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Managing Messaging in large courses with multiple Teachers/TAs

Large courses for us are courses with 100's of students and multiple TA's to assist the teacher with the administration of the course.   The can happen because it's a single large course everyone registers for, or because there are multiple small sections that the teacher crosslists.    

The teachers in our large courses all have the problem of managing messaging from students.    The teacher tries to get students to message their TA first for questions, or to even message any TA first, before messaging the teacher directly.    But no matter what the teachers try, students end up messaging the wrong people or end up messaging everyone, and no one know who is working the question.

We've looked at 3rd party tools, but students keep messaging using the Canvas system they are familiar with, circumventing the 3rd party tool.

Can you share strategies you've come up with for managing the messaging in large courses?   

Thanks, Glen


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Community Contributor

@glparker I don't have a direct answer to your question, though I can see that being a huge problem. Would it be feasible to create and pin a Discussion topic for each TA and ask students to post there, in the Discussion topic with their TA's name on it? It can be helpful for students to post questions publicly anyway because others might have the same question, but students needing individual support or privacy could post a Reply asking their TA to contact them directly. Otherwise answers could be posted for all students in that TA section to see.

The TAs could monitor their own Discussion threads and answer questions if possible or send them on to the instructor if needed.

This method would still require students to follow directions, but it might be easier for them to find the right contact instead of trying to use the Inbox.

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Thank you for the reply.    Some of our faculty have tried to setup discussions.    It works with mixed results.   The main issue is that students, like al humans, are creatures of habit.   They prefer to use Canvas messaging as a default, and teaching them to use something different on a course by course basis is hard.

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Hello @glparker 

Thanks for posting this in the Canvas Community! 

I understand how complex this can be to manage with courses that contain large amounts of enrollments. You could adjust some of the course level permissions that allow users to send a message to the entire class. There is actually a course level permission called Conversations - send messages to entire class.

I also noticed that for the permission Conversations - send to individual course members it allows user to send messages to individual course members. however, In the additional considerations for this permission, they list: When disabled, students can still send individual messages to course teachers and course TAs. Additionally, when disabled, students cannot send individual messages to students who belong to the same course-level groups. This might be something you could consider also. 

Outside of adjusting course level permissions, I know that providing a method of contact can go a long ways when students need to reach out to the TA or instructor for additional assistance. Some instructors will set up an actual page within their modules that will list this information. I have seen some place this in the syllabus and home page. 

There might be a third party tool that could be used to avoid this... however I don't have any experience with that unfortunately. I am hoping that we might be able to get some more community members to comment and share their experience with this. 


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In a perfect world, there would be a "help desk" mode for Canvas messaging that a teacher could check a box to enable in their course settings.    This would be an enhancement of the existing messaging tool, not a new/different tool.

The messages to course admins (teachers , tas, designers) then get managed like tickets, and the course admins have a special view of the messages.   

Then, students would use messaging as normal, but the message gets tracked in a special way where teachers and tas can see if anyone has responded to the message, and/or the messages can be assigned to ta, maybe even SLA's where messages that don't get a response get escalated to the teacher.   

'perchance to dream


Thanks, Glen

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