Announcements are a great way to draw your students’ attention to short, time-sensitive pieces of information. You can use announcements to share small pieces of class news or to drive students to other places within your course shell, the internet, or course texts.
Think of announcements as the “teaser” for the topic or information to come.
You could use an announcement to:
Announcements are not the place to ask deep, probing questions of your students; this type of interaction works best as a discussion topic in the Discussions tool or an in-class discussion. Note that announcements aren’t set up to accommodate responses from students. Therefore, if you present something new to your students and pose questions about it, you’ll need to indicate what students are to do with their responses. Do these belong in the discussion portions of the course? In their written work? Are the questions simply “food for thought” with no formal reply required on the part of the student?
Note that you can also set the time-frame during which the announcement will display. You can opt to have your students see only 2-3 announcements at a time, thus drawing their attention to especially important pieces of information. Alternately, you can opt to make all announcements visible for the entire duration of the course, thereby providing the students a concise archive of all breaking news in the course.
What if my students don’t see the announcement? Isn’t it easier just to email them all? Announcements are posted on the first page students see when they access your course shell. Odds are good that if students are in the course shell, they will see the announcement. As the instructor, it’s up to you to set the expectation that students should log into the course shell frequently enough to view your announcements in a timely manner. Posting important information in the course will be incentive enough for many students!
There is certainly nothing wrong with emailing your students either a copy of the announcement or a generic message telling them to check the announcements area of the course. However, owing to the vagaries of spam filters, email forwarding, and cluttered inboxes, there are no guarantees that your students are any more likely to see your email than an announcement that you have verified is visible in the course.