CLE Communication Tools for Faculty (and Students!)

Have you noticed an increased interest in online communication tools at UCSF? Faculty members are using technology to improve communication with students and continue learning outside of the classroom. With a number of communication tools available in the UCSF Collaborative Learning Environment (CLE), choosing the right tool can sometimes be overwhelming.

cle communication tools

Not to worry – UCSF Learning Tech staff is here to help! We have done our homework on the various communication tools available in the CLE. Like a carpenter’s toolbox, each CLE communication tool has its own purpose and strengths. Would you want to use a hammer to cut a piece of wood? No! And we probably do not want to use the CLE Chat activity to communicate last minute announcements to students, or use Messaging to relay important course information (justification provided for both examples below).

We have created four fictional use cases to help us better understand CLE communication tools and when they are best used. Each communication tool has been assigned a difficulty rating out of five stars (five stars being the most difficult) based on the amount of time and resources required to set up and manage the activity. Let’s take a look at the first of four communication tools!


pharmacy facultyRecommended CLE Communication Tool:

forum activityUse CLE Forums as an asynchronous communication activity where faculty and students communicate via postings. Forums are not limited to just text – students can post multimedia like videos from their cell phones or photos documenting their experiences. Choose from five forum types and various subscription options to customize a forum to fit your course, curriculum, and teaching style.

Level of Difficulty: ★★★☆☆

Due to the number of forum types, configuration settings, and the time required to manage a forum, we have given the CLE Forum a difficulty rating of three out of five stars – the highest rating of the four communication tools covered in this post!

Support Resources:
The following resources will be helpful as you get started using the CLE Forum activity:


Communications Tools Post.002Recommended CLE Communication Tool:

quickmailAdd the Quickmail block to a CLE course to quickly send email messages to individuals or to all students in a course. Stop wasting time compiling student email addresses just to send a quick email message. Also, students are required to log in to the CLE to access some of the other online communications tools covered in this post, but Quickmail messages are sent directly to students’ email inboxes, where they are more likely to be alerted via their phone, tablet, or laptop.

Level of Difficulty: ★☆☆☆☆

Sending Quickmail messages in a CLE course is just like sending an email – so we have given Quickmail a difficulty rating of one out of five stars.

Support Resources:
The following resources will help you get started sending Quickmail messages in the CLE:


Communications Tools Post.003Recommended CLE Communication Tool:

messagingSend messages to students that appear like an instant message in the CLE. Want to remind a student that you are online and available for any last minute questions before presenting or taking an exam? Use Messaging.

Level of Difficulty: ★☆☆☆☆

Sending messages in the CLE is like texting on your phone – so we have given this online communication tool a difficulty rating of one out of five stars.

Support Resources:
The following resources will help get you started sending messages in the CLE:


Communications Tools Post.004Recommended CLE Communication Tool:

chat activityThe Chat activity is a simple, straightforward way to communicate synchronously in a CLE course. Great for question and answer sessions or virtual office hours, where students can comment on active conversations with faculty, course staff, and other students.

Level of Difficulty: ★★☆☆☆

Like Messaging, chatting only requires you to type synchronously to communicate with students. Because of the number of options for configuring the Chat activity in the CLE, we have given it a difficulty rating of two out of five stars.

Support Resources:
The following resources will help you get started chatting in the CLE:

Communicating with students in the CLE is not limited to the four options showcased in this post. If you have another favorite online communication tool in the CLE such as blogs, wikis, or the WebEx web conferencing system, please share with the UCSF community by leaving a comment below.

Remember to update your CLE profile to include a profile image and a current bio. This helps us see who we are communicating with when using any number of online communication tools in the CLE. For instructions on updating your CLE profile, visit the Learning Tech Support Center.

ltg group photo

Have questions about any of the four communication tools covered in this post? Join us at an upcoming Tech Clinic or contact Learning Technologies staff.

Image Credits:

Glasses” designed by Blake Thompson from the Noun Project.
Mortar Board” designed by Sergey Patutin from the Noun Project.
Heartbeat” designed by Creative Stall from the Noun Project.
Tooth” designed by hunotika from the Noun Project.
Erlenmeyer Flask” designed by Bucky Clarke from the Noun Project.
Messages” designed by Lubos Volkov from the Noun Project.
Ribbon” designed by Laurent Canivet from the Noun Project.
Envelope” designed by Herbert Spencer from the Noun Project.
Avatars” designed by Freepik.


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