everyone act in the way that … does?

Bloom’s apply level:

  • How would you use…?
  • What examples can you find to…?
  • How would you solve _____ using what you’ve learned…?
  • How would you organize _____ to show…?
  • How would you show your understanding of…?
  • What approach would you use to…?
  • How would you apply what you learned to develop…?
  • What other way would you plan to…?
  • What would result if…?
  • Can you make use of the facts to…?
  • What elements would you choose to change…?
  • What facts would you select to show…?
  • What questions would you ask in an interview with…?
  • Do you know of another instance where…?
  • Can you group by characteristics such as…?
  • Which factors would you change if…?
  • What questions would you ask of…?
  • From the information given, can you develop a set of instructions about…?

Bloom’s evaluate level:

  • What is your opinion of…?
  • How would you prove…? Disprove…?
  • Can you asses the value or importance of…?
  • Would it be better if…?
  • What would you recommend…?
  • How would you rate the…?
  • How would you evaluate…?
  • How could you determine…?
  • What choice would you have made…?
  • What would you select…?
  • How would you prioritize…?
  • What judgment would you make about…?
  • Based on what you know, how would you explain…?
  • What information would you use to support the view…?
  • How would you justify…?
  • What data was used to make the conclusion…?
  • How would you prioritize the facts…?
  • How would you compare the ideas…?
  • Is there a better solution to…?
  • Judge the value of… What do you think about…?
  • Can you defend your position about…?
  • Do you think…is a good or bad thing?
  • How would you have handled…?
  • What changes to… would you recommend?
  • Do you believe…? How would you feel if. ..?
  • How effective are..?
  • What are the consequences..?
  • What influence will…have on our lives?
  • What are the pros and cons of…?
  • Why is …of value?
  • What are the alternatives?
  • Do you agree with the actions…? with the outcome…?

Bloom’s create level:

  • Can you design a…to…?
  • Can you see a possible solution to…?
  • If you had access to all resources, how would you deal with…?
  • Why don’t you devise your own way to…?
  • What would happen if …?
  • How many ways can you…?
  • Can you create new and unusual uses for…?
  • Can you develop a proposal which would…?

How to respond to students’ posts?


“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter Drucker

Managing multiple forms of communication:

1) Instructor Introduction

Aloha!  I’m Christina Narayan and I’ll be your instructor for this semester. You can call me Christina or Mrs. Narayan, whichever you prefer.   We’ll learn together, laugh together, and share many light bulb moments.   Please know that one of my objectives is to keep the crying together at a bare minimum, if at all.  No, seriously, you will learn quickly that we are allies and my number one goal is to help you reach the course objectives and learn what you need to be the best virtual teacher you can be.   Before you ever reach for Kleenex,  call, email, chat, join a live session, or if you live in Colorado- just yell really loudly because I’m here and I don’t succeed unless you succeed.

As the parent to three children (Jaron- 10, Ethan- 7, Malika- 5), I often say, “Because I’m the mom.”  But since that line probably won’t work in this class, here are some good reasons you should listen to me, too. 🙂


*In the virtual elementary world:
*I have been teaching elementary grades online for the past ten years.
*In 2009, the Colorado Department of Education named me Colorado’s Online Elementary Teacher of the Year.

*As an online student:
*I completed my Masters in Educational Technology entirely online for two years.  Trust me- I understand!

*In the educational community:
*I served on Colorado’s Assessment Stakeholders Committee.
*I presented at iNACOL’s VSS for the last three conferences, including webinars.

When I am not sitting here at my computer, I love to spend time with my family.  My kids (which also means me) are involved in soccer, swimming, dance and piano.  My husband is tall, dark, and husband and is from the beautiful islands of Fiji.  We met in Hawaii, so I love the islands, thus the “aloha” and future island references.  My favorite activities include traveling, shopping, reading, and eating.

2) Icebreaker

The learners will type the following to introduce themselves:  Their name, what they plan to teach online and the one tool they will take with them.  The tool must include a link to that website.  This will be a fun way to get to know each other and share a favorite online tool.  (Depending on the subject/class teaching- include additions to the prompt to allow for more student sharing.)

Example- My name is Christina, I’m going to teach 1st grade online so I have to take Screencast-o-matic with me.

3) Student Communications Guide:

Email- Use email for questions that will be read and responded to only by me (the instructor).  Read daily.

Weekly Discussion Board- (Required weekly) Post and respond to classmates’ posts to specific questions.  (See rubric for specifics)

Student Lounge- (Optional) Post and respond to classmates’ posts regarding the class and for connections outside of the class.

4) Online Discussion Board Ideas:
*Variety and Choice
Offer variety each week in discussion boards.  This allows for choice and teaches learners web tools, too.
-Provide two weekly discussion boards with different questions so students have a choice
-Offer a microblogging (tweeting) one week for communicating ideas
-Create and post a bubble web to illustrate ideas from the assigned chapter
-Create a presentation with screencast-0-matic, PowerPoint, Prezi, Animoto or similar tool to teach the material from the text and submit it to the discussion board
-Create a Wordle with the most important words from the week’s reading and post it
-Create a glog to synthesize reading material

-Set up the board so students have to post their initial post before reading any others.
-Learners should read the necessary material on Monday, write and post their initial assignment by Wednesday, respond to two other classmates by Thursday and one other by Sunday.

5) Potential Problems and Solutions:
= problem and S = solution/strategy

P -Going off topic:
I think sometimes when students read the discussion question or other classmates’ responses, they make connections to other experiences or ideas and their posts don’t necessarily reflect those connections.
S -I believe the best solution as an instructor is to respond to the post, validating their thought, and then redirecting with a rephrased form of the original discussion question.
P -Lull in the discussion:
A discussion starts to reiterate the same points and no new thoughts or experienced are introduced.
S -There are many avenues a discussion can take.  If they are not happening organically, the instructor can post additional questions to the original discussion question so other students coming into the discussion have other ways to answer.  For example, the instructor could post- “I feel we have had sufficient discussion on ___. For students now entering the discussion, unless you have unique details or comments to add, please answer the following___.”   In my classroom, I plan to utilize this strategy with my initial posts to prevent stagnant discussions.
As a student, I appreciate having choices.  One of my courses always has two separate discussion boards with a different question on each, allowing us the freedom to participate in the discussion we choose to.  Also, in this course, when two students moderated, there was a choice of questions we could address.  Personally, when there is only one question and I’m not passionate about it or feel I have little to offer, I’m less interested in the discussion and don’t have as much personal growth from the experience.  Relating to the classroom, most students don’t raise their hands for every single answer, just those they feel they can offer something important to the conversation.
P -Word limits
There has been some discussion about going over word limits in discussion boards. Or the opposite can occur as well.
S -I think a discussion board rubric is important for this.  The rubric should state a minimum and maximum amount of words.  When a lengthy post is awarded less points, the student will learn the expectation.  The instructor can also ask the student to repost their post within the word limit.
P– Dominant student
S– The instructor can post feedback and grades for this student and explain the expectations for the week are completed and to focus their time on the ____ assignment.   This would also be a great student to help facilitate a discussion one week, or help find resources for the course.
P– Inactivity (individual)
S– I think it’s important to first email the student directly, showing concern, and asking what can be done to support him/her that week.  If  it’s a continuing problem, call the student and discuss the concern.  The student may need more scaffolding, more support, or may be having bigger issues that need to be supported by technical support or the school’s counselor.
P– Misconceptions
S– The response to this type of post should be very consciously worded.  If a student feels corrected or chided in a class discussion board, s/he may not feel free to share personal experiences or other important information to the student with the class again.  S/he will probably feel very guarded and reserved from then on.  The instructor should first comment on the information, finding any value possible, and then explaining the correct concept or fact.
P– Inappropriate Communications
S– A netiquette policy should be established early, along with an assignment so students really read and understand it.  The instructor post responding to the inappropriate post can be a simple reminder about the netiquette rules, so all learners are reminded and know it won’t be accepted.  Then the instructor can email the student directly to work through the issue, so it’s not done in front of the class.


“Give me the gift of a listening heart.” – King Solomon

Netiquette Rules:  10 Ground Rules for Online Discussions

Participate: This is a shared learning environment, so you need to actively participate.  It is not enough to log in and read the discussion thread of others. For the maximum benefit to all, everyone must contribute.

Report Glitches: Discussion forums are electronic. They break. If for any reason you experience difficulty participating, please call, email, or otherwise inform me of the issue. Chances are others are having the same problem.

Be Patient: After posting your initial assignment, read everything in the discussion thread before replying. This will help you avoid repeating something someone else has already contributed. Acknowledge the points made with which you agree and suggest alternatives for those with which you don’t.

Be Brief: You want to be clear—and to articulate your point. Be direct. Stay on point. Don’t lose yourself, or your readers, in overly wordy sentences or paragraphs.  Your posts should be between 200-250 words.

Use Proper Writing Style: This is a requirement. Write as if you were writing a paper. Correct spelling, grammatical construction and sentence structure are expected in every other writing activity and online discussions are no different. You may write in first-person (“I”) when sharing personal experiences.  Please, no texting language, academic, only.

Cite Your Sources: Another biggie! If your contribution to the conversation includes the intellectual property (authored material) of others, e.g., books, newspaper, magazine, or journal articles—online or in print—they must be given the proper citation.  The example demonstrates how to cite our textbook as this will be your main source.

Respect Diversity: It’s an ethnically rich and diverse, multi-cultural world in which we live. Use no language that is—or that could be construed to be—offensive toward others. Racist, sexist, and heterosexist comments and jokes are unacceptable, as are derogatory and/or sarcastic comments and jokes directed at religious beliefs, disabilities, and age.  “If you don’t have anything nice to say- don’t say anything at all.”

No YELLING! Step carefully. Beware the electronic footprint you leave behind. Using bold upper-case letters is bad form, like stomping around and yelling at someone. If you’re feeling any negative emotions, it’s best to walk away from the discussion and respond the following day.

No Flaming! Criticism must be constructive, well-meaning, and well-articulated. Please, no tantrums. Rants directed at any other contributor are simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated. The same goes for profanity. The academic environment expects higher-order language.

**Be sure to review your written posts and responses to ensure that you’ve conveyed exactly what you intended. This is an excellent opportunity to practice your proofreading and rewriting skills—valuable assets in the professional world for which you are  preparing.

Hint: Read your post out loud before hitting the send button. This will tell you a lot about whether your grammar and sentence structure are correct, your tone is appropriate, and your contribution clear or not.

Weekly Discussion Board Rubric:

21 possible points- graded out of 20 points (Could earn 1 extra point each week)



0 Points


1 Point


2 Points


3 Points


Does not participate at all.

Participates 1-2 times.

Participates 3-4 times.

Participates 4-5 times.

Initial Assignment Posting

Posts no assignment.

Posts adequate assignment with some thought and preparation; doesn’t address all aspects of the task.

Posts good assignment that addresses all aspects of the task.

Posts well developed assignment that fully addresses and develops all aspects of the task.

Follow-Up Postings

Posts no follow-up responses to others.

Posts shallow contribution to discussion (e.g., agrees or disagrees); does not enrich discussion.

Elaborates on an existing posting with further comment or observation.

Demonstrates analysis of others’ posts; extends meaningful discussion by building on previous posts.

No posts.

Posts 1-2 of the 4 required posts by deadline.

Posts initial 3 of the 4 posts by the deadline.

Posts initial post by the deadline; posts all the follow-up posts by deadlines.
Content Contribution

Posts information that is off-topic, incorrect, or irrelevant to discussion.

Repeats but does not add substantive information to the discussion.

Posts information that is factually correct; lacks full development of concept or thought.

Posts factually correct, reflective and substantive contribution; advances discussion.

References & Support

Includes no references or supporting experience.

Uses 1 reference to literature, readings, or personal experience to support comments.

Uses 2 references to literature, readings, or personal experience to support comments.

Uses 3 references to literature, readings, or personal experience to support comments.

Clarity & Mechanics

Posts long, unorganized or rude content that may contain multiple errors or may be inappropriate.

Communicates in friendly, courteous and helpful manner with some errors in clarity or mechanics.

Contributes valuable information to discussion with minor clarity or mechanics errors.

Contributes to discussion with clear, concise comments formatted in an easy to read style that is free of grammatical or spelling errors.


“You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” – Scott Peck

Each week we will have a synchronous learning session on the material at the beginning of the week.   You are required to attend one each month and view the others on your own time as they are recorded.  The sessions will be offered at a different time each week of the month to allow for maximum flexibility.  Also, a class survey will be collected at the beginning of the semester so students can request a schedule that works best for them.

Synchronous Rules:

1) You will need a quiet place to participate. Turn off email, phones and any other distractions during the session.

2) Keep your microphone or phone muted until you speak to keep any background noise at a minimum and use a headset for either your computer or phone to eliminate potential echoing.

3) Participate, be prepared to be called on by name.

4) If you have an immediate question or concern, click on the “raise hand” icon.

5) If you type a question in the chat box, be patient as I’ll be teaching at the same time and will answer as soon as I can.

6) If you need to step away during the session, type a note in the chat  box when you leave and again when you return so you will not be called on during your absence.


Communication quotes:

Bloom’s questions:

Socratic questioning table:…/socratic_questioning.pdf

Rubric adapted from:

Netiquette adapted from:

Synchronous rules adapted from:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s