Internal - Faculty & Staff

The Virtual Live Classroom Experience

Think of a synchronous tool as your virtual classroom. Through web conferencing you can hold office hours, give live lectures and demonstrations, have class discussions, and even break out into small groups. Participants can collaborate via video, voice, text chat, whiteboard, and document sharing. You can do just about anything you would do in a traditional classroom using a synchronous tool, and more!

The Virtual Live Classroom Experience

Beginning the Session
  1. Start your session fifteen minutes before the class time. Display your first agenda slide to let students know they have entered the correct session. 

  2. Test all links and media-rich content and have these ready for use. 

  3. Test your audio and have students do the same when they enter the session. 

  4. To start, shut off students’ web cameras, whiteboard tools, and application-sharing privileges in the participant window (allow students to use the microphone and text chat).

During the Session
  1. At the beginning of the session, explain how you will manage the class (in terms of “raising hands,” etc.).

  2. During the session, regularly solicit feedback from students via the student feedback icons (for “clapping,” “thumbs down,” etc.).

  3. Use whiteboard tools while presenting slides to call attention to specific information.

  4. Use the recording feature to provide an archived version of the session for students who could not attend the live session or want to review the material covered.

Planning the Session

We are quite familiar with the flow of a traditional face-to-face course. Often, it falls into a weekly pattern. Students do all the readings and activities for the week, and then attend a class session, where the instructor lectures and leads students in discussion. New readings are assigned for the next week, and the cycle continues.

Online sessions must also follow a weekly flow. And they require more up-front planning than those of a traditional classroom. This is partially because you don’t have the benefit of being in the same room as your students, hearing their feedback and getting a read on where the discussion should go and what you should focus on. In an online course, you need to carefully plan your week-long session in such a way that students can digest the course content and synthesize this content with the instructor and students without meeting in person.

For you to do this successfully, you first have to look at the overall goals of your weeklong session. What do you want your students to be able to do by the end of the session? What should they be able to explain, identify, and accomplish? Once you have that thought out in detail, you can build your week’s activities around those goals. Content-heavy sessions may call for more detailed lecturing from you and less discussion, along with a quiz to ensure students are internalizing the material. Other sessions may require more application for students to fully synthesize material. This may require you to carefully orchestrate discussion questions that will lead students in the right direction. Or perhaps have them complete a project or presentation in teams, where they can learn from one another.

Intro Video Intro Video
4 Lecture Videos 1 Lecture Video
Short Discussion In-Depth Discussion
Quiz Response Paper
Wrap-Up Video Wrap-Up Video

When you build your session, keep this important fact in mind: Students are most often completing this content a little bit at a time, over the span of an entire week. This means you must build your content in small, bite sized “chunks” that can be completed one at a time. Many students take online courses because they have busy schedules. They may only have a few odd hours here and there over the course of the week to complete their activities. It is imperative that divide your content into smaller pieces, so that you are setting your students up for success.

Designing an effective session means working backwards from instructional goals and pacing activities in small chunks. If you can do that, then you are well on your way to providing excellent online content.

Preparing Space & Equipment
  1. Hold web-conferencing sessions somewhere quiet, with a good internet connection.

  2. Identify a space that is: Free from interruptions (your camera will be on and microphone may be turned on).

  3. Make sure your space is well-lit, so that participants can see your face.

  4. Try to find a space that is relatively quiet (microphones can pick up noise if windows and doors are not closed – don’t forget to turn off appliances or other noise-generating machines).

  5. Use a private WiFi network with strong signal strength. Avoid accessing the session using public WiFi that may be used by oodles of people.

  6. Avoid using mobile device data plans to access the session (these sessions require a lot of data usage).

Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Teach from anywhere, anytime
  • Real-time, online classes–adding video of both instructor and participants
  • Online office hours at your convenience
  • Exam review sessions
  • Record session to review later
  • Allows students to attend class, even if they are not on campus
  • Hold real-time meetings to collaborate virtually on group projects
  • Allows students to review recorded sessions for better prep or refreshers on particular topics
  • Requires a solid internet connection; wired access is preferable
  • Quiet location is preferable