Web Conferencing Tips
There are many benefits to meeting at the same time and virtual space online. Conferencing technologies can help to replicate many of the same in person elements such as real-time feedback, face-to-face connection and a schedule. Live meetings can bring students together to discuss content, explore problems, pose questions, work in groups, and create community. These sessions are valuable in conjunction with asynchronous activities.
Web Conferencing Activities
Synchronous class meetings can be used for many types of activities. Live meetings should bring students together to discuss content, explore problems, pose questions, work in groups, and to create community. Here are some examples of how to use online conference meetings:
- Live, Interactive Lectures: Share video, and/or presentation materials with students.
- Live Demonstrations and Problem Solving: Live screen sharing and/or whiteboard for showing/walking through worked examples, problems, or visual explanations.
- Live Discussions: Lead discussions using video, voice and chat (best in smaller classes under 25) or with Breakout Rooms.
- Review Sessions: Answer questions and review content
- Student Presentations
- Group Work and Project-Based Learning: Incorporate breakout groups and other discussion tools.
- Guest Speakers: Prepare discussion topics, encourage students to prepare questions and/or actively engage in the sessions.
- Virtual Office Hours and Consultations: Invite students to log in at regular times or sign up for a slot.
- Scheduled Assessments
Tips for Engaging Students in Synchronous Sessions
- Follow a consistent schedule.
- Tell students what to expect and how to prepare for the session.
- Do a quick social check-in at the beginning of class.
- Make it relevant, then highlight the relevance.
- Ask participants to come with one burning question about the topic.
- Offer novel content, insights, or activities.
- Share a presentation through a screen share.
- Incorporate check points/pauses for questions in chat, or audio/video comments. Pose a question and give participants a moment to write.
- Set up polls to collect & share student responses.
- Use non-verbal feedback (raise hand, thumbs up, etc.)
- Ask questions that require students to pick a side.
- Use breakout groups.
- Incorporate collaboration and discussion tools.
Reference: Norman, M. (2017). Synchronous Online Classes: 10 Tips for Engaging Students, Faculty Focus June 26, 2017. Retrieved from:
Strategies to Improve Online Lectures
There are several strategies that faculty can incorporate into their synchronous class meetings and lectures that will increase learning. The 7 lecture enhancement strategies shared by Harrington & Zakrajsek (2017) can be easily adapted to online lectures.
- Activating Prior Knowledge: Start your live meetings by reminding students of key concepts discussed previously that will relate to new content. Place students into breakout groups to discuss what was last discussed and have them report out to the larger group via chat.
- Capture Attention and Emphasize Important Points: Live class meetings will need to capture student attention and help them focus and learn. Try using a strategy to capture student attention before each new big idea is introduced. Determine the most important points of each lecture and share these with students.
- Use Multimedia Effectively: Use a combination of visuals and audio to make your class sessions more engaging and easier for students to follow. Consider using PowerPoint presentations with a combination of images, bulleted lists which will work well in conjunction with your spoken audio during class. Make sure that alternative formats are available to students with disabilities.
- Elaboration through Examples: Share examples to help students understand the real-world value of the content. This increases both motivation and learning. You can share your screen during synchronous lectures and show examples available on websites. Consider asking students to also identify examples to discuss.
- Provide Reflection Opportunities: Students learn much more when given an opportunity to pause and reflect during lectures. During your live conferencing sessions, pause for one-three minutes for students to summarize what they have learned or for students to share what isn’t clear to them. Students can submit their summaries via chat, a tweet, in a discussion board, or later as a mini assignment. Use breakout rooms so that students can discuss what they have learned with a few classmates.
- Offer Retrieval Practice: Retrieval practice is an important part of the memory process. Ask a question on a slide and have students type their answers in chat. Use polling tools to ask questions and display the results to the class.
- Questioning for Critical Thinking: Get students to think more deeply about the content being learned by posing questions and have students discuss and respond to the question using breakout rooms or chat.
Reference: Harrington, C. & Zakrajsek, T. (2017). Dynamic lecturing: Research-based strategies to enhance lecture effectiveness. Stylus Publishing.
Technical Tips for Web Conferencing
- Ask students to test their connection to the technology you plan to use in advance.
- Use headsets for noise and interference control. This can make a big difference in audio quality.
- Mute everyone during the class session to eliminate noise and allow participants to unmute themselves to speak.
- Practice using the technology prior to the session. Get familiar with how to resize windows, use chat, share your screen, manage the “raise hand” feature, manage polls, breakout groups, share files, and mute/unmute participants.
- Share your screen to show your presentation and/or other materials.
- Use breakout rooms for smaller group conversations. Breakout rooms are particularly helpful when teaching large classes.
- Set up polls for increased student participation.
- Record live sessions for students unable to attend or for playback.
- Prepare links to collaborative note taking documents and other technologies you may want to incorporate into your conference sessions.