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Synchronous Learning

Page history last edited by Anne McKinney 14 years, 11 months ago



The Best of Both Worlds

Synchronous learning, or learning that takes place in real-time, can give your course some of the benefits of an f2f classroom while retaining the benefits of student/internet interaction that comes with online courses. Courses that employ synchronous activities usually have a set time each week, or schedule specific dates during the semester, when students will all "meet" with the instructor for a classroom-style activity through the use of online presentation software. (Elluminate, Webhuddle, and Dimdim are a few examples of this type of software.)

screenshot: dimdim 

Most instructors who use synchronous sessions use the time to deliver audio-based lectures. Students can listen and respond with questions or comments through a chat board, or by other types of interaction depending on the platform software. Some newer programs like Dimdim and Elluminate also offer video presentation if the instructor has a webcam.


The benefit for students is that it's more spontaneous than pre-recorded lectures, and hearing the instructor's voice in a primarily text-based online environment helps them identify with the instructor as a human being.


While the idea of requiring students to do an activity at a scheduled time seems counterproductive to the "anytime, anywhere" philosophy of asynchronous education, most students enjoy the connection it gives them with the instructor and classmates.


Effective practices for synchronous learning

The trick to making synchronous learning effective is to make the best use of your time together with the students. The following are few suggestions for successful use of synchronous time:


  • Pull the students into your lectures by asking them questions and getting their feedback as you go along.


  • Question & answer sessions can also help troubleshoot any issues students might have with the course topic.


  • Invite professionals in the field, either locally or from other locations, to act as guest lecturers.


  • Give students topics to discuss together or in small groups.


  • If you take an intermission between lecture and discussion time, you can assign them a website or issue to look up quickly before they come back to the chat room, then use that to guide the discussion exercise.


  • You can also assign pre-session homework for them to bring to the session, or assign work to be done after the session ends.


  • Give students a portion of the session to meet with group mates for group projects.


  • Assign student presentations to be delivered during the session. Most platform software will allow you to "pass the mic" or call the student from your broadcasting location to give an audio presentation of a research paper or group project.


Resources for more information

Patton, Barba Aldis. (October 2008). "Synchronous Meetings: A Way to Put Personality in an Online Class." Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education. Retrieved February 19, 2009: http://tojde.anadolu.edu.tr/tojde32/notes_for_editor/notes_for_editor_2.htm


Directory of Learning Tools: Screen Sharing & Web Conferencing Tools. Retrieved from the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies: http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/Directory/Tools/conferencing.html


Screenshot on this page: Sample view of Dimdim, via TopTenREVIEWS




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