Top tips for structuring a synchronous online teaching session (Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom or Teams)

These tips are based on the experiences of colleagues running teaching sessions run during the COVID pandemic for MBS students.

  1. Many of the recommendations for effective design of structure and content of sessions apply to face-to-face teaching, but in this medium are even more important.
  2. Plan the content of sessions carefully in advance and to ensure that the learning objectives are realistic for the time available.
  3. Design sessions so that sections can be omitted or skipped if time runs out. If all sections are essential then decide in advance how long you will spend on each section and stick to each milestone.
  4. Provide students with pre- material well in advance of the session, but don’t assume they will have read all of it.
  5. Include a quiz at the beginning of the session to find out what students know, and plan to adapt the session accordingly.
  6. Ensure that the structure of the session is very clear and coherent, with very obvious signposting to enable students to orient themselves in the material and stay focused.  A repetitive structure can be helpful with this.
  7. Build in repeated opportunities for students to test their understanding.  A ‘boring, repetitive’ structure can give students a sense of becoming more proficient with each example they look at.
  8. Punctuate the session with varying activities, for example building in breaks in the presentation at various points to allow students to ask questions.
  9. Bear in mind that many students will watch the session as a recording rather than live. For this reason:
  10. When using polling questions, add the polling options onto the corresponding PowerPoint slide. 
  11. Give a spoken confirmation of correct answers to the polling questions rather than writing them in the chat, otherwise those viewing the recording will see the answer before they see the question.
  12. Make full use of visual media and use drawing and pointer tools.