Tag Archives: British Council

“synchronous e-moderation” | Reflection Notes- 2

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Plan your online lesson just as you would do for a F2F session. (Adapting F2F materials does not necessarily work!)
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. Don’t be on time! Join the session before the scheduled start time to check if everything works fine on your side.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Relax! Things can easily go wrong online but there is always a logical reason behind them.
  11. Have back-up plans for ‘anticipated problems’ just like you would do for a F2F session.
  12. 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.
  13. Don’t write everything on your slides and you wouldn’t do so in a F2F presentation.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.’
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. Use break-out rooms if your platform has them to encourage pair/group work. Remember to monitor and help the rooms.
  20. Remember to ask for feedback at the end of the session or soon after it.
  21. 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:

  1. Create an online poll on a website like EasyPoll and propose some dates for the meeting.
  2. 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:
  3. 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’.

scheduling 1

scheduling 2

4.  Now click on the ‘copy & paste’ option.

Scheduling 3

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.



“synchronous e-moderation” | Reflection Notes- 1

What is it?

It is hard to be involved in modern online teaching/training of any sort and not have heard about ‘synchronous‘ and ‘asynchronous‘ training sessions. Synchronous online sessions are those that the learners and the trainer have to be online at the same time while asynchronous online sessions use other platforms which don’t require real-time learner-trainer interaction.

Asynchronous learning which was once just called distance learning and only meant lessons sent to the learner using postal services at the end of the 19th century is now one of the most popular learning modes in the 21st century with hundreds of tools to bring people to the educational fold.


What is the importance?

Asynchronous online learning is gaining more popularity because people usually find it a better and more efficient way of learning in our modern busy life. It is really hard to physically attend a course and take some development steps which might take several months when you have a lot of other never-ending personal and professional commitments.

However, to make this online distance learning experience feel more natural and make some physical and emotional relationship among the participants, the idea of mixing asynchronous online sessions with some synchronous ones sounds practical and even necessary in some cases.

Stefan Hrastinski in Educause Quarterly (number 4, 2008) discusses the importance of these two different learning modes and the fact that each supports different purposes. The following two tables are from his study:

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 09.09.41

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 09.09.58

In a forum discussion with some other colleagues while we were doing an e-moderation course with the British Council in August 2014, we came to the following conclusions:

Summary written by 'Mark Uribe'
Summary written by ‘Mark Uribe’
Summary written by 'Mark Uribe'
Summary written by ‘Mark Uribe’

What are the available tools?

Synchronous online sessions at different stages of a course can be done for various reasons using various tools. These tools can be as basic as instant messaging services and real-time fast e-mails and can get as complicated as Second Life interactive sessions depending on the technical feasibilities. Out of the very long list of all these tools and services, video and web conferencing seem to be the most practical ones that all online educators are interested in.

Video conferencing is simply a video session in which all participants can see each other and has almost all features of an in-person session except that of ‘direct physical cues’, while web conferencing usually refers to more interactive sessions and platforms where the participant can take part in polls, chats and break-out sessions. They can also share files, screens and presentations and even an interactive Q&A session can be added to the end.

Video conferencing tools are easy to use. They are the ones we use everyday to talk to our family and friends on the other side of the planet! I am taking about apps like Skype, Apple’s Facetime, Oovoo, etc.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 11.52.17

The tools to conduct web conferencing sessions are numerous but the following list shows the ones I have worked with. They have provided me with the best options and features I needed for an online synchronous meeting:

Adobe Connect

  • Adobe Connect: The most popular and comprehensive platform but hard to work with in slow internet areas. It also has a smartphone app. which makes it much easier to attend online sessions on a tablet or a mobile phone but some functions won’t be easy to work with while on the go!


  • Blackboard: Formerly known as Elluminate Live provides similar services and is as pricey as Adobe Connect. Cambridge English Teachers use this platform for their webinars. Blackboard, too, has a smart-device app.


  • WebEx: A professional Cisco product with all the features the above two have.


  • Saba: This seems to be the most well-known platform after Adobe Connect. Pearson Education use this platform for their webinars. I haven’t noticed any differences between this and adobe connect except that it might be able to work better in some countries with Bandwidth problems and it is a bit less expensive than the previous choices.


  • SambaOnsync is the name of their product. Less expensive than Adobe Connect and the Whiteboard section has a lot more features than Adobe Connect. It supports more file types and the video quality is a lot better.


  • CUmeeting: This is easier to use as it uses a very basic platform but you still get the same sort of similar services and is even less expensive than the above options!


  • BBB: This is a free service! It can be a good alternative to Adobe Connect but you should consider a couple of issues:
    • Their platform is flash-based and unlike the other alternatives mentioned earlier, Big Blue Button doesn’t have a mobile application so participants have to use their computers.
    • The service has to be set up on your own server (the main reason it is free because you will have to pay for a server if you haven’t got one already.)
    • They don’t provide a ‘recording’ option so you can’t watch the webinar again later. However, there are several solutions for this specific issue and the most popular one is Camtasia.


  • On24: It has a free section which can be easily used if you are not worried about certain features. It doesn’t have a smart-device app but works well on tablets. Some features like polls and questionnaires might not work properly on mobile devices.

But if you are looking for something we are all familiar with, Google has one of the best choices:


I have discussed the benefits of Google Hang-outs in a separate blog post where a PDF tutorial and some screenshots can be found on conducting live Hangout sessions where the world can see you on Youtube. Probably the interactive Q&A feature of Google Hangout is the one a lot of online educators are interested in:

Google Hang-outs for Synchronous Online Sessions

Check the tutorial PDF on Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/neghavati/google-hangout-on-air-the-howto-guide
Check the tutorial PDF on Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/neghavati/google-hangout-on-air-the-howto-guide

Any innovative new platforms?

There are new platforms which might make these online meetings simpler for smaller groups. I will be updating this list as I learn more about these new platforms:

As the image says, it is free for up to 8 people and no one needs to log in! You simply create the room and share the link with those you want to talk to! If you really need to have that room and use it in the future, you can register it on the system. It has an iOS app and works fine on Chrome, Opera and Firefox.


This is not an online meeting platform but it is only a shared whiteboard on which you and the participants can write. You can set questions and see the learners develop their answers. Many of the applications mentioned in this post have whiteboard features which can help participants to collaborate in the meeting. But such functions do not always work well if you don’t have a stable internet connection. Pear Deck can be a helpful tool to use instead.

Top 5 Tools for Web Seminars6

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 first one! Check this space for more soon!