by Kevin Steele, Director of Instructional Technology, Design and Assessment, VITAL

Communicating with students outside of class can be a challenge in our current time.  Do you use social media, apps, text messaging, email, and the list goes on. There are so many options it can be an issue finding the right mode. Delivery can be difficult in engaging all students.  The unfortunate news is that there is not a one-size fits all approach. The communication itself is just as important as the mode in which it is delivered. The tools outlined below are just a few that might be of interest, but if you have another great one, please share what it may be and why you love it!Collaboration over Tech


Blackboard Courses 

Many are already familiar with the benefits of Blackboard for academic classes. The ability to send emails to users in group, tracking of items for turn-in, posting of content, attendance, etc. The same functionality can be created for a group of university members through a Blackboard organization course. Some use cases can be may be student organizations, faculty working groups, study abroad trip organization, etc.  As you probably know, we automatically manage the enrollments for courses; conversely user membership would be controlled by the “instructor” role. To request an organization course, please submit a Vital Request.


Google Group

A Google Group allows members of the group to have one email to send to all members of the group.  It also will maintain the messages sent through the email in a discussion like thread. All the members of the group can access the site which contains all the communications.  If a member of the group replies to the message, it is sent to all and recorded as a thread to the discussion. Members can control their own subscription to the notices. They can choose none at all, weekly digests, or immediate email.  More information can be found on Google Group’s website. To get setup, please submit a ticket to IT at



Remind is a text message service that will text members of the group (classes, is what they call them).  Anyone can register as a teacher and have up to 10 “classes” with up to 150 members each. Students tend to check text messages immediately.  Texts are limited to 140 characters (a standard “tweet”) and can include attachments, photos, videos, google drive files and much more. Scheduling the messages is a huge bonus! Sending immediately is also a perk, too.  Some use cases may be managing student employees, messaging to your students in a particular class or student group, schedule reminders, announce events, etc. The service allows the “class teacher” to also receive texts back, too.  However, most users like the convenience of a one way message. 


Collaboration through GSuite for Education

As with most of the Google products available in our GSuite for Education (sites, forms, docs, sheets, groups, meet, slides, classroom…and the list goes on), there is a great deal of collaboration. You can create a Google Classroom.  This is similar to Blackboard, but does not have all the features. It is available through your Gmail on the waffle icon (the icon is 3 dots by 3 dots and is located to the left of your name in the top right of the screen). There is tons of documentation and videos if you just Google…go figure! 


Interested in more GSuite for Education opportunities?  We are forming cohorts for those wishing to get their Google Educator Level 1 Certification.  Information Technology has allocated funding for 20 people to obtain and certificate. IT will reimburse you for successful completion of the certification exam.  More information…