Tips for Conducting Online / Remote Synchronous Sessions

Last Revised 07/13/21 by DSM


Woman sitting on bench watching an instructor write on a whiteboard.

This article was created to support video conferencing workshops offered by educational technologies at CETL, but the information may be helpful for any synchronous online session. Conducting remote live sessions using video conference software such as WebEx and Collaborate Ultra can be a daunting task (Boland & Major, 2021). Below are some tips and strategies for designing and facilitating online synchronous sessions.


There are two major timeline activities before class: One Week Before and 30 Minutes Before

One Week Before

  • Provide a session agenda to students so they are more prepared for the live session. This will be helpful if you plan to have a pre-activity you want them to conduct before they attend class. 
    • In your agenda, remind them about participation guidelines, expectations, and tech support (etiquette, active participation, etc.). If you provide this information on your syllabus, remind students to review that section.

Things to include in your session agenda: 

  • Topics to be covered, learning objectives, and schedule of activities with time frames. Include required and/or supporting materials that they will need and use during the session (e.g., website, article reading). 
  • Remind students who to contact if technology issues arise when entering the session. Encourage them to re-enter the session if they get kicked out for technical reasons. 
  • Have a strategy for student interaction and let them know your strategy. For example, you might tell them you will call on them by name to answer a question. 
  • If you decide to implement Breakout Groups, inform the students and let them know what they will be doing in those groups. 
  • Do not require Webcam use but encourage its use and explain why having their cameras on will be beneficial (Turner & Merrill, 2021). 
      • You may also want to include things you will do to create and maintain a supportive learning environment.
        • Quick tip: Post your agenda in HuskyCT, such as an announcement, for easy access. 
      • If you plan to record the session, let students know up front so they are aware. If students have concerns about being recorded, encourage them to reach out to you in private for possible accommodations. 
  • Quick tip: Provide a statement on your syllabus about session recordings:

IMPORTANT: If you plan to discuss sensitive topics, consider alternative methods instead of recording the session. Or, consider including notifications or content warning for explicit, sensitive, or emotionally charged course activities and content.

  • Consider the interaction tools the video conference software provides, such as using emoji features, hand raising, chat, breakout rooms, etc.  
  • Design a pre-activity: Have students prepare/bring something before attending (answer a question, problem-solve, find/share an artifact, etc.).
  • Quick tip: If your class is meeting for the FIRST TIME, consider a student introduction activity where all students introduce themselves. A fun way to facilitate this is to have students share one physical artifact that best describes them. 

30 Minutes Before

  • Arrive early to test out your equipment (mic and Webcam), screen sharing, troubleshoot tech issues, etc. 
    • Upload PDF files, media, website links, and other readings that support synchronous content.
    • If you plan to poll students during the session, prepare your polls in your video conference system. 
  • Open the online session early to students (5-10 minutes) so they can adjust their tech settings (e.g., mic and webcam), troubleshoot technology, etc. if needed.
    • If students arrive early, greet them by name. 
    • Use this time for informal social interaction, encourage students to chat with each other to break the ice and get comfortable chatting in the online synchronous environment (Boland & Major, 2021).
  • If you plan to record the session, provide a note to yourself to record just in case you forget. There is a lot going on when you set up a live session and it is easy to forget.
    • Quick tip: Use a Post-It Note as a reminder to record the session


There are two major timeline activities during class: Beginning of Class and During the Lecture/Activity

Beginning of Class

  • Greet each student by name as they arrive to make them feel welcomed.
  • As you talk to students, maintain eye contact with the camera as much as possible.  
  • If you are recording the session, let students know that you will begin recording. 
  • Review the session agenda with students before you start the lecture and remind students about your guidelines, expectations & tech support. 
    • Quick tip: Let students know that if they lose Internet connection or experience connection issues, encourage them to log-back-in to the session once they get their issue(s) resolved. 
  • Ask students if they have any questions before you begin your lecture. 
  • Quick tip: Ask students if they can hear you okay and use this time to make setting adjustments if needed (e.g., turning up your audio).

During the Lecture and/or Activity

  • Mute any participants who are not presenting. As the host, instructors are able to mute and unmute participants when necessary (Boland & Major, 2021).
  • Begin with a low-stakes activity to get students thinking and to help set the tone that participation will be required. Doing this can help enhance classroom connectedness and it will be good practice for students as they interact further during the session (Boland & Major, 2021).
  • If you lecture, mix it up! Don’t just tell students, explain something and then ask students to do something (Boland & Major, 2021). This helps focus their attention especially since attention spans are limited in this environment (Boland & Major, 2021). 

After 10-15 minutes of lecturing, try these strategies:

    • include a fun activity to check for gaps or misunderstandings, such as polling or solving a problem. 
    • include a brief 15-second stretch break where students can get out of their seats and stretch/move a bit since they have been staring at a computer screen for 10-15 minutes straight. 
  • Consider using Breakout Rooms if you incorporate group collaboration, it is recommended to have no more than 5 students for each group (Turner & Merrill, 2021).
    • Provide structure for collaborative group work to promote inclusivity by including the following:  
      • clear, well-sequenced instructions
      • defined group roles
      • how task(s) will be assigned 
      • time frame of task(s) (Turner & Merrill, 2021).  
    • Quick tip: present the task/prompt to students verbally and in writing, you can use a presentation slide to do this (Turner & Merrill, 2021). 
    • Quick tip: During breakout sessions, you can facilitate this activity by visiting each room. If you do this, let students know ahead of time that you will visit their breakout rooms.   
    • Resources: 
  • Towards the end of the session, leave some time (5-10 minutes) to allow for Q&A and/or incorporate a polling activity to address any gaps in their learning. 


  • If your schedule permits, be available for a few minutes in case students have questions. 
  • If you are recording the session, don’t forget to STOP RECORDING especially if you will make yourself available after class.  
  • Send a follow-up email/announcement summarizing what was covered during the live session and to clarify any misconceptions about the topics. 
    • Quick tip: If you recorded the session, share the recording in your follow-up email/announcement.


  • Check for workshop/training opportunities offered by educational technologies
  • Contact Educational Technologies for consultation/support using synchronous technologies (WebEx, Collaborate Ultra, MS Teams, etc.)
  • Download/Review this infographic on Best Practices Timeline for Conducting Online/Remote Synchronous Sessions
    Loader Loading...
    EAD Logo Taking too long?

    Reload Reload document
    | Open Open in new tab


Boland, L. M, & Major, C. H. (January, 2021). Simple tips for engaging students in Zoom

Turner, P. & Merrill, M. (2021). Using structure to promote equity and engagement in live remote sessions.

Feedback Form

Post Feedback

    Indicating your role will help us serve our community better.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.