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Let's plan an online session

Let plan and deliver an online session

Site: Jisc Moodle Archive
Course: Web Conferencing
Book: Let's plan an online session
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Wednesday, 8 February 2023, 5:34 PM

Aims and Objectives

All teaching and training sessions start with aims and objectives. Do you have yours clear?

If you are adapting an existing face to face session, will your aims and objectives be achievable in an online classroom?

Roles and Responsibilities

It is important to understand that planning an online session might involve other people. For each software application the roles will have different names.

Here are some of the most common roles and their equivalents. The terms used below are generally interchangeable.

Organiser (GoToMeeting)

Host (Webex, Adobe Connect)

Moderator (Blackboard Collaborate)

In all cases this category of user will have full control of the online room, they will be able to:

  • Schedule and host online sessions
  • Invite guests
  • Grant and revoke attendee privileges
  • Add content to the library
  • Share content
  • Edit layouts
  • Create and manage small group breakout rooms
  • Conduct quizzes, polls, web tours and file transfers
  • Start and stop recording of online sessions

Participants will have control over their microphones and webcams and be able to use chat to communicate.

When the session starts, the moderator/teacher/trainer may pass moderating privileges to other presenters or participants.

Session Plan

Have you planned your time?

Allocate time slots to each part of the session and to allow enough time for your activities.

Be realistic about how much you can achieve in one session, take into account anything that may delay the start or end.

Allow a little spare time to deal with unexpected problems and any planned change over in speakers. Remember that if you ask your learners a question you need to allow time for them to respond especially if this is via chat.

Make sure any team members working with you and participants are aware of the session plan.

Some applications have session planning built in.

Click the clock image below for an example Session Plan.


Have your participants used this application before?

Do you need to show them the tools and layout?

Plan the orientation into the session, using slides and activities to practise using the tools.

You could encourage them to use chat and other tools before the session starts. Remember to provide simple instructions to get them started if they are unfamilar with the interface.

Joining Instructions

Joining instructions should go out a few days before the session. They should include:

Date, time and duration

Session title and outline

Hardware and software requirements

Information about testing equipment

Links to the session, the recording and any resources

Troubleshooting guide

Participant Engagement

'Is Anyone Out There Actually Listening?'

'Anyone who has taught an online class, or given a remote presentation of any sort, has had this thought pop up at least once. So how can you encourage people to listen, and even better, absorb your presentation? How will you know your audience is engaged?'

Randah McKinnie, 2008

Participant engagement in online sessions is important because it helps keep learners interested and thinking, which in turn helps retention and the development of ideas. It also allows tutors to judge understanding, answer queries or add detail as necessary. In addition it helps both parties develop a working rapport and understanding which is mutually beneficial and supports the learning journey.

When planning your session, build in regular interaction with your learners to suit the objectives of your session. Interact with them every 5 minutes or so if possible. Interactions can be very quick and simple, or more involved and thought provoking, requiring more time. Make use of a range of tools and methods to provide interest, challenge your learners and keep them engaged.

A combination of interactive tools and thoughtful delivery techniques can make for a two-way, active and enjoyable session.

Click below for more detail on interactive tools and techniques and how to use them.


PresentationPro,chevrons,circular,connected,3d diagram,isometric,segmented,shapes,spinning arrows

Will you be assessing learning during or after the session?

Will it be formative or summative?

Will it be formal or informal?

Use the planning stage to decide on your assessment methods.

Disaster Recovery

When teaching or training virtually, you need to be prepared for the unexpected.

In case of technical problems, a clear contingency plan for participants and moderators should be in place.

Moderators should be aware of measures that can be taken in the event of technical problems.

Participants should receive clear instructions about what to do if they have difficulty accessing a session.

They should also know how to deal with technical issues if they arise during the session.

If applicable, moderators could be situated in different locations in case one site loses connectivity.

Here are some top tips:

Print a copy of your slides. This will give you a chance to look ahead if your system is lagging.

Have your login details at hand. If you get booted out of the system you will not be searching for details about how to get back in.

Close all extraneous applications.

If you have a problem, don't assume that fellow presenters or moderators do. Plan in advance how you will work from each others' verbal cues.


Do you want participants to evaluate this learning experience?

Would you like them to use the interactive tools to do this during the session?

Will you be asking them to complete an evaluation afterwards?

Use the planning stage to decide on your evaluation method.

Practice, practice, practice!

Whether it is a face to face or an online teaching session the golden rule is 'be prepared.'

What are the risks if I don't prepare?

  • Lack of training and knowledge of the system could result in participants not hearing the audio or seeing the content.
  • Technical issues could affect the session and damage the reputation of the individual or organisation hosting the event.
  • Some speakers may not be experienced at online teaching and may come across differently from how they would in person.
  • Some people may not be willing to engage online out of choice or through a lack of understanding of the technology.

How can I ensure that my online session runs smoothly?

  • Plan out your programme with timings included (see Session Planning).
  • Check that visual aids like Microsoft Powerpoint and Prezi work effectively with the software.
  • If a speaker is nervous, encourage them to rehearse. Reassure them that you will be present if they need help.
  • Practise a backup plan in case a speaker is cut off for any reason.
  • If possible, ask a colleague to monitor the chat pane for you. This keeps your focus on your presentation.
  • Start and finish the session on time.
  • Mute all participant microphones to reduce any background noise. Only enable them when needed.
  • For participants that have not used web conferencing software before, give a demonstration of the key features.
  • Make sure that any mobile phones are kept well away from the computer, otherwise there may be intermittent mobile signal noise.
  • Practise using alternative tools and techniques to suit a wide audience (see Accessibility).
  • Make copies of any presentation materials in case you need to upload them.
  • Get to know your speaker's session. If they are having technical difficulties, you might need to run their presentation.

Organise a practice session to:

  • Check that invitation emails are working effectively.
  • Check the audio levels of any speakers involved and test their equipment.
  • Rehearse the programme for the online session and check the timings.
  • Make a quick 5 minute recording of the session to check the recording works.
  • Run through the software functions with your speaker and check their understanding
Click on the links below for further advice from the professionals.

What to do before you step onto the virtual stage…

Roger Courville tells you how to be a rock star

"Practice, practice, practice!"...

Michelle Parish tells you how practice makes perfect

What online facilitators can learn from rock stars


Web Conferencing and its Expanded Role in Training

5 Techniques to design Interactive Online Training
Colin Steed - Virtual Classroom Trainer - Latest news, views, hints and tips for everyone who designs, facilitates or manages live online learning for their organisation