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Let's deliver an online session

Let plan and deliver an online session

Site: Jisc Moodle Archive
Course: Web Conferencing
Book: Let's deliver an online session
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Sunday, 26 March 2023, 11:01 PM

Before You Start

60 minutes before:

Get your desk ready, clear a space, get rid of distractions and set your phone to silent. 

Let your colleagues know you won't be available and post a “Do Not Disturb” sign if you need to.

Log in, load up and check your resources.

30 minutes before:

Turn off unnecessary IM and email to avoid distractions.

Make sure your computer monitor (and webcam) are positioned for comfort.

Enable and check your audio connections.

Answer calls of nature; grab a coffee or some water!

15 minutes before:

Be ready to greet participants with voice and chat.

Have an engaging activity for them to do. (Keep pre-session activities simple and fun. See Icebreakers for some ideas.)

Beginning the Session

It is good practice to prepare a set of reception slides for participants. You could include:

Welcome and title
Start time
Presenter introductions
Instructions for setting up and using the tools

Here is an example:


Are your learners new to this environment? Unless you are confident that everybody is familiar with the interface, it is best to conduct a short tutorial explaining the basic principles of the tools they will be using. Plan to take just a few minutes for this at the beginning of the session.

Here is an example from a Webex training session:


In an online environment, human interaction does not just happen naturally. Your learners need a way to get to know each other. This is particularly important at the start of a course or if you only meet online.

How much time you can commit to an icebreaker?

One approach may be to have an icebreaker activity running just while you are waiting for everyone to join the room.

For example; you can ask attendees to say 3 things about themselves, two truths and one lie. Others have to guess the lie! or you can pair participants in chat and ask them to introduce each other.

Click on the links below for some further ideas on activities for icebreakers.

Free online puzzle maker
Create puzzles and other diversions. Use with the whiteboard, chat and microphone.

Create a graphic containing some movie or music images. Ask participants to guess the titles using chat or a microphone.

Brain Teasers - Logic problems for you to use with chat.

Participant Engagement

Call participants by name. Get into the habit of using their name whenever the need arises to respond or call them.

Always tell them how to respond. It's best to spell things out to participants and tell them what tools to use and how.

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 and challenge your learners.

Facilitate – don't resort to lecturing even though it is sometimes easier.

Use personal stories and examples to bring the topic to life.

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

See 'How to Use Interactive Tools' for more details.

How to Use Interactive Tools


While the tools you have may vary a little with the web conferencing platform, you should have enough choice at your disposal to offer a range of activities in your online teaching sessions. Here are some suggestions that you should consider to maximise the interactivity of online sessions.

  • Include a mix of interactions, variety will help make your session interesting and engaging.

  • Questions and short tasks form the backbone of your interactions. Make good use of images where appropriate. If you have a webcam this can be used to good effect by moving it to show equipment, a work space or a physical activity taking place around you.

  • Calling on participants on a regular basis is a good technique to ensure that your learners are switched on and tuned in to the lesson. Create interactions and get participants to ‘do something’ at least every five minutes. Try to mix the interactions up a bit to keep them on their toes. For example, if every interaction was in chat, it would soon become boring and predictable. So make use of chat, whiteboard, microphone and polls – they are great facilities!

  • Implement ground rules. Ground rules are critical to the success of any learning experience – but particularly so in the online classroom. You should set the ground rules, model them, and maintain their usage throughout the course.

  • Have fun and relax. Remember that you will not have perfect classes all the time. If you go with the flow and embrace the experience, your expertise and enthusiasm will relax your participants, create the learning environment, and help you prepare for next time. Keep your tone relaxed and light, but vary the intonation and keep that broadcaster high energy level up.

Have a look at this video to see how to use interactions in your sessions.

Click on this icon to view a copy of the Session Plan used for this presentation


The most usual way for participants to communicate in the online classroom is via a text interface or chat.

Allow time for learners to type their response and reviews questions and comments regularly.

Include pauses in your delivery, so that you can check and refer to the chat comments frequently.

Mention contributors by name when responding to individual comments.

Chat is useful for conversation among participants and it can be a rich source of information around a subject as learners share their own experiences and links. The dialogue can become a useful reference resource.

Many interfaces allow you to save the chat seperately.

If you intend to encourage participants to use chat, ask them to reply to each others question or comments using the intended participant's name (the format @name works well).

Chat for everyone:

The chat facility can be used by all participants at the same time. You can use it to set up and maintain the social presence in the class. Most often it is used to gain responses from the participants.

From the participant’s perspective, chat can be used to converse with other participants and/or the facilitators. They have the opportunity to do so publicly (to everyone) or privately (to directed people only).

Chat for the facilitator:

Chat is a good option for getting answers to questions requiring brief open-ended responses. It can also be used effectively for quick responses to closed questions.

Keep an eye on the chat area - it’s a good way to gauge how engaged participants are.

Be very clear on how you want learners to respond, particularly if the interface is new to them.

Keep the chat area large enough to see all recent activity. If your chat area is small, when you get many responses all at once they will quickly scroll off the screen.

Techniques and activities using chat:

TIP: It’s a good idea to give specific time limits to chat exercises and let participants know when they have a minute or so left.

Count down chat technique: sometimes you may want to ask for feedback from all of the participants at the same time without spending too much time on an exercise. A good way of doing this is to ask everyone to enter a response in chat – but not to press 'send' until instructed. When they are ready, get them to 'raise their hand.' When everyone is ready, count down to them pressing the 'send' button. Using the chat to accomplish this gets everyone engaged. In that way, reflective learners have more time to consider answers without the distraction – or possible influence - before the other learners’ answers appearing in the chat window.

"Listening" and reflective dialogue: if you have asked for longer more reflective responses to a problem, issue or question you may want learners to think about how their peers have responded. In these situations it is important for participants to have time to compare and contrast their own responses with everyone else. You can encourage this by extending the activity, for example saying “I'd like everyone to look at Sian's response, and then take 30 seconds to record what you think that has led her to make that decision. Please respond in the chat area."

Paired chat: a very useful method of interaction and engagement through use of chat is that of the 'paired chat' exercise. Firstly, pair up participants to get them to interact together using the chat facility. It is often useful to match up participants by experienced with non-experienced, or the more collaborative with a quieter participant. Additionally you could match them by a similar industry or company. Each pair interacts using the private chat facility – that is, they send a direct message to their partner. Note that you will need to explain how to send a direct message and also let them know that only the paired partners can see the chat. You should always provide a time limit to exercises, so tell them how long to spend on the exercise. Then bring all participants back to explain their findings. You could ask each pair to use the microphone to explain the results of their discussion – but remember to involve everyone.

Mind the gap: when setting up other activities, for example launching an application share or setting up breakout rooms, there is often a gap of up to 30 seconds while the technology is being prepared. This ‘dead air’ is enough to make your less secure participants wonder whether they are experiencing technical difficulties - and the ‘less tolerant’ participants to jump into an unrelated task. So anticipate the gap, and design meaningful chat activity to fill the dead time.



Allowing participants to use the microphone to speak to the group can be a powerful way of increasing engagement.

Ask participants to provide verbal answers, in depth explanations or conduct discussions with their peers.

Verbal responses may be a better option for those with accessibility issues that make typing responses or concentrating on audio and text difficult.

Some participants will feel empowered, but others may be uncomfortable.

Ensure they are prepared and that you are considerate in your approach.

If you do want participants to use the microphone, consider the following:

Allow extra time in your planning as handing over to other speakers can eat up valuable session time.

Ensure your learners know they will have the opportunity to speak, and that they have working microphones.

Remember to enable access to each speaker in turn as part of your role managing the session.

Do not allow one or two speakers to dominate the conversation, especially if you have some participants using only text chat and others using audio.

Remind participants to turn microphones off (or do so centrally yourself) so you do not pick up any whispers, coughs or other noises.


Most systems provide a facility for a live video feed from the facilitator’s webcam.

Using a video feed enables participants to see the facilitator in person and this can help to make them feel more comfortable.

You may want to use webcams sparingly. They may take up a lot of bandwidth and some participants find the movement distracts them from the whiteboard.

You might want to use it at the start of your session, and then perhaps at the end.

A short live video introduction can help to reduce that feeling of remoteness that participants may feel. Whatever you decide, here are a few points to bear in mind:

  • Look directly into the webcam when you talk – this establishes that important eye contact. Keep a note on your screen to remind you to look at the webcam.
  • Use your normal hand gestures whilst on camera – nodding, gesturing, smiling etc.
  • Make sure your Webcam quality is good – make sure that the picture quality is good – set up your webcam, check the lighting, and the backlighting.
  • Finally, be careful what you show on camera – double check that the camera does not pick up something in the background you do not want broadcast!

Some online presenters use props, puppets and hats on webcam to add interest and fun to the session.



Status icons and emoticons are small images indicating what the participant is doing or feeling.

They help replace body language and provide quick feedback.

Facilitators can actively use them as part of their sessions.

Get your learners in the habit of clicking on emoticons and use them yourself too!

Here are some tips:

Set the example by using a range of emoticons yourself.

If learners agree or like something, encourage them to click on the applause or smiley face icon.

Use them for instant interaction – slip in a couple of tick/cross questions and then get participants to expand on their answers.

Ask your participants to use the step-away emoticon if they have to leave their computer. Make sure that they click on the step-in emoticon when they are back!

Remember to clear all responses when everyone has finished, so you are ready for the next time.


The whiteboard allows for instant communication and enables everyone to participate.

Many learners appreciate interaction with the tool; it helps to keep their attention.

Whiteboards often contain some combination of the following annotation tools: pencil, eraser, text, colour, lines, and various shapes.

Your learners can usually annotate the whiteboard at the same time. They can draw pictures, write freehand, type, highlight something on the screen, put a mark on a graph and so on. This provides a creative way to communicate.

Here are some tips:

Prepare your exercises well in advance.

If only a few of your learners are writing ideas on the whiteboard, encourage the reluctant ones. You could ask them to comment on the ideas, for example.

You could create your own games. This is a great way to reinforce content, energise your audience, and have some fun at the same time.

Games using the whiteboard:

Virtual 'Chuck-a-Ball' - using a grid of learners' photos, ask one learner to indicate on the whiteboard which other learner they want a question to be addressed to.

Express Opinions - using a grid or table (YES       not sure       NO), ask learners to indicate their attitudes or opinions.

Draw a Diagram - ask learners to draw missing parts of a diagram.

Crossword or Wordsearch - these can be great fun.

Quizzes - ask learners to choose answers by annotating the whiteboard.


Polls allow participants to express opinion or feedback their understanding quickly and easily.

Results can be displayed as a chart or percentage which allows the tutor to summarise them instantly.

Polls can be used for a quick gauge of understanding, confidence or opinion, or to re-cap learning. Polls can be useful to establish a starting point or provide a mini test of prior learning. They can also set the scene for the next part of your session or conclude a section.

You can use polls often throughout your session. They are easy to set up – but it's best to do that in advance.

Broadcast the results only when everyone has responded.

Give a summary of the results. You may like to take the opportunity to ask a learner why they chose a particular option. This is a good way to create a short discussion session.

Using Polls as Quizzes

Polls can also be used for quizzes or tests.

When you construct a quiz, be careful about the answer options you provide – don't make the ‘correct’ answer too obvious and don't use trick questions.

Application Sharing

Some web conferencing systems allow facilitators to share an application.

Managing a shared screen can take practice.

In some systems your application takes the whole of your screen, so you lose your participant list, chat and other useful windows.

Here are some tips on using application share:

  • Demonstrate live software applications.

  • Pass control of an application to individual learners. As they take control of the application, their actions and explanations are seen and heard by everyone.

  • Ensure that you make demonstrations interactive - create a series of tasks for learners, so that they can practice using the application and give them a chance to use it from their desktop.

  • Make sure you are fully conversant with your application sharing tool - it does differ between systems.


Road Sign, Attention, Right Of Way, Note, Duplicate

Questioning is a powerful way to communicate with your learners. Here's how to use questioning in the online classroom:

Encourage participation

Use questions often throughout your session. Vary the response mechanisms you use – you can make good use of polls, chat and the whiteboard. If it's practical give participants use of the microphone sometimes.


Always try to use learners’ names when responding to them. This increases the community spirit in the online classroom. 

Confirmation questioning

In a traditional classroom, teachers often rely on physical cues to determine understanding and ask questions. In the online classroom we have to ask learners directly. 

Directed questioning

Give learners notice (and time to think) before you ask a specific individual to respond. Respect your learners and don't embarrass them. Judge if this is an appropriate strategy once you have got to know your group a little.

Be prepared

Add questions to your slides or use a text file so you can cut and paste them into chat quickly and easily.

Be calm

Don't be afraid of silence after you have asked a question! Give them thinking time. If no one responds to a question, ask it again, tell them how to respond and then wait quietly and patiently. If after a whole minute you haven't heard or seen the response, calmly move on.

Questioning Techniques

Breakout Rooms

Breakout rooms can be an effective way to engage your participants.

They offer many of the response facilities of the main room like chat, audio and whiteboards.

You can send groups of learners into separate rooms to carry out tasks. You can then bring them back into the main room to feedback and share information.

You will need experimentation and practice.

If you have a co-facilitator, ask them to look after the admin while you concentrate on facilitating the groups.

Here are some guidelines for success:

  • Keep groups small and diverse - an activity involving three to five participants is just about right.
  • Structure the breakout room activity - provide a focused scenario and set up a template on the whiteboard.
  • Keep the activity or discussion focused and brief - set a time limit for completion.
  • Move in and out of the breakout rooms to monitor the discussions and give input.

Effective Use of Voice

A professional sounding voice, full of energy and enthusiasm, and pitched in a conversational tone will improve the credibility and clarity of your message.

By using concise and articulate language and reinforcing visuals, you won't ramble! Always be aware that you must not talk for too long...

Keep your pace and tone conversational and try to talk naturally. Don’t talk too fast – or too slowly – practise to get your pacing just right.

It is not practical to try to talk non-stop throughout your session. Plan time to breath and have a drink.

During the session, while you wait for participants to respond to questions or to type in chat, you can go off microphone to take a breather, take a sip of water, and collect yourself before you continue.

Get into the habit of using the mute or simply releasing the microphone whenever you're not talking.

Click on the image to listen to Roger Courville describing how you can use your voice for maximum impact
Click on the icon to practise enunciation using Tongue Twisters!


Here are some general points to consider regarding your presentation:

Avoid making slides too busy.

Make sure they are clear and easily readable.

Use images, but make sure they are relevant to your content so they reinforce rather than conflict with your message.

Use slides to build in natural pauses for questions and other interactions that will involve your learners (e.g. polls and annotation).

Check whether the web conferencing interface you are using supports slide animations. Some don't which may mean you need to present information differently (e.g. use separate slides if you wanted to question learners before illustrating a point or showing an answer).

If you need to show slides with considerable detail or you want learners to listen rather than use the chat, make sure that you explain how to view the presentation full screen or enlarge it.

If you decide to use a presentation without chat, keep it short or break it into sections (preferably10 minutes or less) that are punctuated with learner activities (questions, discussion, polls, annotation etc). This will help keep your learners focussed and thinking about the session content.

Click on the icon below to see Garr Reynolds talk about the finer points of designing presentions.

See why Garr Reynolds has influenced so many people

Story, Imagery, & the Art of 21st Century Presentation: Garr Reynolds at TEDxKyoto 2012

Click on the image below to find practical, simple and creative presentation ideas that will bring a visible difference to your presentations.

Top 10 Slide Design Tips

Click on the images below for more advice on the use of slides

Garr Reynolds' review of John Medina's 'Brain Rules' (pdf)

The e-Learning Coach - What is Cognitive Load?
Garr Reynolds' Blog .... Presentation Zen
Annoying PowerPoint Survey Results 2011

Getting Beyond Bullet Points by Craig Taylor

Tips for Graphic Design

We live in a visual age. All day, every day, we are surrounded by visual imagery. If you stop and look for a few seconds, you will find that you are immersed in a visual culture: tv, posters, packaging, traffic directions, magazines, billboards, websites.

Visual imagery is a language and, like any language, it has some basic rules that make communication possible. As learning professionals, more and more we are being asked to move into graphic design – designing screens for e-learning, designing slides for our face to face or virtual classroom presentations, designing documents for job aids, and designing e-book layouts for our after course support. But how many of us have had any graphic design instruction? I would wager very few.

Well, firstly you just need to apply the few basic rules of graphic design, you will be