Hosting Live Online Classes for Synchronous Class Lecture or Study Sessions

So you’ve decided to take the plunge into the world of online conferencing software! Congratulations! Whether you’ve invited a guest lecturer to present remotely in your classroom, decided to hold your office hours online, or found yourself needing to buy time on a Snow Day before a major exam, these helpful organization tips will make you feel like a total pro! Consider registering for an upcoming Webex Training Session on the PDC website.

 

Informed Decision to go Live and Online

Consider the following

  •         With so many software options, Web2.0 collaborative tools, and availability of mobile video, begin by asking yourself if a live session is really the best way to achieve your objective.
  •         Explore other options before going live and online. Would students be willing to meet on campus? Can this information be recorded by you and linked online? Do equivalent resources already exist elsewhere? Could student responses be captured with video asynchronously? 1

Why?

  •         Many instructors schedule a live class session because this is the only method they are aware of. Consult with an instructional technologist or instructional designer on technology options.
  •         Live sessions tend to lead to community and relationship building among students, especially in a fully online class. If your students are already on campus, consider meeting in person.

 

Student Schedules and Availability

Consider the following

  •         Conduct a poll during the first week of class and provide several options of dates and times for your live sessions.
  •         Require that students attend a certain number of live sessions. Record your session and create an alternative assignment for students who did not attend live. Set this expectation early.

Why?

  •         Students are more likely to attend if the meeting dates are scheduled weeks or even months in advance and they have an opportunity to arrange their schedules ahead of time.
  •         Whether you’re using your session as office hours, study sessions, a lecture, or a Q&A with scheduled guest speakers, determine a reasonable expectation for attendance and tie this to a course grade. Those who missed a live session should have an alternative assignment to ensure they watched the recording and met the same objectives as students who attended live.

 

Planning the Session

Consider the following

  •         The purpose of your live session is the opportunity to interact with your students and create opportunities for spontaneous discussion that is often hard to replicate in a course discussion forum. Plan several interactive activities and/or formative assessment opportunities throughout the duration of your session.1
  •         Have a plan if no one shows up to your session, then deliver and record the session anyhow.

Why?

  •         Make a strong effort to keep the live session student-centered throughout the duration of your session. Otherwise, the session may as well have been recorded and students will be put off by attending in the future.1
  •         Chances are you will deliver at least one session where no one showed up. Record the session anyhow. Some students won’t understand the value or consider the sessions optional early in the semester. However, these students will likely click on the recording to see what it is.

 

Using the Technology

Consider the following

  •         Practice, practice, practice. Schedule a meeting ahead of time with a colleague in the same office as you. This will let you see what your “student” sees during the presentation.
  •         Plan to enter the live meeting 15 minutes before it begins to greet students and ensure the software is loaded properly, microphone levels are good, and your web camera is working.

Why?

  •         Expect to stumble over tools in the moment when the pressure is on. Limit yourself to using just a few tools your first time in, and add one new tool each time you feel more comfortable.
  •         Every computer is different, so be sure you are presenting on the same computer you practiced on to help ensure the levels you set for speaker and microphone volume are adequate.

 

Delivering Your Presentation  

Consider the following

  •         Print a hard copy of your presentation materials and keep them next to you with written notes so you aren’t inclined to open multiple windows while presenting.
  •         Start your session with video, then switch to audio only, to reduce lag on students’ view.1
  •         Add reminders in your lesson plan to pause and look for student questions in the chat box.
  •         Acknowledge distractions if/when they happen (pets, kids, ringing telephones) and then move on.1 Mute your students’ microphones until it is time to call on someone.
  •         Don’t be afraid to give students control over the whiteboard for some activities (Click the pencil icon and mark a tally in the column you feel pertains to you. Write an adjective on the whiteboard that best describes how you feel about this concept.)

Why?

  •         Maintain control of your virtual classroom by having the confidence to use the tools, being organized and prepared, and providing distracting tools (microphones, whiteboard pens, etc) only when it is time to use them.
  •         Stay focused on your presentation by placing prompts within your notes to check the chat box in specific intervals. “I’m taking a moment to read through the chat for your questions…”
  •         As mentioned in the Using Technology section, become confident with a few tools at a time. To create an interactive environment, you may want to add slides in your presentation for students to draw/write on rather relying on cumbersome polling features in your first session.

1 Finkelstein, Jonathan E. (2009). Learning in Real Time: Synchronous Teaching and Learning Online. eBook in ZSR Library

 

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