Synchronous online courses

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Best Practices

Successfully incorporating synchronous sessions into an online course isn’t as simple as setting a date and time and logging into Zoom. It involves intentionally planning when, where, how, and why you and your students are going to interact with one another in the virtual space.  

The following list will help you consider and prepare for these aspects of using synchronous class sessions for online learning, as a baseline. However, there are many more recommendations that are worth considering, so read on for further explanation, examples, and suggestions after you have gone through this list! 

Planning for Synchronous Online Learning

  • Decide what teaching approach(es) you will use. 

  • Plan and communicate to students a clear agenda and objectives for each synchronous session; do not just “meet to meet” but be intentional in how you use your time together.

  • Determine what technology you will need to accomplish your instructional plan, enable appropriate security settings for them, and make sure software is up to date.

  • Clearly communicate the logistics of your synchronous online sessions upfront, including session preparation expectations for students.

  • Ensure that Canvas remains in sync with your synchronous online sessions content/updates, and provide screen-shared materials from your synchronous sessions in the Canvas site as well.

Facilitating a Synchronous Online Class Session

  • Have a plan for communicating class etiquette, designating student roles, and wrapping up each session.

  • Establish a pace and rhythm, with regular shifts or breaks.

Fostering Engagement

  • Intentionally create a welcoming and inclusive environment for students.

  • Incorporate active learning and allow for multiple ways of student participation.

Technology: Preparation and Troubleshooting

  • Become comfortable with using important video conference features, such as recording, “mute upon entry,” polling, screen sharing, video sharing, breakout rooms, whiteboards, etc.

  • Host a troubleshooting/test run session for all necessary equipment/tools prior to the first “real” session.

  • Make sure your synchronous session and materials are accessible to all students regardless of their needs.

Want to learn more? Read the Extended PDF version of our Synchronous Best Practices.