Teaching Two Places at Once: The Synchronous Learning Classroom

Concurrent Session 7
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

The synchronous learning classroom is designed to connect a host classroom to one or more remote classrooms for a unique learning experience. Take a look at our training methods and materials, review our technology, and experience the active-learning strategies we found work best in synchronous environments.


Dr. Beth Nettles, Manager, Learning Content Development, leads the Instructional Development (iDev), CDL Graphics, and Video@CDL teams at the Center for Distributed Learning (CDL). As team lead of the Instructional Development team, she has created a number of professional development resources designed specifically for faculty teaching online courses. Dr. Nettles has nearly twenty years of experience teaching programming, software applications, and web technologies in post-secondary education. She holds a Ph.D. in Information Technology in Education from the University of Nevada, Reno; a MA in Instructional Technology and a BS in Business Administration from UCF.
Jackie has worked for the University of Central Florida's Center for Distributed Learning (CDL) since March 2013. Previously a technical support assistant for Webcourses@UCF Support, she now works as an Instructional Technology Specialist II for the Instructional Development team. She manages the creation and support for non-academic web-based courses called Special Programs, supports the proactive captioning initiative, develops content for CDL faculty development programs, oversees the transcription of TOPcast: The Teaching Online Podcast, and produces online training materials and support documents. Concurrent to her employment at CDL, Jackie received an M.A. in Instructional Design & Technology – eLearning and a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida. Jackie’s passion for online accessibility inspires her instructional design decisions. Her studies in English have strengthened her skills in writing and editing, and she employs these skills to create content that is clear, consistent, and grammatically correct. In 2016, she received the Information Technologies and Resources Outstanding Service Award. Jackie’s ambition for quality and creativity extends beyond her work at CDL. In her spare time, Jackie performs and competes as a ballroom dancer.
Arianna holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications-Electronic Media from the University of North Florida. She currently works as Web Project Manager Assistant at the University of Central Florida’s Center for Distributed Learning. Arianna has always enjoyed all things involving media and technology from videography to video games. She started gaining experience in media production from a young age and decided to pursue a career that would directly align with her passions. In 2013, she began working at the Florida Institute of Technology as the Media Production Technician for the Continuing Education department where she created videos in a studio environment for their online courses. In 2015, she was promoted to Media Production Manager for the Information Technology department where she managed instructional video operations on campus as well as live events and digital signage. She is very excited about working at UCF’s CDL and with a team of highly skilled individuals. She plans to continue her education by pursuing a MS in Digital Forensics at UCF.

Extended Abstract

Have you ever wanted to teach one class in two places at once? Though the Time Turners of the Harry Potter universe are a thing of fantasy, modern technology allows synchronous teaching to connect physical classrooms on multiple campuses. The synchronous learning classroom is designed to connect a host classroom to one or more remote classrooms for a synchronous learning experience. Both classrooms are equipped with wall-mounted monitors, microphones, Polycom cameras, and a Crestron system, allowing an instructor to communicate and monitor multiple classroom locations at once.

Having the necessary technology isn’t enough. For synchronous learning to be successful, you must also have properly prepared faculty, and ideally, adequately informed students.  Faculty love workshops and being provided with lots of hands-on experience. Creating professional development resources for our synchronous learning pilot took a team of committed staff and faculty to ensure all the necessarily elements were in place before the first class began.  The hands-on workshop focused on three elements: active-learning techniques, on camera presence, and managing immediacy with students at multiple locations. Our next problem was dealing with scaling the training to accommodate the demand? How do you asynchronously train faculty to teach in a synchronous environment?

During this presentation, we will share our experience implementing a pilot for the synchronous learning classroom at our institution.  Take a look at our training methods and materials, review our technology, and experience the active-learning strategies we’ve found work best in a synchronous environment.

Level of Participation:

Training is a must when preparing faculty to deliver courses in a synchronous format.  To keep students engaged at both locations, we practiced active learning techniques in our training workshops.  In our presentation, we will engage the conference attendees by repeating two active learning exercises designed for large classes as demonstrated in the faculty’s professional development workshop. We will also solicit comments by asking attendees questions regarding their institutions take on synchronous course delivery and technology concerns.  Finally, we will invite the attendees to share their thoughts and suggestions on social media during the presentation, which we will monitor and award a door prize for our favorite.

Session Goals:

Participants will leave the session with an understanding of the technology required to create synchronous learning classrooms as well as the challenges of providing professional development training for synchronous content delivery.  Attendees will also learn practical active-learning techniques for effective teaching, regardless of how the course is delivered.