Creative Design Strategies for Synchronous Online Classes

Concurrent Session 1
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

In this two-part workshop, participants will collaborate in an interactive mock class and develop a framework for synchronous online classes of their own.


As the Blended and Online Coordinator for the Academic Writing Program at the University of Maryland, Lyra Hilliard helps faculty reimagine their courses and transform them into highly effective, interactive, 'born digital' courses. Lyra also directs the department’s Undergraduate Teaching Assistants in Writing Classes Program, which supports both blended and onsite writing classes. A recent recipient of the English Department’s Teaching Excellence Award for Professional-Track Faculty, Lyra is frequently called on to assist faculty across campus with digital pedagogy strategies and tools, particularly Adobe Connect and VoiceThread. Her research interests include composition and rhetoric, digital literacies, multimodal composition, digital pedagogy, and working with undergraduate teaching assistants/ peer-mentors.

Extended Abstract


Through a combination of independent and group activities, interactive presentations, and a robust discussion, participants will analyze and discuss the pedagogical affordances of the synchronous online environment. Experiencing the synchronous online classroom as a student is a vital step to designing one’s own classes, yet the opportunity to do so is limited at many institutions. This workshop will allow participants to evaluate and discuss this model while learning from each other, the presenter, and her TA. By the end of the workshop, participants will be able to do the following:

analyze the benefits and challenges of working in multiple online spaces simultaneously
evaluate proprietary and free tools that can be used to facilitate synchronous classes
design effective online synchronous classes using the presenter’s five-point framework

The workshop will begin with a 30-minute class in Adobe Connect and Google Docs. In it, participants will interact with each other and the instructor during a short presentation, work in groups to complete an activity in Google Docs, and return to Adobe Connect to share their findings. The Adobe Connect class will be recorded and posted to the OLC Innovate website.

Following the class portion of the workshop, the presenter will facilitate a 15-minute discussion in which participants will be invited to share their experiences and ask questions of both the presenter and her TA. This discussion will be transcribed on a Google Doc that will be accessible from the OLC Innovate website. Participants will receive a handout (which will also be available as a Google Doc) with resources and links to additional information and research, including preliminary results from blended and online student surveys from her institution.

Off-site participants: The 30-minute class will be facilitated through Adobe Connect and Google Docs and will be fully accessible to off-site participants. In the subsequent discussion, off-site participants can follow along by watching the presenter through her webcam and, pending the willingness of onsite participants, reading a live feed of participants’ questions and comments through Adobe Connect or Twitter. Off-site participants will also be encouraged to post their own questions to the chat box in Adobe Connect.

Workshop Outline

Warm-up Activity: Chat Columns

How do students collaborate with each other in your classes?
Briefly describe the characteristics of your “best” online class (as a student or teacher).
What are your impressions of synchronous online classes?
What are your goals for today’s workshop?

:00 Presentation

Address responses and ask 2-3 follow-up questions. Participants respond either by talking to the room or by typing in the main chat area.
Switch layout to reveal slides. Discuss and demonstrate interactive teaching strategies

:12 Group Activity Logistics

Go to Main Google Doc, which has the instructions and links to six group pages. Copy and paste the URL into Adobe Connect so that participants can open it on their laptops.
Go over the instructions. Ask participants to raise their hands in Adobe Connect to indicate that they understand the activity. TA will help those who have questions.
Group participants by attendee box and have them enter their respective Google Docs.

:15 Group Activity

The activity will be simple and will culminate with a tangible product
During the activity, the presenter will do the following:
visit each group by chatting with them through the Google Doc chat
keep screenshare view in Adobe Connect so that everyone can see what managing six groups looks like from the instructor’s perspective

:25 Return to Adobe Connect

Ask one member from each group to post to the Whiteboard.
Close by asking participants to write something that they’ve learned in the chat box.
:30 Discussion and Handout