Building on my first reflective note on ‘synchronous e-moderation’, I am going to share some tips to guarantee a better experience while doing an online session.
Top Tips in delivering online sessions:
- Use the right tool! Learn about internet connectivity where the participants are (if they are all in one country/region) and choose the most practical online tool.
- Plan your online lesson just as you would do for a F2F session. (Adapting F2F materials does not necessarily work!)
- Check your equipment before the session even if you had your last session the day before. Internet tools change and update regularly and one tool which worked fine yesterday might need a heavy update to work today!
- If your camera is off, your voice will represent who you are! Get a good USB head-set and test it before the session. Keep the mic. at a good distance from your mouth and mute it when you are not talking.
- Don’t be on time! Join the session before the scheduled start time to check if everything works fine on your side.
- If the group is large, ask someone to join as a moderator to follow the chat lines and collect questions or provide technical help in the chat box when necessary.
- Don’t take basic IT knowledge for granted. First time participants need a lot of support to take their part under control. If necessary, prepare worksheets and send them out before the session.
- Establish ground rules if you are planning to have several synchronous sessions with the same group of participants. Even some basic conventions can be very helpful, e.g.
- Ask the participants to put * at the end of their final sentence when they have finished or put … at the end of a sentence they wish to continue.
- Ask the participants to write the name of the person they are writing to (in the chat box) at the beginning of their sentences with an @ sign.
- Ask them to use emoticons as they are usually much better and faster in transferring feelings than short sentences.
- Ask the participants to use special characters for off-topic sentences. ( ), [ ], etc.
- Ask them to use # hashtags for trendy topics if your platform provides some sort of tagging system for future reference.
- Start from known and move to the unknown in tech tools available in your chosen platform. Start with the most basic feature for the participants to find and try. This will boost their confidence.
- Relax! Things can easily go wrong online but there is always a logical reason behind them.
- Have back-up plans for ‘anticipated problems’ just like you would do for a F2F session.
- Pay attention to different learning styles. Participants have their own individual online learning styles (not necessarily any similar to their learning style in the classroom) and you need to have a variety of tasks and activities to keep everyone interested.
- Don’t write everything on your slides and you wouldn’t do so in a F2F presentation.
- Set a time limit for everything you or the participants do. Online sessions and discussions can go very fast as the environment is different so don’t forget to keep track of time.
- If you are recording the session, do let the participants know at the very beginning. You can do this with a single simple sentence like ‘This session is being recorded.’ or ‘The recording will now begin.’
- If possible, post a short summary of the ‘audio’ discussion in the ‘chat’ box for those who get disconnected and come back on board after a short while.
- Limit the software features for first-timers. In most online environments the participants have to read, follow and type at the same time. Managing all these can be demanding. You can ask participants to only focus on the slides or turn their videos/cameras off to keep them focused on one thing at a time until they learn the basics of online sessions.
- Engage your participants at least every 3 to 5 minutes if you don’t want them to start checking their Facebook pages during the session. Do your best to motivate everyone to participate, even with one single sentence.
- Use break-out rooms if your platform has them to encourage pair/group work. Remember to monitor and help the rooms.
- Remember to ask for feedback at the end of the session or soon after it.
Reflect on your performance and continuously learn!
Any ideas to add to the list?
Scheduling the session:
Scheduling an online session can be a disaster, especially when people live in different time zones and have several commitments! We can always be a bit autocratic and don’t think about anyone else but if you do really want to make everyone feel happy with the timing, take these steps:
- Create an online poll on a website like EasyPoll and propose some dates for the meeting.
- Once the date is determined, create an event on one of the following websites and ask the participants to choose the time which suits them best:
- Now that everything is determined, check the exact time and date again on www.timeanddate.com and with the ‘add more cities’ feature of the website add the time zones for all participants and click on ‘covert time’.
4. Now click on the ‘copy & paste’ option.
5. Copy and paste the box into an e-mail and send it to all the participants.
6. Enjoy your perfect scheduling!
Top YouTube Videos:
- Webinars: Technology Tips
- Webinars: Engaging Your Audience
- Tips for Online Trainers
I am currently (April 2015) doing a top-up online module on ‘synchronous e-moderating’ with the British Council and I am going to post my reflection notes here. This was the second one! Read the first post here.
- My first post on synchronous e-moderation
- The Consultants-E YouTube Channel
- Nicky Hockly Videos
- Working Together in Virtual Darkness- Nicky Hockly- The Guardian
- Online Skills Sharing is Breaching Staffroom ‘Wall of Silence’- Gavin Dudeney- The Guardian
- Teaching Online Blog Post- Gavin Dudeney- TeachingEnglish Blogs (2005)
- A Google Sheet list of Educational Technology Journals (extremely valuable!)
- Four Ways with Webinars
- Nik Peachey’s webcam tips