This week I found two tools that can help you improve communications with your students.
The first tool is called Broadtexter. Broadtexter allows you to contact a group of people (a.k.a. students) by sending text messages en masse to their cell phones. We all know that the primary communication device for our students is their cell phones. With this website, you get a Flash widget that you can embed into a Blackboard item or web page that students can use to sign up with their cell phone numbers. You can also use this same widget to send them messages. I can see a lot of uses for this in an online class such as sending reminders that tests or assignments are due. This could also be used to send announcements to students about upcoming events that your student group or organization is offering.
The second tool is called EditGrid which allows you to embed a spreadsheet that can be edited live by several people at once from within a Blackboard content item. This blog post by Melissa Koenig from DePaul University shows how to use EditGrid to creat a virtual sign-up sheet right in Bb.