Synchronous Interactions

Synchronous technology-based interactions

Face to face and online classes (being lectures, tutorials or seminar type) benefit from synchronous technology-based interactions. In a face to face environment, although it is easy to just ask students to work together in pairs, ask questions and participated without the aid of technology it is equally important to ensure that students are engaged in discussion/interactions in a multimodal way to cater for a range of student’s abilities. For example, live classroom discussions/questions tend to favour the most outspoken/extroverted of students, and in a multicultural/multilingual learning environment often NESB and shy students find it difficult to participate if all the interactions are around who puts their “hand up” first. In online learning this is even more important, to give a voice and presence to those who do not feel comfortable in putting their hand up live or ensuring capturing a wide range of views and feedback is crucial to make all students feel included and valued.

Thinking about synchronous technology- based interactions

Technology-based synchronous interactions, when appropriately planned and moderated, can really turn passive lectures, seminars and tutorial into live, engaging and collaborative learning opportunities. It seems counterintuitive but appropriately designed synchronous interaction in live online sessions actually tend to be less stressful and less demanding to conduct than those where the main “attraction” is the teacher and the students simply listen, watches or take notes. While students are divided in groups or pairs or alone to do activities “off line” the lecturer/tutor has time to take a breath, organize next task, monitor student activity or check comments in the chat, etc. Breaking up a lecture, seminar or tutorial in chunks where talks/exposition is followed by a task also gives students the chance to digest and process better what they are learning. In all honesty anyone that has been in Zoom or other online meeting rooms for a long stretch of time will know very well that after a while if not engaged in the discussion will tend to switch off, get distracted or even just listen while doing something else, students will not behave differently in a similar situation.


  • How will you break up the session? Are there some natural points that will allow to introduce an activity for students to do in group, pair, alone?
  • What technology/s are you going to be use? Test well anything you have in mind of using both as a teacher and student to ensure that will work as intended, always have a plan B just in case technical issues come up and test that as well.
  • Is there a way that you can introduce both text and voice/video interactions so students will be stimulated to participate in a variety of ways.
  • Think of ways that you can capture the interaction and have a record of what the students did like a sharable wall, document, chat, whiteboard, etc. These day there are some very simple but powerful ways to do this.


  • Put on Wattle a welcome message before the semester start and explain how you will run the lecture, seminar, tutorial in the active mode and what your expectations are.
  • In your very first session introduce the way you will be running the lecture, seminar, tutorial in the active mode by using/doing activities similar to what you will do for the rest of the semester to get student accustomed to this type of delivery.
  • Ensure that any technical glitches are solved and addressed at the beginning so that experience going forward is positive, ask for technical help if needed at the start.
  • Use breakout rooms to organize group, pairs so not to have distractions during task time.

Technologies to use

Synchronous interactions can be achieved with a range of tools and modes, using the breakout rooms, chat and whiteboard in Zoom, setting up Socrative quizzes and comments, or Polleverywhere, Padlet, Twitter, but do ensure that technologies chosen for synchronous interactions are easy to use so we recommend those that do not require students to create account, enter with a password or pay for usage and a simple link on Wattle will give them access. It is also good (especially in classes that have NESB students) to use a variety of modes both text based and audio/video based.

Some links that can help you:

Tips for keeping students engaged –

Use of live polling in lectures –