Can Online Students be Fully Integrated into Residential Courses via Web Conferencing? Lessons Learned from Two Pilot Courses at Columbia University

Concurrent Session 10
Streamed Session

Watch This Session

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

When online students attend on-campus classes via web conferencing, can they be fully integrated into the classroom community? What challenges does offering two modes of attendance introduce, and how might technology and careful course design offer solutions?  This session will offer lessons learned from two pilot courses at Columbia University.

Sponsored By


Matthea Marquart has focused her professional life on education and training, both online and in person, since 2005. She currently serves as the Director of Administration for the Online Campus at Columbia University's School of Social Work, where she created the award-winning Institute on Pedagogy and Technology for Online Courses. She also serves as an instructor for Master's of Science in Social Work courses. Matthea's prior professional experience includes roles as National Director of Training at Building Educated Leaders for Life, President of the NYC Chapter of the National Organization for Women, and Director of Foundation and Government Relations at Inform, Inc. She has also worked internationally, in England, South Korea, and Spain. Matthea holds an MS in Social Work from Columbia University and a BA in English from Emory University, where she completed a year at Oxford University and additional coursework at UC Berkeley. She has been a Network for Social Work Management Policy Fellow, a United Way of NYC Senior Fellow in the Nonprofit Leadership Development Institute at Baruch College, a member of the Community Resources Exchange Leadership Caucus, and a blogger for New York Nonprofit Press. She earned a Certificate of Professional Achievement in Business by completing online business courses at Columbia University's School of Professional Studies, which has helped her understand the student perspective of taking online courses. She completed OLC's IELOL (Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning) program in 2018, and is enrolled in the Council on Social Work Education's 2019-20 Program Director Academy. She was honored to receive the Network for Social Work Management's Exemplar Award in 2019 for exemplary performance and leadership as a social work executive leader. She enjoys writing and speaking about the unique opportunities and challenges of online instruction, and welcomes invitations to speak or facilitate workshops. She has published a dozen training and education-related articles since 2006, and her latest publications include the article Taking Online Social Work Courses -- 7 Professional Benefits, and the book chapters How Co-Teaching and Other Strategies Promote Lively Student Engagement, Instructional Strategies for Synchronous Components of Online Courses, and That Human Element: Fostering Instructor Presence Through Online Instructional Videos. She has presented at numerous conferences, including the Online Learning Consortium's Accelerate Conference, the Social Work Distance Education Conference, the International Conference on E-Learning in the Workplace, and The eLearning Guild New England Regional Instructional Design Symposium.

Extended Abstract

Institutions that offer both residential and online programs can allow residential students to enroll in online courses;  the logistics are relatively simple.  However, allowing online students to enroll in residential courses, without requiring them to travel to campus, is more complicated.  While this can expand student choices regarding course topics, instructors, and scheduling, as well as build connections between online and residential students, enabling online students to attend residential classes via web conferencing creates challenges.  

In the literature, in addition to the more common phrasing of telepresence or web conferencing to refer to this type of technology-enhanced communication (Tanaka, Nakanishi, & Ishiguro, 2014; Gleason & Greenhow, 2017), this type of course has also been called gxLearning because the classes are geographically extended (Verhaart & Hagen-Hall, 2012; Day & Verhaart, 2015; Day & Verhaart, 2016), hybrid because the classes include a hybrid blend of on-campus and remote students (Henriksen, Mishra, Greenhow, Cain, & Roseth, 2014), and synchromodal because online and residential students share synchronous sessions via different modes of attendance (Cain, Sawaya, & Bell, 2013; Bell, Sawaya, & Cain, 2014; Bell, Cain, Peterson, & Cheng, 2016; Cain & Bell, 2017).  During the workshop, the presenters will share their literature review as a resource for participants who would like to learn more about the research in this area.  

The bulk of the workshop will focus on sharing lessons learned from planning and teaching two Spring 2018 pilot seminar courses at Columbia University in which online social work students joined residential courses via Zoom web conferencing.  The presenters will cover challenges and opportunities when planning residential courses that integrate both online and on-campus students, including:

  • Logistical concerns that must be addressed prior to the start of the semester, such as student messaging, student registration, classroom setup and technology requirements, and instructor selection and training
  • Considerations for designing activities and classroom materials that fully engage both online and on-campus students, including during small-group breakout activities, group presentations, and whole-class discussions
  • Techniques for building one cohesive classroom community, rather than two segregated groups of students
  • Methods for managing the technology in the physical classroom, or when taking online students along on a field trip off campus


The session will include the perspectives of the instructors, TAs, and online students involved in the two pilot courses.  

Interactivity for the session will include informal hand-raise polls to gauge participants’ experiences and interests around the workshop topic, whole-group discussion questions to give the group the chance to share ideas, pair-share discussions to give participants the chance to consider how they might apply the workshop content to their unique work environments, and time for Q&A.

By the end of this workshop, participants should be able to:

  • Describe the benefits, pedagogical challenges, and logistical concerns that accompany a decision about whether to allow online students who do not live near campus to register for residential courses
  • Discuss ways to design classroom activities and materials that engage online and residential students with the coursework and with each other as one cohesive classroom community
  • Share their experiences, tips, concerns, and questions around how to plan, manage, and teach this type of course
  • Describe the existing literature about this type of course modality



Bell, J., Sawaya, S., & Cain, W. (2014). Synchromodal classes: Designing for shared learning experiences between face-to-face and online students. International Journal of Designs for learning5(1), 68-82.

Bell, J., Cain, W., Peterson, A., & Cheng, C. (2016). From 2D to Kubi to doubles: Designs for student telepresence in synchronous hybrid classrooms. International Journal of Designs for Learning7(3), 19-33.

Cain, W., & Bell, J. (2017, May). Navigating between Different Forms of Embodiment in a Synchronous Hybrid Doctoral Course. In Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 925-932). ACM.

Cain, W., Sawaya, S. & Bell, J. (2013). Innovating the hybrid small group Model in a synchromodal learning environment. In J. Herrington, A. Couros & V. Irvine (Eds.), Proceedings of EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology 2013 (pp. 1333-1339). Waynesville, NC: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Day, S., & Verhaart, M. (2015, October). Integrating cloud and mobile technologies in experiential learning: From reality to reflection. In Proceedings of the 6th Annual Conference of Computing and Information Technology Education and Research in New Zealand incorporating the 28th Annual Conference of the NACCQ, Queenstown, New Zealand, 6th (pp. 38-44).

Day, S., & Verhaart, M. (2016, July). Beyond Wi-Fi: Using Mobile devices for gxLearning in the field. In Proceedings of the 7th Annual Conference of Computing and Information Technology Education and Research in New Zealand incorporating the 29th Annual Conference of the NACCQ, Wellington, New Zealand, 11th (pp. 27-33).

Gleason, B., & Greenhow, C. (2017). Hybrid Education: The Potential of Teaching and Learning with Robot-Mediated Communication. Online Learning, 21(4), 159-176.  doi:

Henriksen, D., Mishra, P., Greenhow, C., Cain, W., & Roseth, C. (2014). A tale of two courses: Innovation in the hybrid/online doctoral program at Michigan State University. TechTrends58(4), 45-53.

Tanaka, K., Nakanishi, H., Ishiguro, H. (2014) Comparing video, avatar, and robot mediated communication: Pros and cons of embodiment. In T. Yuizono, G. Zurita, N. Baloian, T. Inoue, H. Ogata (Eds.) Collaboration Technologies and Social Computing. CollabTech 2014. Communications in Computer and Information Science, vol 460. Berlin: Springer (pp. 96-110).

Verhaart, M., & Hagen-Hall, K. (2012). gxLearning, teaching to geographically extended classes. In Proceedings of the 3rd Annual Conference of the Computing and Information Technology Research and Education of New Zealand Conference (Incorporating the 25th National Advisory Committee on Computing Qualifications Conference), Christchurch, New Zealand (pp. 7-10).