I'm responding to the first prompt around design strategies that have been used to good effect in synchronous sessions.
1. I have noticed it's helpful to provide thought prompts and questions ahead of time instead of just joining a session and following along. Getting learners to prepare some questions before a session makes it easier to invite questions during the actual session. It seems that a silent pause is tougher to bear in an online synchronous session than in a classroom; this makes it difficult to wait for people to formulate questions in their minds on the spot. Having prompts for those questions can have learners more prepared for that moment.
2. Comparing successful and unsuccessful sessions I've been part of, I'd say one other important design feature is to provide plenty of up-front support for technical troubleshooting. During our first COVID-19 staff meeting, with everyone online and at a distance via Skype, it took several minutes for everyone to have everything working properly. This happened to be a staff meeting so everyone was pretty forgiving, but I shudder to think what that would have been like for someone's first synchronous teaching moment. Apart from providing support like easy-to-read documentation, it is also very helpful to have someone other than the instructor to help troubleshoot.
The idea of having students come to class prepared to ask questions about a subject is a good idea. I have recently struggled at the silence when asking fro responses. Part of getting used to online learning (and teaching) is digesting the moment in order to formulate questions or answers without feeling self conscious or being distracted by technology.
Just heard an interview on The Current. Matt Galloway was talking to Adam Grant about meetings at a distance and Grant mentioned brainwriting instead of brainstorming. So getting people to write down their ideas before sharing so that loud voices don't take over immediately. Similar to think-pair-share purposes. I thought that would work in these online environments as well and then any silence would be acceptable because we'd understand that everyone was writing.
Like the interactive whiteboard exercise. I think that was a good way to share. I have also used built in question time so participants know that an opportunity to ask questions is coming.
Brainwriting works best for me in the chat application. I also find Padlet software that works like sticky notes is a great way to brainstorm ideas before and during a synchronous session. I find Padlet easier to use and organize the ideas better than a whiteboard.
Dave - great idea about the prework. When you are thinking about prework that means you are thinking about design - very important to any kind of learning. You are also thinking about interactivity in a synchronous session - another vital aspect of a good synchro session. You are right about the potential for technical difficulties - they will happen but its how you react to those when they do shows the skills.
There are ways of minimizing tech issues - like the video that I included in the welcome message. Or a try out room. It does get better, however. Once your participants log in once and experience the tool the second time is much easier.
Hopefully we'll see you tomorrow at 12:30 in the main room.
Thanks for sharing, Dave.
There is nothing more painful than sitting around waiting for technical issues to be resolved before a session begins. I suspect that it really turns off a lot of participants and forces many to simply leave the session. I have seen these issues dealt with in a way that doesn't disrupt the whole webinar or class, but it involves having enough support that issues can be taken offline or into breakout rooms.
I agree Briana - it is a bit off putting and it is great when there is more than one facilitator to help with those issues. It also helps to have some support before the session - like a screencast and an FAQ. What happens if...
I was going to say that having a co-facilitator can be a huge help. I don't have much experience with online teaching, but in face-to-face teaching I often have a co-facilitator who serves also as a "runner" to deal with issues that arise. For on-line sessions, I have been a co-facilitator, who was helping answer chat questions/comments and deal with any tech issues. I know it's a luxury to have someone helping out, and this is not always possible.
I think it is very important to have support, even it if is only for the first 5-10 minutes of a session to help deal with the technical, then I can stay focused on moving the work forward. Although, if I know the group is new to tech, I do spend some time at the beginning of the first session (if this is an ongoing class) or build it, as in this course, where at the introduction of each new tech tool, there is a demonstration/explanation of how it will work.
I have an extreme aversion to "death by powerpoint" ... whether f2f or online... that is a personal issue I know, there are many who feel that the recorded webinar is useful, and they are, and there is a place for those short (no more than 3-4 min in my opinion) however, I believe in interactive learning, where practice and participation are part of the design. So I am trying to figure out how to infuse that interaction into synchronous. I can and have designed interactivity into discussion forums, group assignments, etc. in my credit courses - primarily in D2L and when I teach in the credit side again, I will access to Collaborate. Although I will have access to Collaborate in this workshop, I am restricted to using Microsoft Teams for the employee workshops - which do not have breakout rooms.
I have moved one of my workshops online "Personal Resilience in Change" which is a 1.5 hr workshop for employees. I have sent out the activities in advance to the participants and suggest they complete some components in advance. It seems to be working, to then ask them to share (what they are comfortable sharing) with the group in small snippets. My challenge has been what I am calling awkward silence in my workshop - the time that I just let them work on individual things in the workshop - usually no more than 2-4 minutes... it seems to be working and no-one has complained (I suggest this is a good time to get more coffee, water, and/or bathroom break - which seems to be a missing element in many workshops I have been attending online).
I am wondering if I should put music on? I do encourage them to use the chat feature for questions during this time.. anyway, just not sure if anyone else does this?