University of Wisconsin–Madison

Live Virtual Discussions in Hybrid Classes

The importance of Live Virtual Discussions in Hybrid Classes

Live virtual discussions in hybrid classes allow students and instructors to collaborate remotely in real time. This happens through an online video call, where students join a virtual classroom run by their instructor. Through computer cameras and microphones, all members of the class can speak out when necessary, and show their face while doing so. Instructors are also able to share slideshows, videos, and other online resources using the share screen function, which makes their content viewable to the class. Breakout groups are a great way to facilitate small group discussion amongst students, as this feature splits the class into private rooms for collaborative purposes. Instructors are able to join and leave all breakout groups in order to monitor student progress or contribute to the discussion. Live virtual discussion can be an effective replacement for in-person discussion when students and instructors are equally engaged in the conversation, and treat it like they are in the room together.

What does Live Virtual Discussion look like in Hybrid classes?

Live Virtual Mediums

  • Allow students to converse in real time through a synchronous video call
  • Students and instructors can directly share their work, post links, and chat remotely
  • Instructors can create polls to gauge student opinions and track their learning
  • Online breakout groups allow for efficient small group discussion

3 Tips for Leading a Successful Live Virtual Discussion

Create an Inviting Classroom Environment

It is important for instructors to involve their students from day one in order to increase comfortability within the classroom environment. When students feel they are apart of a welcoming community, they are more likely to contribute to the discussion, which opens the door to valuable new perspectives. Ultimately, discussion should be a low-stakes activity, and while expanding student knowledge is always the top priority, instructors play a vital role in making that process enjoyable and worthwhile for their students.

Treat it Like You Are In the Room Together

Students are more likely to exhibit multitasking behavior while behind a screen than they are in an in-person setting (Lepp et al., 2019). These behaviors, such as sending text messages, using social media, or listening to music, can distract students from valuable learning opportunities and limit their engagement in the conversation at hand. It is important to treat synchronous discussions like each member of the class is in the room with you. Initiating back-and-fourth conversation with students and encouraging them to turn on their cameras are two strategies for creating that face-to-face feel.

Ensure Proper Access to Discussion Materials

Technology can be unpredictable, so providing students with links to campus tech support and other how-to guides can create a more fluid online experience and make it easier for them to participate in discussion. Instructors should develop a plan to accommodate those experiencing difficulties, and make sure they are readily accessible to students in need of help. For classes using live virtual discussions, it is important to stick to one permanent discussion link that can be used for each class period throughout the semester. This prevents any confusion about how to join and participate in the discussion. Additionally, sharing course material with students ahead of time may alleviate some of the stress of preparing for discussion, and help strengthen the focus and quality of conversation. This may take the form of a pre-recorded lecture, required reading, or other online resource.

Implementation Guides:

Resources and References

College Students’ Multitasking Behavior in Online Versus Face-to-Face Courses – Andrew Lepp, Jacob E. Barkley, Aryn C. Karpinski, and Shweta Singh (2019)