Active participation in synchronous online learning

Kear, Karen; Peoples, Cathryn; Donelan, Helen and Rosewell, Jon (2022). Active participation in synchronous online learning. EADTU, Maastricht, The Netherlands.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6511423

Abstract

Online synchronous education has recently been vital in replacing face-to-face teaching during the pandemic. Although there is increasing use of synchronous technologies in higher education, there are still challenges which need to be addressed. The most significant of these is lack of active participation by students. Even where educators are experienced in running synchronous online learning sessions, previous research has shown that these sessions tend to be didactic in nature, and interactive elements are often not used. Students’ unwillingness to use audio or video channels is one factor, which denies educators the non-verbal feedback intrinsic to face-to-face teaching. In general, there may be a lack of student engagement, with students attending but in a passive capacity, with a reluctance to contribute.

There is a need to address two related challenges: designing synchronous online sessions which have active learning built in; and overcoming students’ inhibitions regarding active participation. This article discusses these topics, based on prior research and practice. It then briefly presents selected data from a student survey at the UK Open University. The survey collected quantitative and qualitative data to gain an understanding of students’ experiences and views about online synchronous sessions: for example, what value do students place on active participation, and why? The aim of this investigation is to make online synchronous learning more interactive, engaging and effective.

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