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Encouraging Synchronous Interaction

Some students enter online courses fully expecting to do self-paced work on their own, but for most, even small doses of synchronous interaction can powerfully enhance their sense of community. These strategies allow you to maximize the impact of your synchronous time with students.

Drop In Office Hours

It is vital to create times when students can directly interact with you if they so choose. Using Zoom or any other video conferencing platform (Skype, Google Meet, or Teams), you may schedule time when students can meet with you (Canvas Scheduler YouCanBookMe or Calendly) or make it available for students to just drop in. To expand how students view these meeting times, let them know that they can drop in to talk about:

  • Additional academic assistance 
  • Personal issues
  • Undergraduate research opportunities
  • Internships
  • Graduate school
  • Related topics not covered in class

To make sure that students have uninterrupted time with you, you might create a schedule that students sign up for in advance or use the waiting room feature in Zoom to make sure you are admitting students one at a time. If possible, schedule these sessions at various times to accommodate students with varying schedules and responsibilities.

As an extra tip to make sure you and your students are able to use your time wisely, provide them with some guidelines in terms of how to prepare for a meeting with you. This might include:

  • Preparing their questions before they meet you
  • Bringing their assignment with them to explain their process and difficulty
  • Submitting their questions or problems ahead of time so you can be fully prepared to assist them with examples and supplemental materials

Group Office Hours

You may choose to have group office hours with students. This might particularly be useful if you are teaching a large class. Schedule time and use the Scheduler feature in Canvas to set up the time and number of participants for each meeting. You can then have students sign up for the time that works best for them.

Require Meeting with You

Require students to sign up for at least one synchronous meeting with the instructor or Teaching Assistant. This can be in groups of 10 to 12 or individually, depending on the size of the class. This meeting can be as short as 15 minutes, just to share some tips for succeeding in the class, provide general feedback on the assignment, or get feedback from the students on how the course is going for them.

Before and After Class Zoom Hangout

Drop-in hours may not work for busy students’ schedules. In addition to offering to flexible scheduling options, you might build in 10-15 minutes before and after class within the existing online course session. Let students know that they can join the session early if they have a question or concern. To make the meeting private, you can open a Zoom breakout session in which you can meet.