Mass Communication

What are mass communication tools?

Regardless of how large or small the class, it’s always helpful to be able to communicate en masse with your students. Mass communication tools are a broad category for tools that enable instructors to send out communications (emails, messages, information, notes, etc.) to a group of people (such as all students or a group of students in a class) at once. The focus of this page is upon mass communication tools specific to OWL.

What is the purpose of mass communication tools?

Mass communication tools are designed to make it easier to get important messages out to a large group of people. In OWL, various mass communication tools serve unique purposes such as sending out course announcements or communicating with student groups. Use of mass communication tools can not only save instructor time, the tools can have positively impact student learning, engagement, and motivation (Baker, 2010;  Putulowski & Crosby, 2017).

How to use mass communication tools

In general, mass communication tools are intended to allow an instructor to author and send out a common message to all recipients. Most communication tools referenced on this page allow for two-way communication, enabling recipients to reply, indicate their preference, or communicate back to the instructor in some way. In OWL, each mass communication tool serves slightly different functionality. When choosing a tool for communicating to students, make sure that the tool you’ve selected adequately meets your intended goals.

Here are some ideas for how mass communication tools can be utilized for teaching and learning:

  • Use the Announcements, Forums, or Messages Tools to send out important messages about upcoming course events, deadlines, or activities.
  • Use the Messages Tool to send private messages to individual students or a group of students (e.g. to communicate about group project work, to arrange office hour consults, etc.)
  • Use the Polls Tool to quickly survey the class on pertinent questions

Tool Comparison

Messages Tool (OWL) Forums Tool (OWL) Announcements Tool (OWL)
Functionality 3 stars 3 stars 2 stars
Accessibility 3 stars 2 stars 3 stars
Technical 3 stars 2 star 3 star
Mobile 1 stars 1 star 1 stars
Usage and Account Setup 2 stars 2 stars 3 stars
Social Presence 2 stars 3 stars 2 stars
Instructor Presence 2 stars 3 stars 2 stars
Cognitive Presence 2 stars 2 stars N/A

All Tools


Baker, C. (2010). The impact of instructor immediacy and presence for online student affective learning, cognition, and motivation. Journal of Educators Online, 7(1), 1-30.
Communication tools allow instructors avenues for being more present with their students, reducing the psychological and physical distance between them and their students. This paper investigates how this presence impacts student learning, thinking, and motivation.

Putulowski, J. R. & Crosby III, R. G. (2017). Effect of personalized instructor-student email and text messages on online students’ perceived course quality, social integration with faculty, and institutional commitment. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, & Practice, 0(0), 1-18. doi:
Consistent professor-student communication (i.e. receiving weekly, personalized communications early in the course) had a demonstrated positive effect on course evaluation scores. The authors suggest that weekly messages had the greater impact in the beginning of the course when students were more likely to feel confused or disoriented in their new learning environment.

Vonderwall, S. (2003). An examination of asynchronous communication experiences and perspectives of students in an online course: a case study. The Internet and Higher Education, 6(1), 77-90. doi:
Asynchronous communication in an online course introduces something of a delay factor. Instructors should be prepared to give prompt feedback and response to students’ inquiries and questions; something that mass communication tools can help support.