Educational Tools,  Teaching & Learning

Best Practices for Conducting a Synchronous Session

Reading Time: 3 minutes

While synchronous sessions can function similar to class sessions (you get to verbally communicate with all your students at once), there are some considerations you should make. From coming into the session with a plan to developing a method for student interaction, these items will help your sessions run smoothly. 

Prepare and plan ahead

Are you planning on going through a presentation? Showing some other program or document via screen share? Have all of those items ready so it’s a simple toggle to the resource. You won’t have to sort through files for folders to find what you need. Consider also having an outline on what you want to cover. Even if it’s a lesson you have taught many times, online learning introduces new variables that could side track you.

Similarly, close down all browser tabs and programs you don’t need during your session. Having only what you need open will make it easier for you to smoothly work through your materials. 

Develop a policy for student interaction and share it with your students

How do you want your students to interact with you during a session if they have questions for you or if you want them to respond to your questions? 

Overall best practice: Have mics muted unless one of your students needs to speak. You can set up the meeting so that it automatically mutes participants as they enter the room – just check the box for “Mute participants upon entry” when you’re scheduling the meeting. Students can unmute their mics to participate, then mute again after they’re done talking. Coughing or kinds of normal ambient noise are a part of life, but they’re extra distracting in a video session.

Let’s look at some options you have for managing interaction: 

  • Chat
    Zoom has a chat feature, so you could have students type their questions. You could then repeat the typed question so everyone could hear it before you answer it. In addition to the public chat features that everyone in the meeting can see, Zoom also provides private chat. If you want to communicate something to an individual student, use this feature. In addition, students can privately message you or each other during the meeting using this tool. Check out Zoom’s In-Meeting Chat article for more information about this tool. 
  • Nonverbal feedback
    Nonverbal feedback is hosted in the “participants” list in Zoom. Students can raise their hand, answer “yes” or “no,” give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, or even suggest the instructor go faster or slower. Within the main meeting, you can see if a student raised their hand. To see the rest of the nonverbal feedback, keep the participants list toggled open – all nonverbal feedback will appear next to the students’ names! For more information about this feature, check out Zoom’s Nonverbal Feedback During Meetings article. 
  • Breakout rooms
    If you want students to easily discuss a topic amongst themselves, you can use Zoom breakout rooms to divide them into smaller groups. This is a great way to encourage collaboration and community in your class. When students are divided into different groups, you can still send messages that go to all the breakout rooms.
    As the host of the meeting, you have access to all of the different rooms. You can use breakout rooms to interact with your students in smaller groups and be able to field questions easier.
    In addition, your students still have access to you! Students can click the “ask for help” button to invite you into their breakout room. For more information about breakout rooms, check out Managing Breakout Rooms and Pre-Assigning Participants to Breakout Rooms

Record your sessions

Zoom makes it easy to record all your meetings. Even if all students are present, it’s helpful to make a recording available in case a student has problems with their connection during the meeting. They can then go back later and catch up on what they missed so you don’t have to worry about repeating information within the meeting.

If you record to the cloud, your recording will be automatically transferred to your Ensemble library. It will take some time for your video to appear in the Ensemble library. If your video doesn’t transfer within a couple hours, please contact the CTL immediately. 

Once the video is in your Ensemble library, you can easily post the video in Canvas.

What have you found to be helpful in your synchronous sessions? Share below in the comments! 

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  • Betsy Linnell

    Thanks Lauren, all great tips! Another one that you might want to share with students is that as fun as it is to see each other and message each other in chat, we as professors see it so please keep that to a minimum just as I would hope they do in class (or even MORE than they would in class) as it is distracting when they carry on side conversations over chat! 🙂

    • Lauren Eissler


      Yes, that’s an excellent point – thank you for sharing! It’s always helpful for instructors to remind students of what they can/can’t see and how items (such as public chat) can be distracting in a meeting. That would be an excellent item for an instructor to discuss with their student when they’re defining how student interaction should work!


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