Synchronous online communication closely resembles face-to-face communication; two or more people are involved in a ‘live’ discussion. This can be via instant message platforms such as Microsoft Teams, or live sessions including webcams and microphones, such as a Zoom or Microsoft Teams classes.

If you are involved in an instant message conversation via Microsoft Teams or Zoom, for example, keep in mind many of the same rules apply as when you are involved in asynchronous communication. Be respectful of others in the discussion and pay attention to others’ contributions; avoid using CAPITALS or sarcasm; and don’t spam or flood the chat with messages.

Tips for synchronously communicating

Instant messaging

  • Use instant messaging to replicate how you would interact in the real world.
  • Remember everyone in the meeting or group can see everything that is posted.
  • Provide time for others to contribute when using instant messaging platforms.
  • Be forgiving of others’ mistakes.
  • Posting simply ‘I agree’ or ‘I disagree’ is likely to be viewed as spamming by others. You should explain the context of your reply.
  • Be aware of copyright. Ensure that any material you reuse in your online communication is free from copyright issues. If you did not create the content yourself, you will need to check copyright. If you use a source, cite it - other people in the discussion might want to use the material and your citation will help them find it. Guidance is available here.
  • It may be appropriate to use emoticons or emojis to communicate your thoughts, but be mindful of how they could be misinterpreted, and that people may not realise when you are joking.
  • Disagree with the comment made, not with the person who made it. Disagreement and debate is to be expected but remember to focus on the matter under discussion and avoid negative comments about other people.
  • Remember, if you wouldn’t say it to someone in a face-to-face setting, then don’t say it to them via instant message.

Live video and audio sessions

  • If you are using Microsoft Teams, use your College account to login. If you are using Zoom, you should use your given/chosen/preferred name as your Zoom identity. Do not mimic staff members or other students, or use a false name.
  • Mute your microphone unless you’re contributing to the discussion: background noise can be very distracting and can interrupt the person leading the discussion and can cause loud echoes for others listening in to the session, but remember to unmute yourself before you begin to talk.
  • If using your camera, be aware of what’s in your background. If you choose to use a background image, select an appropriate image which is unlikely to distract or offend others. Keeping your camera on can be a good way to signal your engagement in a session (especially where the session is a small group) and gives others some non-verbal cues, but by doing this you are consenting to your image appearing in the recording of the session. Find out more about using your camera during classes here.
  • If you want to speak, try using the relevant ‘raise hand’ feature. Some staff will have different views on how to contribute in an online class (using the chat function, raising your hand on video, using the ‘raise hand’ feature). Follow their guidelines and remember:
    • It is normal for multiple people to try to talk at once (resulting in the ‘oh, no – you first!’ response). This can happen often and is a normal part of synchronous interaction.
    • Do not be embarrassed, wait for your turn to talk, and give others time to talk and make their point.
    • Try not to interrupt people while they are in the middle of talking.
  • Remember that you can also use the instant messaging features to communicate, but follow the guidance of the staff member leading the session.
  • For postgraduate research students, further information about etiquette during remote supervision meetings can be found here.