Monday, June 24, 2013

Tips for Successful Synchronous Online Learning

Planning and developing learning sessions that require both students and the instructor to be online at the same time (synchronous) can be challenging. Issues such as equipment failure, slow bandwidth, and missed cues can interfere with a synchronous learning session. The following are tips for facilitating a successful live learning session:

  • Conduct an equipment check before the session. Always do a quick run through of your classroom setup (computers, cameras, software, etc.) 15 minutes before the session starts and have your students do the same. This not only ensures that everything is working properly, but also helps you gain a level of comfort with the technology you will be working with.
  • Have a contingency plan for problems. Let your students know what the plan is in case they lose their connection or you do. For instance, you might want to tell your students that if a session is interrupted to wait 5 - 7 minutes before logging out to give you or other students ample time to get reconnected.
  • Don't assume your students have everything under control. Require your students to do a software compatibility check before logging in. Your students may not be using the same computer device every time they log into the session, so if they switch devices they need to do the compatibility check for each new device. Devices such as an iPad may require them to download a special app to access the session.
  • Schedule an informal "practice" session where students can get to the know the technology and each other before it is actually used for instruction. This will help you to identify any problems with the technology and any issues that the students might have with this type of learning.
  • Keep the online session simple - don't try to use too many types of media, tools, applications and/or software during a session. Focus less on the technology itself, and more on creating an engaging, interesting learning environment.
  • Experiment with different pieces of equipment. If your computer has a built-in microphone and/or camera test it for quality before the session. You may want to use an audio headset for better voice quality.
  • Be sensitive of your students' learning styles and abilities. Some students may be able to move through information quickly and interact with fast moving chat sessions, while others need a slower pace and reinforcement. Give plenty of opportunities for students to ask questions and interact with the course content.
  • Take advantage of the workshops and technical support on Collaborate offered through the ITRC.
Information adapted from "The 'Dos and Don'ts' of Synchronous Online Learning"
by Bridget McCrea.  Campus Technology. 05/08/13

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