A synchronous online collaboration platform allows users to communicate and collaborate with others in “real-time,” typically via video, text, and audio transmissions. These platforms are often used for web meetings and bi-modal settings, when facilitators teach two audiences at once. Well-designed synchronous sessions with clear agendas and purposeful interactivity can engage many; however, it’s useful to consider the importance of pacing, enunciation, choices in verbiage and cultural references, and visual aids for learners who are still acquiring language skills while they must engage in online synchronicity (Appana, 2008).
Here are a host of best practices to consider when engaging in synchronous sessions:
- If online synchronicity will be a regular, recurring component of a course, make this transparent to learners upfront, noting requirements and dates as possible in the registration system and/or course syllabus.
- Select learning activities that feel authentic and employ multiple perspectives to encourage various learners to participate in discussions, provide support for their arguments, communicate with other learners, and explore different points of view (Bower, Dalgarno, Kennedy, Lee, & Kenney, 2015). Typically, learners view a synchronous lecture experience as something that could have been provided to them via video.
- Consider taking the time to “check-in” with learners as they arrive into the synchronous space to build rapport or to use synchronous options for “consultation,” where learners can check-in, ask questions, and receive input and advice.
There are many potentially meritorious models for the use of online synchronicity. Supiano (2019) shared one pedagogical model for synchronicity in online classes, called ALOHA. ALOHA is an acronym that stands for Active Learning Office Hours and Assignments. In this model, the educator creates activities or assignments related to concepts that are a struggle for learners to grasp. Learners are arranged into breakout groups to actively co-engage in the activity or assignment with the support of one another. The educator then rotates among the groups to provide support but can also intermittently pull the groups together for clarification as needed.
Appana, S. (2008). A review of benefits and limitations of online learning in the context of the student, the educator, and the tenured faculty. International Journal of E-Learning, 7(1), 5-22.