Getting the most out of Synchronous Online Sessions

Like the rest of the University, our colleagues from the Academic Practice Team in the Learning and Teaching Development Service (LTDS) have redeveloped their face to face small group teaching sessions for online delivery.   Their learners are postgraduate research students taking  the Introduction to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (ILTHE) and academic staff new to Newcastle University who are engaging with Newcastle Educational Practice Scheme (NEPS) Units en route to UKPSF fellowship.   

“In order to make a session engaging online, you have to think about what it is that you’re trying to achieve.”

Dr Rosa Spencer, Professional Development Manager

I met up with Dr Rosa Spencer, Emma McCulloch and Chris Whiting to ask about their top tips on how they planned these 1-2 hour sessions, how they used them to build community, and what they did to keep these Zoom teaching sessions engaging and accessible.

Helpful Hints and Tips

  • Keep group sizes relatively small, 20 people max.
  • Offering more sessions with fewer numbers can have a greater impact on engagement levels as it offers more space for people to interact.
  • Understanding your audience so that you’re able to engage them in an online environment.
  • Create breakout rooms early-on in the session, this will encourage peers to meet and engage with each other first thing and raise their comfort levels which will lead to better interaction.
  • Encourage your audience to use the chat if they have not put their cameras on, this will ensure they are still able to feel part of the session.
  • Using chat during the session will also be useful for students where English is not their first language, it may also increase accessibility of the sessions.
  • Make use of Polls in Zoom and build it into the sessions so that your audience can contribute.
  • Take advantage of the name display in Zoom and use it to address people personally if they have participated throughout to create an intimate and personal feel to the session.
  • Increase the amount of interaction time during a Zoom session – offer more breakout sessions or activities to keep the engagement levels up.
  • Use 2 people teaching where possible. Having one-person lead and the other to support.
  • Using a mix of online materials – E.g. Asking the audience to watch a video prior to the session, and showing a different video during the session to help keep attention levels high.
  • Reflect on every session and evaluate the outcome to understand what can be changed or adapted to ensure better results.

Helpful Zoom Resources

NUIT offer lots of support on Zoom – your starting points are the Zoom webpages and Zoom Resources

There is also a Zoom community hosted on Teams  – a great place to ask questions and see up to the minute advice.

You can  book onto our Engaging students in synchronous online learning on Zoom session. There is also etiquette for online learning events on NUConnect.

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