Synchronous class activities are those that take place in real-time using video conferencing software like Zoom. (If you haven’t already, please follow these instructions to set up the basics of Zoom for your course). During synchronous sessions, you can present material, interact with students verbally or through the Zoom chat function, run whole and small group activities, poll students, and more. The following pages will outline a number of activities you can use in synchronous classes.
The activities and digital tools you use in synchronous classes will be influenced by a variety of factors. Consider:
- What is your class size? In smaller classes, you might opt for a whole group discussion or use breakout rooms to have students work or discuss a prompt in partners or small groups. In larger classes, tools like Zoom reactions can be used to check student understanding.
- What are your desired learning outcomes for the session? Consider what digital tools best support your pedagogical goals. For example, if your goal is to have students apply information, you can create multiple choice questions in Zoom Polls or Top Hat to that end; if you want students to represent their mental understanding of a system, you can have them use Zoom Whiteboard in small groups to draw or create a concept map.
How does the synchronous class align with asynchronous activities? Do you want to use your synchronous class time as a launching off point for work that students will do independently, or would you rather have students come to class after engaging with material and use synchronous time for asking questions, making meaning, and debriefing? Consider the sequence of learning activities and how they support each other.
Below we list some tools you can use to engage with students. We strongly encourage instructors to contact Digital Learning & Design to learn more about using these tools.
Note: In any class size, we strongly discourage the use of Ed Discussions or Canvas Discussions to facilitate real-time class interaction. Both tools do not dynamically update in real-time, and student questions will either be missed or viewed later than is relevant.
- Breakout rooms. Use breakout rooms for partner or small group discussions or activities. In breakout rooms, students can discuss questions prompts, fill out graphic organizers using a collaborative document, or collaborate on multiple choice questions.
- Hand raising and other reaction tools. Encourage students to use the hand raise tool to ask questions. You can also do a quick formative assessment using reactions—for example, pose a statement and ask students whether they agree or disagree using the yes or no reaction buttons.
- Zoom polling. You can set up Zoom polls ahead of time that you then launch during your class session to gather feedback or to quiz students in a no or low-stakes way. You can also download poll reports to assess students’ understanding and inform your instruction accordingly.
- Zoom Whiteboard. You can use the Zoom whiteboard to draw figures, create concept maps, model solutions, or make other visual representations. You can also enable annotation in your Zoom toolbar so that students can annotate figures. Alternatively, you can have students use the whiteboard in breakout rooms, then save and share their work.
- Top Hat discussions. This tool offers a powerful way to solicit questions and feedback in real time. Students have the ability to upvote each other’s submissions.
- Google Jamboard: Jamboard is a collaborative whiteboard used to create and edit content with other users in real time. Students can answer a question prompt using Jamboard, post and annotate images, or work collaboratively on active learning techniques like categorizing a set of given concepts. Students and instructors can prepare, access and share Google Jamboards with their Brown Google account, and work is saved automatically.