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Synchronous Discussion as “Ice breaker” for Online class?

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    Henry . N. Bulley

    I have always wanted to start an online class with a synchronous discussion (using say, Blackboard Collaborate) where students get the chance to interact with each other in real time, and develop a sense of “community” throughout the course. However, some students complain that the reason they take an online class is to help them deal with juggling school, work and family demands. So they see it as unfair to “require” students and the instructor to be online at the same time. I will like to know how others on this forum deal with the advantages and limits of using Synchronous discussions in an online class.

    Megan Elias

    Hello, I also have the impulse to get the students “together” in some way in an online course. I was reminded of why this usually can’t be done this summer when I realized that one of my best students was in a very different time zone from the rest of us. Some ideas that might bridge this would be to ask students to post times when they are available to chat and to see if you can pull together a few different groups for online chat. I also like to make myself present in my class by posting brief screencasts of myself talking to the students as a group. I encourage students to also use screencasting to respond to each others work, but so far all have been more shy than their professor! Next time I suppose I should require this kind of screencast.

    Henry . N. Bulley

    Thanks Megan, I appreciate your insights and suggestions.
    I try to use doodle to schedule two main events, but there are some students who think Online courses should never require any synchronous interactions.
    Perhaps, some general information sessions may help alleviate this kind of perception.


    Hi Henry,

    One way I have dealt with synchronous online meetings in the past is to give students 8-10 choices for synchronous meeting dates and only require that they attend a specific number. From my past experience students actually made an effort to attend more than the required number, because they were helpful.

    In the future, if you do require synchronous online or face-to-face meeting dates, we would need to put it in the notes sections of the course in CUNY First and our our website–that way students know before they register that they will need to block out that time. This course would be coded as “online” rather than “fully online” in the Student Info System/CUNY First.

    Please note, I just sent you an e-mail regarding the GEO fully online course scheduled for the spring.


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