Highlights from the 2014 Northeast E-Learning Consortium Conference: Part 2

-By Ashley Canning and Nola Coulson, Educational Technology

Earlier this month, the Educational Technology Instructional Design team had the opportunity to attend the Northeast E-Learning Consortium Conference at Villanova University. This year’s theme was student engagement. Here are a few more highlights from the event (this is part two of a two-part series).

Synchronous Class Meetings

We attended two different sessions on synchronous class meetings. The presenters in each session discussed best practices of conducting synchronous class meetings via webinar. Features of a webinar include two-way audio, multi-point video, chat, hand-raising, polling, screen sharing and recording the sessions.

The lists below discusses best practices for instructors when preparing and conducting a session.

  • Be prepared. This includes spending time learning the webinar system and its capabilities and preparing your presentation material.
  • Avoid distraction. Sit in a quiet space.
  • Login to session early to make sure everything is working properly.
  • Welcome each student individually at the beginning of each session
  • Show webcam at the beginning of the session and have students show their webcams at the beginning of the session and talk informally to check their microphones and speakers and to promote a sense of community.
  • Make the session interactive. Use the polling, chat and whiteboard features.
  • Record the sessions, so students can review the webinar and revisit the topics covered at a later time.

Also discussed was the importance of preparing students.

  • Create a FAQ document, including system requirements.
  • Provide a video overview of how to access session and use the tools within the session.
  • Have students login to the system before the first session to perform a trial run on their computers.
  • Provide students with support contact information, should they encounter any technical issues.

By following the best practices above, you can help to ensure a successful and engaging synchronous webinar session.

Preparing and Engaging the Online Learner

This session discussed the importance of orienting students to the online environment and using interactive techniques to engage learners.

The presenters created a self-paced course that students were recommended to complete in order to prepare for taking an online class. Topics included how to navigate the online course management system as well as how to use the system’s learning tools.  The course also provided examples of how to complete tasks like posting to the discussion board, submitting assignments, taking tests etc.

The Duquesne Educational Technology Department has a Blackboard Student Orientation that is available to all students in Blackboard under their My Courses area. This orientation includes the following sections: navigation and course content, Blackboard tools (for example – submitting assignments, using the discussion board, sending email, viewing grades, and using collaborate web conferencing) and how to get technical help.

The presenters went on to talk about how faculty can engage students in an online setting by using the following techniques and tools.

  • Design the course in an organized manner, so students can easily navigate the course and stay on task. To do this, create folders that include weekly objectives, readings, and required and supplemental activities.
  • Create a sense of community within your course by using icebreakers. For example, have students introduce themselves in the discussion board or a blog post.
  • Use a variety of tools that help students reach learning goals, while being engaged.
  • Provide short video lectures on course topics.

By making an online course interactive and engaging you are helping students to connect with you, their peers, and the course content. These connections help them to reach higher levels of thinking and retain topics long after the course has ended.

What Do You Want to Learn More About?

Want to learn more about any of these topics? Select one or more topics below and we’ll blog about them in a future post!


Agresta, J., Dos Santos, M., Wagner, W. (2014, November) Real-time Students Engagement via the Web. Presentation at the Northeast E-Learning Consortium, Philadelphia, PA.

Perun, S. (2014, November) Promoting Meaningful Student Engagement in Synchronous Classrooms. Presentation at the Northeast E-Learning Consortium, Philadelphia, PA.

Simms, M., Darlington, S. (2014, November) Preparing and Engaging the Online Learner. PowerPoint presentation at the Northeast E-Learning Consortium, Philadelphia, PA.

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