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Policy - 08 Communications in an Online Environment

REF/ACSST/OPS/POS/COM/220615

Policy – Communication in an Online Environment

Communication is key in delivering the Pamoja Education (PJE) mission of supporting students in achieving their full potential through innovative teaching and learning within a global online community. The online courses and associated support networks for schools and teachers contain a variety of media that allow communication to take place. For effective and efficient global communications, it is essential that community members use the right communication medium correctly for the given communication circumstance. Pamoja Education also has a duty to prevent inappropriate behaviour taking place in these communication networks. In cases where there is an alert of inappropriate behaviour PJE must be able to identify the communication and take action to address the behaviour can be taken.

Goals of Communication

The goals of the Pamoja Education communication policy are to ensure communications systems that:

  • Support student learning.
  • Enhance the development of an online community.
  • Allow collaboration and support amongst the teachers and students.
  • Promote the development of essential skills in Approaches to Learning (ATL).
  • Provide a safe, monitored environment for teaching and learning.
  • Provide secure and confidential communication conditions where required for administrative purposes.

The main Pamoja Education community members are students, teachers, schools, PJE school services and PJE administration (including the academic, human resources and finance departments). The specific objectives and conditions for the communication within and between these groups will be detailed later in the document.

Public and Private Communication

The communication media used by PJE online courses and support networks can be classified as “Public” and “Private”. The definitions of these categories are:

Category

Definition

Examples

Public

  • Public communication is intended for a group of students, teachers and/or schools who have access to or are enrolled in a specific space (e.g. Course).
  • Public communication takes place in a space that is open and visible to all members enrolled in that space.

Pamoja Website, Course Announcements, Discussion Forums, Big Blue Button (BBB) Conferences, Wiki, Chat.

Private

  • Private communication is intended for an individual or small group of individuals.
  • Private communication has a defined purpose specific to those receiving the message.
  • Private communication is ONLY visible to the designated recipients.

Email in LMS, Assessment Feedback, Term Reports, Journal Entry, Registered Email, Small Group BBB conferences.

Principles of Communication

All communication in the Pamoja Education community is based upon the following principles:

  • All communication should take place in the Learning Management System (LMS) unless the communication tools in the LMS do not support the requirements of the message.
  • Teachers should always use PJE systems to communicate with students or schools and never use personal email.
  • The choice of communication medium is determined by the audience, function and technical requirements of the message.
  • Public communication media is preferred; private communication should only be used when the message is suitable only for an individual, a specific small group or is confidential.
  • All communication tools must allow a reply and follow up conversation.
  • All communications MUST be recorded and/or archived.
  • All communication should feature clear and concise subject lines.

Purposes of Communication

Effective and efficient connectivity in the LMS targets the following communication objectives:

  • Connectivity between students and teachers allows:
    • Teachers to communicate learning priorities to students.
    • Teachers to communicate with students in groups or individually to identify students’ learning needs and intervene with support.
    • Teachers to give students clear feedback on progress in current learning and guidance for future learning.
    • Students to contact teachers in a timely manner to identify needs and request support in their learning.
  • Connectivity between students allows:
    • Students to be in contact with other students to support each other’s learning.
    • Students to be in contact with other students to promote trust and understanding in a social learning environment.
  • Connectivity between teachers allows:
    • Teachers to be aware of important arising issues and discussions.
    • Teachers to support each other in shared activities and departmental collaboration.
    • Teachers to assess student work in a consistent and transparent manner.
    • Teachers to create an open, collaborative and understanding work environment.
  • Connectivity between SBCs and Teachers allows:
    • Teachers to understand student issues arising in a student’s local environment that impact on learning.
    • Schools to understand issues arising in the online environment that require intervention by the SBC.
    • Teachers and schools to build trust and share common goals in support of student learning.
  • Connectivity between SBCs and PJE School Services will allow
    • Schools to understand Pamoja Education overall learning priorities.
    • Schools to be alerted to student engagement issues arising at the earliest possible opportunity.
    • Schools to alert Pamoja Education to local circumstances or incidents that are affecting student learning.
    • Pamoja Education to provide support for schools to manage their online students.
  • Connectivity between PJE School Services and Teachers will allow:
    • SST to keep teachers informed of communications between schools and SST.
    • SST to remind teachers of key activities such as reports.
    • Teachers to keep SST informed of issues and incidents arising from students and schools that require support.
  • Connectivity between PJE School Services and Parents will allow
    • Parents to understand Pamoja Education overall learning priorities.
    • Parents to be alerted to student engagement issues at the earliest possible opportunity.
    • Parents to alert Pamoja Education to circumstances or incidents that are affecting student learning.
  • Connectivity between PJE administration and teachers will allow
    • Teachers to receive and reply to important and confidential communication relevant to their compensation and conditions.
    • Finance and Human Resources to share important information with teachers and other administration staff of PJE.
    • The Academic Department to address personal or sensitive issues directly with teachers and other administrative elements of PJE.

Communication between Parents and Teachers

Open and transparent communication is encouraged between all stakeholders within the PJE learning community. However, out of respect for partner school communication standards and priorities, teachers and parents should not communicate directly without the coordination and inclusion of the SBC. Any parents requesting direct communication with PJE, must go through School Services. Teachers are instructed NOT to reply directly to parents; they should direct replies to parent’s messages to the SBC and/or School Services Team depending on the nature of the parental communication.

Principles into Practice

There are four main domains where communication takes place in the Pamoja Education community:

  • The Learning Management System
  • Help Centre
  • Pamoja Education email.
  • Student Information System

The details of how these different systems serve different needs are detailed below.

The Learning Management System (LMS) – Teachers and Students

The LMS is the system in which the majority of communication takes place since it is the location where course content, interactive course tools, assignment submission, gradebooks, students and teachers reside. The tools available for communication in the LMS are indicated below.

Tool Category Comment Monitoring & Management
Announcements Public
  • Teachers make announcement to set course priorities, give general assessment feedback and give notice of important events or course issues.
  • Students are able to comment on announcements.
Teachers in a Learning Space
Discussion Forums Public
  • A place for ongoing student-student and student-teacher “class-discussion”; sometimes a required learning activity.
  • Discussion can be topic-oriented or general in nature.
  • Discussions can be open to a Learning Space or restricted to an individual Course Section, depending on the nature of the discussion.

Teachers in a Learning Space

Teacher in a Class Section

Wikis Public
  • An open “page” that all students can edit for collaborative learning.
  • Wikis can be open to a Learning Space or restricted to an individual Course Section, depending on the nature of the discussion.
 

Teachers in a Learning Space

Teacher in a Class Section

Chat Public
  • A messaging tool open and visible to all enrolments in a course.
  • Chat is open to a Learning Space.
Teachers in a Learning Space
Collaborations Public
  • Similar to a Wiki this creates Googledoc/Ethernet locations for collaboration.
 

Teachers in a Learning Space

Teacher in a Class Section

Conferences Public
  • Online Live Sessions using the Big Blue Button web-conferencing platform.
  • Invitations can be restricted, but normally all students in a Learning Space will be invited.
  • All scheduled BB sessions MUST be recorded and archived according to standard naming conventions for easy student reference and access.
 Organising Teacher
Gradebook & Assignments Private
  • The location where teachers provide individual feedback (written or audio) to students on assignments.
  • Includes a student comment feature, so that students and teachers can engage in a conversation around assignment feedback.
Teacher in a Class Section
 Conversations  Private
  • The medium for private student-student and student-teacher communication (email).
  • Emails can be pushed to PJE and personal email registered in the user settings of the Canvas LMS. They can be answered from these registered emails as well (pushed back through the LMS and archived there)
  • Personal/External email should never be used to communicate with students or schools.
  • The primary email registered by a teacher in the LMS MUST be their official PJE email. Other personal email addresses may be registered in addition to this PJE email but not replace it.
Recipient Teacher
       

Groups

Groups also form an important part of the communications structure within the LMS. Groups have their own facilities for communication that are exclusively available to the group members in the “Group Homepage. All group members (students and teachers) assigned to a group will have the following communication functionality for their specific group:

  • Announcements
  • Discussion Forums
  • Collaborations
  • Wikis
  • Conferences

Departmental Communication in the Professional Learning Community (PLC) - Teachers

All departmental business, led by the Head of Department, is conducted in the designated Workspaces of the PLC. Professional communication between teachers should take place within the Professional Learning Community workspaces unless the communication needs to be private. All private, PJE related communication between teachers should take place in the LMS email (i.e. Conversations). Although teachers have Pamoja email addresses, it is preferable to keep as much communication as possible within the LMS. All the LMS conversations will be pushed as notifications to Pamoja email and any other registered email in the LMS.

The Learning Management System – Teachers and SBCs

Communication between Teachers and SBCs will take place using the “Conversations” feature in Canvas. As stated above, this internal email is pushed to emails as registered in the LMS, so that communication between SBCs and teachers takes place efficiently in this medium and ensures that all communication is recorded.

Communication with PJE School Services – The Help Centre

Teachers, students and SBCs will communicate with PJE School Services by means of “tickets” in the Help Centre. Like internal emails, tickets are pushed automatically to an external registered email address and recipients of updated tickets can reply directly from an email pushed to their registered email account. The registered account for PJE teachers will always be their Pamoja Education email due to the necessity of confidentiality and privacy for communications when schools are communicating with teachers about students.

The Help Centre tickets will ensure that issues are tracked, action is taken and the correct member of the School Services Teams is assigned to deal with an issue. The Help Centre also allows school services to efficiently communicate with individual teachers or groups of teachers as well as individual SBCs and groups of SBCs.

Parents are also able to contact Pamoja Education directly through the Help Centre. School Services will mediate any messages that are directed at teachers. As usual, direct communication between a teacher and parent is expected will be coordinated and mediated by the Site Based Coordinator.

Pamoja Education Email

All administration and staff members of Pamoja Education have an Outlook email address (name@pamojaeducation.com) email address. All teachers who are contracted to Pamoja Education are provided with a Kerio (name@faculty.pamojaeducation.com) email address. These email addresses allow direct, recorded and confidential communication between PJE administration, staff and teaching faculty. These email address will also be the registered email addresses in the LMS and Help Centre. Although teachers may have additional email addresses registered in the LMS (to receive notifications), all PJE admin, staff and faculty should check their Pamoja Education email at least 5 times per week.

PJE Help Centre will provide proactive support to Pamoja Education faculty to allow integration of the web based Kerio email address into email platforms such as Mac Mail and Microsoft Outlook.

School Information System (SIS)

The SIS previously provided a platform for communication between schools, students and teachers. This will be discontinued for students who are enrolled in course that use the Canvas LMS due to the quality of the notification function. However, communication may still occur in the SIS for students and schools enrolled in courses that use the D2L LMS. This is the only avenue in D2L to send messages to students and schools external email addresses.


 

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