Sapna Mangal

Associate Professor,
School of Hospitality Management (Bio)

Sapna is an experienced online instructor and shares below a number of examples of how she employs strategies to make learning more personalized and engaging.


Establishing expectations for students

  • Post a welcome announcement which reminds students of discussion board due dates, and other pertinent information about the course. This is typically  uploaded prior to the start of the term.
  • The first week is critical so uploading an announcement reiterating how to succeed with discussion boards definitely begins setting my expectations.
  • Provide project and assignment tips well in advance to their due dates. 

Creating a nurturing learning environment/ bringing a human voice to online classes

  • A welcome and interim video; I would like to try and do weekly videos if possible. 
  • Audio feedback to discussion boards. 
  • Audio feedback to assignments.

Q: I know that you had some fear about using videos- could you share your experience, tips for how you accomplished and how you overcame your concern about doing videos?

A: I just decided one day that I need to take this plunge. I felt that if I do not try new things  I would  be of disservice to our students and I refused  to come to a point of no complacency. So I took it up as a personal challenge to go above and beyond.  Making a video is similar to my daughter learning to ride a bike without the training wheels, she gets up and rides again.  I enforce the “can do” attitude in her. I used that on myself too.   I just keep taking videos till I am satisfied. If I am dissatisfied, I try it again. I have to say it was time consuming at first but I know it will get better over time.  My advice to educators out there, you have to just push yourself and more importantly be yourself. Students connect better if you are natural; I believe that being myself in front of the camera really helped me. Students feel more connected to instructors that let their guard down.  

Using Blackboard announcements as a mode to teach course content/skills

  • Encapsulating my feedback for assignments after they are graded. 
  • Summarizing discussion boards/current event threads when applicable.  
  • Sharing examples of good student work as a means of feedback.
  • Providing overall quiz/test feedback.
  • Sharing and commenting on student researched articles from current event or discussion board posts. 

Using web-based technology to engage students in course content

  • KPI dashboards used for analytics (not all courses apply).  Alexa is an online Key Performance Indicator dashboard. We use it to analyze website activity and performance metric. This is a project designed for Info Mgmt and Social Media Marketing course.  
  • Screencast-o-matic for recording purposes.  Neal Green introduced me to  this software. It allows you to create free video recordings and uploading those on YouTube.  It is easier to embed the video on Blackboard after creating it on this platform. 
  • Virtual hours via Skype for weeks when assignments/projects are due.

Facilitating discussion by making connections and asking provocative questions

  • Uploading a video, podcast or an article on the announcement board that ties to lecture content;  Posing question(s) regarding the video, podcast or article, then encouraging and providing students with an opportunity to follow the "Ask the Professor" thread as a means to stimulate discussion and viewpoints based on uploaded video, podcast or the article. These work really well at the beginning of the quarter.  I create a separate thread in “Ask the Professor” for this.
  • When providing discussion board feedback, I sometimes provide additional articles that expand on student points or even use the article if it can help shed some light on student discussion board queries. Unfortunately, there is no way of actually telling if students even open discussion board feedbacks/comments.  

Maintaining online quality/standards through and other online “faculty can-dos”

  • Rubrics to grade online discussion boards and assignments. 
  • Responding to queries within 24 hours (My personal rule of thumb is to respond in under 12 hours). 
  • Grading discussion boards/deliverables within 7 days. 
  • Addressing students by first name to create a personal touch from time to time during the course.  
  • During week 1 introductions welcoming and replying to each student in the class; I take this opportunity to further connect with the student by tying their professional experiences and hobbies to mine. If a student is from a different country, I have also welcomed them in their native language.  
  • Reminders for projects and assignments. 
  • I also use humor on blackboard's announcement from time to time by incorporating comic strips that tie back to lecture content. It takes some of the seriousness out of the course and keeps students interested. For example, I used this cartoon strip from Tom Fishburne when we discuss paid media for my Information Management and Social Media marketing course: