Live/Synchronous Activities

Synchronous activities such as class discussions and group work can serve to complement your pre-recorded lectures, giving students the opportunity to ask questions as they arise and interact with their peers. You may even choose to deliver your lectures in a live/synchronous format. However you choose to integrate synchronous activities in your course, this page offers tools and tips to adapt your course to a digital environment. To better understand the advantages and disadvantages of both synchronous and asynchronous content delivery, click here.

Tips for Live/Synchronous Lectures & Activities

  • Determine which tool fits your needs: View U-M’s Videoconferencing Tool Comparison to help you make a decision about which tool to use based on the set of features you need. 
  • Ask students to turn cameras on if they are comfortable: It can be easier to lecture when you can see student expressions.
  • Utilize gallery view: Leave room at the top of slides so that you may see students in gallery view over your screen share.
  • For small or medium-sized classes, encourage students to use chat: To minimize disruption, ask students to turn their microphones off and encourage them to enter questions via the Chat function in Zoom Meetings.
  • For large classes, consider using the Q&A feature in Webinar mode: To help you stay on top of student questions during larger classes, consider using Zoom’s Q&A in Webinar mode instead of Chat. The Q&A feature can either be set to private — where the questions only show in your inbox — or public, where students can answer each other’s questions and, if enabled, upvote each other’s questions. To determine whether Zoom Meetings (Chat) or Zoom Webinars (Q&A) are right for you, click here.
  • Repeat or paraphrase questions: Repeating, paraphrasing, and restating questions from students posed during live classes ensures that other learners are able to clearly hear student questions/responses and they’re captured in the recording.
  • Require some (not all) note-taking: This helps keep online learners engaged.
  • Use breakout rooms: Breakout rooms to allow online learners to engage in smaller groups with classmates.
  • Incorporate collaborative tools: Document-sharing tools such as Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Jamboard can increase engagement and support instructor-student interaction and student-student interaction for breakout room exercises.
  • Make a recording available within 24 hours: This is important to help students stay on schedule if they were absent from the synchronous session or had technical issues. In addition, offering a backup recording allows students to review content at their own pace and understand what they may have struggled learning during a synchronous session.
  • Establish a contingency plan. Determine your course of action ahead of time for situations where you or a student encounter a technical difficulty.

ferpa compliance for recorded activities

With the increase use of recording, it is an important time to review the FERPA requirements around the re-use of recordings. Recordings of class activities in which students are seen or heard are educational records and fall under FERPA requirements. If you are using the recorded material for the course and term you recorded it there is no real concern, as long as you include a statement about recording class sessions in your syllabus.

If you plan to use the recorded material for other terms or purposes, including sharing it with students outside the existing course, there are a number of steps you should take to make sure you comply with the regulations. This would also apply if you are planning to use a previous term’s recordings for the upcoming fall semester. Review tips for ensuring that you are making FERPA compliant recordings for more information. These tips include:

  1. Course syllabus language regarding recordings
  2. Instructions for obtaining consent from students for reusing recordings
  3. How to exclude participant video from Zoom cloud recordings


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