Facilitating online learning
Facilitating live sessions
The scheduled live session is important for motivating students and allowing them to socialise and engage with peers. The general and tool-specific tips below will help you to think through, at each stage, how to make the session inclusive and engaging for all students.
Facilitating live sessions
Before the session
Provide clear instructions including:
- A session plan (timings and order of activities) to orientate students and allow them to complete relevant aspects synchronously if they are unable to attend the whole session, ‘get lost’ or lose connection.
- Details of any activities that students should complete in advance. These might also be available on BlackBoard Learn.
- Guidance that will help your learners prepare themselves to use the technology and to find the appropriate virtual location. (See tool-specific guidance below).
- Advise students if they should use a laptop/desktop, rather than phone or tablet if this will affect functionality.
Microsoft Teams-specific tips:
- If your learners are new to Microsoft Teams direct them to Imperial ICT’s guidance.
- Send students a direct link to the Teams meeting via an Outlook calendar invite, by clicking 'Add online meeting'. This seems to work better than sending an invite from Teams.
- Provide link(s) to the Teams channel(s) in the pre-session email: from within Teams, left click on the 3 dots next to the channel and click on ‘Get link to channel’, copy and embed the hyperlink into your email.
- Advise students that downloading the Teams app (rather than using it in the browser) will more reliably display the Chat feature.
At the start of the session
- Teacher/Moderator to join early, welcome people and check everything is working. With a large group it is helpful to have additional moderators, especially if you are planning to use break out groups.
- Start off with a video call to make sure everyone is clear about how the session will progress, before you send students off for individual/ group tasks.
- Introduce meeting/session, what it’s aiming to do, how long it will run etc. Introduce particular people who may be leading discussion at certain points.
- Introduce students to the main functions on the tool bar, including how to turn mic and video on and off and how to view and contribute to typed Chat function.
- Advise students which parts of the session will be recorded.
- Advise students that you’ll use the General channel to answer their questions about navigation and technological issues there, so they should go there if they’re lost or stuck.
Setting ground rules
Here are some suggestions:
1. Everyone joins with microphone on mute and keeps microphone on mute unless speaking.
2. When speaking say who you are first, especially in large groups.
3. Rather than people trying to interrupt/speak across others, use chat function to write questions, which can then be addressed by the moderator.
4. Use the hands up function to ask questions (available on Teams from the end of April).
During the session
- If some of your students seem hesitant to actively engage in online interaction try breaking them into smaller, less intimidating groups that require their input, base an early activity on individually pre-prepared work and provide brief individual feedback that values their contribution. Also see guidance on how to supportively structure and manage engagement in Padlet and Facilitating an online discussion forum.
- Remember to keep an eye on the right hand panel. Many students will have both microphone and audio but some will join just with audio and some just with (typed) chat.
- Keep paper and a pen nearby so that if someone raises something in the discussion that you don't have time to respond to then and there, you can return to it later or after the session e.g. via the chat function.
- Similarly, the use of offline ‘independent’ tasks in between online discussions can work well in terms of allowing ‘breathing space’ / catching up time. If an unexpected number of students turn up ‘in real time’ it can become very fast paced!
- To improve inclusivity of small group meetings, ask students to appoint a chair/facilitator. See tips on setting ground rules in .
For thorough advice on facilitating inclusive video conferencing see Imperial colleagues' Good Practice Guidelines.
Microsoft Teams-specific tips:
- When it’s time to move to the next activity, type the instruction in the General channel and the channel that students are currently working in. e.g. “Please go to channel 5. Tutor group discussion at 12:15. Look for your initials beside your small group’s channel. Your tutor will meet you there!”
- Where you expect students to have a video meeting nominate one of them to begin the call by clicking on ‘Meet now’ (the video camera symbol). This prevents having more than one meeting running in parallel in one channel.
- To alert a student to your response to their question/comment either during or after the session, you can tag specific students by typing @theirname before your comment.
After the session
It is helpful to communicate to students, via your normal communication channel (e.g. Outlook), soon after a live session to acknowledge their involvement, remind them of any tasks to be completed between this session and the next one and make explicit how this links to other sessions and to assessment (if relevant). This is especially important if some students have not been able to attend and will complete the learning experience and achieve the session learning outcomes asynchronously.
Example follow up email:
Thank you for your active participation in our online session this morning. It was good to make contact with you and hear about your Project ideas. If you were unable to join us, you can find all the resources in PGDip Teams (as well as on BlackBoard). If you work your way through the activities in Channels 1-5 (including documents to read in ‘Files’ at the top of the screen) this will enable you to achieve the session learning outcomes and prepare yourself for the Project. In the email below this you’ll find the session plan to guide you. Please let me know if you need assistance.
We look forward to receiving your Project plans by the deadline. Please email these directly to your allocated tutor, who will provide you with formative feedback within two weeks.