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EIU Faculty Development and Innovation Center

Best Practices for
Synchronous Online Teaching

Web-conferencing tools have improved tremendously recently. Although the asynchronous model for online teaching remains the standard, allowing students to work and engage according to their own schedules, there is much to be gained from your class meeting at the same time, as long as one plans carefully. FDIC has made the following recommendations to assist in the best learning experience in a synchronous online format.


 1. What do you need to start teaching for online synchronously?

  • Laptop or desktop computer
  • High-speed internet connection
  • Updated web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, etc.)
  • A course shell in D2L Brightspace
  • A webcam
  • A microphone
  • A video conferencing tool (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Collaborate Ultra) for synchronous meetings


2. How could you make course announcements?


3. How could you post and organize course materials?

  • Even though you will be teaching synchronously online, it is still recommended to use D2L for all your course materials. Post items such as the syllabus, handouts, readings, presentation slides, and assignments in the content area in your course in D2L. Consider what materials, assignments, and assessments are essential to successfully achieve the course learning outcomes. Being flexible with submission deadlines, within the parameters of the academic calendar is the key in teaching, even though you plan “class time” to be synchronous.


4. How could you deliver lectures?

  • Announce synchronous sessions in the syllabus and remind students beforehand.
  • Prepare agendas or outlines for lectures and email agendas to students.
  • Upload lecturing slides in D2L for students to download.
  • Keep lectures less than one hour (indeed, “hit pause,” by breaking up lecture with active learning, like breakout group sessions; see Discussions below).
  • Record lectures for students who cannot attend and inform all students the session will be recorded.
  • Interact with students by using polls or asking questions and share the results with the students immediately.
  • Join the session early to field access questions and stay on the call late to answer any folow-up questions. 
  • EIU-supported Web Conferencing Tools that can be used for delivering synchronous lectures:
  • Poll/Question Asking Tools (these exist within Collaborate and Teams as well, but those need to be created “live,” or on the fly; the following can be created in advance of your session)


5. How could you conduct class-wide discussions?

  • Announce synchronous sessions in the syllabus and remind students beforehand.
  • Provide specific discussion prompts that are more likely to incite discussions.
  • Reserve a couple of minutes at the outset to familiarize students with the tool (e.g., raise hands, mute/unmute microphones).
  • Remind students to mute their microphones when they are not talking.
  • Depending on the size of the class, encourage students to use the (text) Chat function and/or use the Raise Hand function (available in Collaborate and Teams).
  • Use polls/questions to engage students in the discussion.
  • EIU-Supported Web Conferencing Tools can be used for class-wide discussions:
  • Poll/Question Asking Tools (these exist within Collaborate and Teams as well, but those need to be created “live,” or on the fly; the following can be created in advance of your session)


6. How could you conduct group discussions?

  • It is recommended to have 3 to 5 students in a group for breakout group discussions.
  • Announce synchronous sessions in the syllabus and remind students beforehand.
  • Provide specific discussion prompts that are more likely to incite discussions.
  • Explain to students how group discussions work and how many minutes the specific session will last.
  • Encourage students to write down small group discussion ideas by using notetaking tools.
  • Discuss one topic per breakout session.
  • Assign a reporter for each group to summarize the main ideas of the group discussions and share them with the entire class.
  • EIU-Supported Web Conferencing Tools can be used for group discussions:
    • Zoom (breakout groups function is intuitive for the instructor)
    • Collaborate Ultra (breakout groups function is intuitive for the instructor)
    • Microsoft Teams (breakout rooms can be established, but it needs to be done through channels)
  • Notetaking Tools

7. How could you conduct group projects?

  • It is recommended to have 3 or 5 students in a group for group projects.
  • Assign a project manager for each group.
  • Encourage group members to have synchronous meetings by using web conferencing tools, and/or create an asynchronous online discussion forum for each group.
  • Give participation points to encourage group discussions.
  • Use notetaking tools to record group projects/ideas.
  • Use peer evaluation.
  • EIU-Supported Web Conferencing Tools for group projects
  • Asynchronous Online Discussion Tools
  • Notetaking Tools
  • Create Group Work Areas for Learners in D2L

8. How could students submit assignments?

  • Use D2L Brightspace for assignment submissions. Students can easily submit assigned material through D2L Brightspace
  • In addition, Turnitin embedded in D2L assignment dropboxes also helps you to prevent student plagiarism.
  • When creating assignments, be sure to:
    • Give a clear indication of the assignment and expectations for the students.
    • Communicate due dates of assignments.

9. How will you assess students?

10. How could you hold online office hours?

  • Schedule consistent office hours every week. During the scheduled office hours, keep web conferencing tools open but mute your webcam and microphone until someone joining the meeting.
  • Allow students to schedule appointments with you by email.
  • Allow students who do not have a stable internet to call you for their appointments.

How can students become more familiar with D2L at EIU?

  • D2L Student Orientation Course:  Consider requiring students to complete EIU's D2L Student Orientation (or provide extra credit for students who complete it).  Students can earn the Rookie badge after completing a series of short videos which total just over 30 minutes.  The self-directed Rookie course includes basic navigation in D2L, Content, Notifications, Email, Dropbox Submissions, Discussions, Quizzes, Grades, and Feedback.  A few simple quiz questions are embedded at the end of each video to insure completion. After successful completion of all video quizzes, a certificate is awarded. The student can submit the certificate to the instructor.  The orientation only needs to be completed one time and can be reported to multiple classes. Every student is automatically enrolled in the D2L Student Orientation course.  If a student is unable to access the orientation course, the student should contact  The orientation course is linked in the Technical Support widget on the My Home page in D2L or you can provide the link within your course.  The direct link to the D2L Student Orientation course is  Instructors can be enrolled in the orientation course as a student to view the content by sending a request to

Page updated: August 10, 2021

Related Pages

Contact Information

Dr. Michael Gillespie, Director, FDIC


Julie Lockett, Director of Learning Innovation


Kim Ervin
Instructional Designer


Faculty Development and Innovation Center

1105 Booth

Jeff Cranstoun
Instructional Support and Training Specialist


David Smith
Instructional Support and Training Specialist


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