7 Ways to Improve Your Online Synchronous Sessions

One of the challenges for online faculty is to how best to improve their synchronous sessions.  There have been many times when faculty ask me, “Why don't students participate in the sync sessions?” Working with the faculty who teach in Medill's IMC Online Program, I've developed this handy list of seven ideas to elicit participation and engagement in an online synchronous session:

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1. Have an agenda

When you have an agenda for the session; it lets the students know what to expect and what to prepare for when they attend the synchronous session.

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2. Give them something to do

Take an activity that you may have done in your live class and modify for the online synchronous session or prepare a discussion topic to get the conversation started.

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3. Provide useful information about upcoming assignments

Let the students know what is expected of them for upcoming important assignments or tests.  This meaningful information gives students a purpose for attending the sync session.

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4. Ask for volunteers to lead a discussion

You can students to volunteer to lead a discussion in the class and this way the students can share the responsibility of talking.

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5. Learn student names

Just like in the classroom and you are having regular synchronous sessions, call the students by their names which lets the students know you are getting to know them.

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6. Participation counts – attach points related to participation in the sync session

Students may not be required to attend however you can attach participation points for attending or activities that they may have participated in like leading a discussion.

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7. Student recaps – at the beginning of the session, ask students to give a recap or reflect on the last session or the previous week’s readings/assignments

Ask students to recap or reflect on an reading assignment or a difficult assignment that was recently submitted and this way gets some participation that can lead to some rich feedback and conversations.


These are just a few of the many ways to improve your synchronous sessions. Try a few, see what works, and new ideas will arise for even greater student participation and engagement.