6. Fortnightly synchronous interactive seminar

Synchronous, interactive seminars are those in which academic staff members present subject material, then facilitate students to engage with it through collaborative activities in real time.

The methods you use will depend on the size of your class and the nature of the activities and collaboration you have planned.

How to implement this in your subject

Step one: consider purpose and plan activities

Plan activities that have a direct purpose, specific outcomes and opportunities for students to interact with each other, the materials and staff. This could include:

Check-ins and icebreakers

These are a great way to ‘take the pulse’ of your class at the beginning, during, and at the end of a session. Encourage students to use chat to pose question during the session, use polls, ‘yes/no’ or ‘raised hand’ tools to check understanding of key points. Allow students to annotate a slide or use Zoom's whiteboard feature.

Interactive content presentation

When presenting material using slides, promote interaction by taking a moment to stop screen-sharing and asking students to turn on their web-cam (if possible), followed by a period of question and answer. This can help create a sense of group presence.

'Think-pair-share' activities

Pose a question to the main group, give students a few minutes to students to write down their own thoughts, then assign small groups to breakout rooms to share and discuss. Finally, bring all students back to the main group to share their thoughts.

Collaborative documents

Encourage students to collate their ideas in a single space. You can use shared documents such as Office365, Google docs, shared whiteboard in Zoom, or a shared mind map. Ensure that the tools you choose meet privacy and accessibility needs.

Step two: select and test platforms and tools

For Zoom:

For other tools or platforms, ensure you have student- and staff-facing instructions on how to use the technology.

Step three: consider timing and schedule your sessions

Use Canvas Calendar to add the sessions to the Canvas calendar. Depending on the tools you have chosen, include Zoom links, email address and links to technology support. If using Zoom, choose one of the following options:

Step four: prepare topics and distribute materials

  • Let students know what is planned for the session. Set expectations that online learning is a different experience to face-to-face.
  • Provide relevant materials in advance – slides, tutorial activity sheets, discussion topics, instructions via LMS/email. Consider a ‘flipped classroom’ approach, with some pre-session asynchronous activities, followed by interactive activities in the synchronous session.
  • Prior to the session, ask students to think about any questions they have. You could create a Canvas discussion for students to share and ‘like’ questions observations and related resources.

Step five: prepare for and run your synchronous session

  • It can be useful to send a Canvas announcement as a reminder the day before the session.
  • Prepare any resources or links to share on screen or in chat.
  • Set up a quiet and organised space where possible. If using Zoom, log in to the meeting room and ensure it is working as expected.
  • Remember to record the session to make available to students afterwards.
  • Provide a combination of supportive and constructive feedback, so the student (and other students watching) feel confident to participate. Find out more about strategies and skills for small group teaching in Melbourne CSHE Sessional Teachers’ handbook. Be mindful of the way you respond to individual students, and how your feedback may be received, as is not easy to interpret body language in synchronous sessions.

Step six: follow up after the session

  • Make the recording available in the LMS.
  • Summarise and reflect on the session in a Canvas announcement, discussion or ‘mail bag’ video . You can also share links to relevant resources or news articles.

Support and resources

You can use this guide to implement the 2020 category two Learning and Teaching Initiatives.