Designing learning is a big topic overall, but here are some key points that you'll want to consider as you think about designing your synchronous sessions.
We said earlier that it is important for you to think about your purpose of why you think it's best to hold this particular session synchronously online and to get clear on the learning outcomes that you'd like your participants to be able to achieve by the end of the session. Once you are clear on these items, it's time to think about the content and activities that you'd like to incorporate into your session and how can help support your participants to achieve those outcomes.
Similar to designing to facilitating sessions in person, it may be useful to create a lesson plan to design your synchronous online session and use it when facilitating the session. You may have a lesson planning structure that you are already familiar with using but if not, something like the BOPPPS framework could be useful.
At the very least it would be ideal to create a plan - perhaps like the table below - that notes timings of all your content and activity sections, duration of those sections, facilitator activities, participant activities and any resources needed. You may wish to script some of what you'd actually say or paraphrase during the session.
Here is the beginning of such a plan:
The Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR) from the University of Central Flordia also has four detailed lesson plans that cover four common types of synchronous learning sessions; interactive lecture, interactive lecture with a small group discussion, student interaction and discussion, and problem-solving practice in groups. These are downloadable templates that you can modify for your own needs.
Depending on who your participants are and how well everyone knows each other already and if you have some time, you may want to think about starting with activities that can help start to make everyone feel comfortable in the synchronous online space. Even something very quick in a short session could be beneficial to the overall goals of your session.
Some questions to think about as you design your opening activities to build community together include:
A good synchronous online session is one that features interaction and a way for participants to engage in participatory, active learning. Thinking about how to design a session that actively includes your participants in contributing to their own learning is our ideal. Some of the questions we can ask ourselves to be able to design these types of sessions are:
Overall, thinking about how your participants could be not just passive "consumers" of information that you dump into their heads, but actively involved in the process is a useful lens to keep in mind. As a side bonus: facilitating sessions that are active and participatory often end up being less work for the facilitator and a lot more engaging for participants than the facilitator presenting content the whole time.
When planning your session, think about your participants and if you need to prepare them to come to your session. For instance:
What about you, as the facilitator? What might you need to do yourself to prepare to facilitate the session? Some of these items might include:
Lastly, expect that you will likely make facilitator mistakes and know that this is a natural process of facilitation, not to mention facilitating synchronously online. Plan to be a professional presence in the session but also make sure that you show up as a real person as well - a human who sometimes makes mistakes, as we all do. Finally, unless the topic is very, very serious, find ways to inject some fun and levity into the sessions.
There are many practical considerations you should take into consideration when planning synchronous online sessions. These include:
The online article Interactive Web Conferencing Brings Benefits to the Online Classroom has some additional practical "tips for success" to think about before and during your synchronous session.
This chapter is adapted from the FLO Synchronous workshop by BCcampus and released under a CC-BY license.
CC BY: This work is released under a CC BY license, which means that you are free to do with it as you please as long as you properly attribute it.