Facilitating Synchronous Learning (Online) – a short report

Here’s a short report on what I learned in my synchronous learning online course.

The instructor needs:

To be able to use his/her voice well.

To be a good multi-tasker.

To have help!! Ideally a producer to do some of the writing on the whiteboard, check chat, communicate some way outside the session during the session; if not a producer, then a student to act as one.

To have help!! Back-up IT people (don’t call them at midnight, though!)

To master the content and technology that will be in the session.

To anticipate tech mishaps and have solutions ready (as ready as one can).

To anticipate “student mishaps,” i.e. talkers, blamers, someone’s phone is on hold and music is blaring (mute them), etc.

Creating a facilitator guide – a kind of fairly detailed lesson plan – is helpful – slide on the left side, facilitator activity and what s/he says in the middle, producer on the right.

Some of the best practices: ask the students to do something every 5 minutes – raise their hands (or you call on them), green check for yes/good, etc., chat, write on the whiteboard.

When you have a list of points on the slide, do not read them. Instead, ask students to move their pointers to the one which has the most salience for them, the point that hits home the most, the most important point, etc. Then ask one from each point to explain, and provide feedback that is real, i.e. a real conversation, not teacher talk (not “that’s good,” for example).

Ideal number of students is 10, although my class was 18, and it was fine. (Some didn’t seem to show as often.) My colleague had 60 in a session recently. She’s in a team-based learning special interest group, and we discussed how she could have 12 groups of 6 in breakout rooms, to discuss a question, elect a representative, then that representative could write on the whiteboard with the other 11 representatives back in the full session. By the way, she has an nice video on how to be a student in Blackboard Collaborate. Here’s what Peggy Semingson tells her students:

This brief video shares how to interact in the Blackboard Collaborate webinar sessions and how to prepare for the small-group breakout sessions. Please watch this video! It is less than five minutes in length!

Be guide on the side, instead of sage on the stage – or like I learned today: sage on the side!

If you teach synchronous sessions, you need time after the session to chill and do nothing – it’s exhausting, from what I can see.

Oh – you have to teach students how to learn online – they can no longer be “passive recipients of knowledge,” as in a traditional lecture class. They have to prepare the asynchronous work in order to be able to do the synchronous work, because a synchronous session needs to be interactive to keep people involved.

If you have $1600 lying around, take the ASTD Facilitating Synchronous Learning (Online) Certificate. I thought it was excellent.

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