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Support Students

Although many younger students may be considered to be ‘digital natives’ and older students might be considered ‘digital immigrants,’ most students require support in the Blackboard on-line or blended environment.  Students may need :

a) Technical support, i.e. logging in, uploading assignments, digital literacy..
b) Academic support, i.e. cognitive, tutoring,  feedback on progress..
c) Study skills support, i.e. time-management, self-directed learning..
d) Personal or social support, i.e. confidence, social presence, motivation..

a)    Technical Support (including digital literacy)

Students need support in developing their technical skills and you need to use strategies that integrate digital literacy into the curriculum. COFA (2013) at UNSW have developed some advice around supporting students in this area (Table 1).

Table 1: Useful strategies for integrating digital literacy into curriculum

Incorporate some scaffolding that supports or develops digital literacy into your class. Include tasks that provide a foundation in developing necessary skills. This can be done over the duration of the semester, or over a series of classes within a program.

When introducing a new online technology, allocate sufficient time beforehand to fully brief students (often in a ‘step-by-step’ process) on how to set up and use that technology or software

Provide ongoing support. Prepare written instructions (online or hard copy) that reiterate what was introduced in the aforementioned briefing to allow students to revise any steps they may have forgotten. Provide a ‘Question and Answer’ thread in a discussion board where students can ask questions, and ensure that you respond promptly. A “Frequently Asked Questions’ document may also be helpful

Before teaching your class, ensure you are familiar with, and have experience in the technology or online environment that you are introducing. This allows you to pre-empt and possibly divert any problems, and answer or resolve issues more promptly


Under Commons Copyright.

 Blackboard has a student support webpage that you should incorporate into your Bb environment that can assist students with many of the Bb technical functionalities.  You can use this link to the full page contents or more specific links were required, for example, how to submit an assignment in Bb in your "Assessment" folder.

Be aware of and publicise any institutional technology support sessions for UCD students.

b) Academic Support

As noted in an earlier section, Bb allows opportunity for automated feedback. In addition, use the functionality of the discussion forums or group e-mails to assist students’ academic queries.  Discussion forums can often be titled, for example, ‘the On-line café  for enhancing a more student-friendly environment. This type of support can be a useful alternative to the multiple student e-mails that can be generated by the on-line environment (Bright, 2012).   Click here to see how to set up a discussion forum in Bb.

   How to Rename any Button

  • Click the down arrow to the right of the button to be renamed
  • Select “Rename Link”
  • Type the new name (‘Student Queries’ or ‘On-Line Café’)
  • and click on the green “tick” button to save  or press enter

Bb can allow students to view drafts of each others work and this functionality (usually through group discussions, blogs or wikis) can be built into your assessment and feedback design.

c)    Study Skills in the on-line environment

In the online environment students need some quite specific supports, such as
•    Time management
•    Online group-work skills
•    Self-directed learning skills on-line
•    Communications skills on-line, including netiquette
•    Online research or information retrieval skills

See UCD Library Supporting Your Learning Webpage for some useful links to incorporate for students on:
•    Finding books, Journals,
•    Doing a Literature Review
•    Effective Search Skills
•    Evaluating information on the web
•    Avoiding Plagiarism and
•    Referencing & Citation


 d) Personal or Social Support

Students in the online environment can feel very isolated. Salmon (2002) highlights the importance of both ‘access and motivation’ and ‘online socialisation’ in the early stages of online learning.

The importance of a social presence in the online environment has been central in many practices and theories of online learning. In particular, students need opportunities to get to know their peers. Some ideas in this area include:  
•    Early in the module, get students to upload their picture, introduce themselves to you, and each other in the online environment (in blogs, wikis)
•    Set up communities in the online environment  (group forums)
•    Have a mentor, peer or teacher presence (Thomas, 2013)

Printable Resources
  • Bright, S. (2012) eLearning lecturer workload: working smarter or working harder?
  • Crawley, A  (2012) Supporting Online Students: A Practical Guide to Planning, Implementing, and Evaluating Services, Jossey-Bass
  • Salmon, G. (2002). E-tivities: The key to active online learning, London: Kogan Page.
  • Shen, K N. and  Mohamed, K  (2009) "Design for Social Presence in Online Communities: A Multidimensional Approach," AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction (1) 2, pp. 33-54
  • Simpson, O. (2002) Supporting Students in Online, Open and Distance Learning. Second Edition. Open and Distance Learning Series. Kogan Page: London.
  • Thomas (2005) Supporting Online Students with Personal Interaction
  • Winograd, K., Moore, G. (2002) Study Skills for the Online Student ASPH Technology Watch
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