Thoughtful design and a well-choreographed plan are the keys to successfully executing any event be it a wedding, Arkells concert, media production, or synchronous lecture.

This chapter will focus on the design and planning of synchronous lectures, tutorials, and labs with the assumption that your teaching team and production resources might not be as extensive as a wedding, concert, or media production. It is also assumed that readers will have little to no experience with synchronous teaching at McMaster University or otherwise.

Design vs Planning

Using the context of your synchronous component, the design will concentrate on setting the tone of the learning environment (e.g. norms and guidelines), deciding on which tools you might use for synchronous activities (e.g. polling or chat for feedback?)  and communication strategies (e.g. unmute or chat for discussions),

The plan will map out all the things you need to do before (prepare), during (delivery), and after (feedback and follow up) your lecture. This structure of this plan will be reminiscent of that used in lesson plans.

Learning Design

Staying with the context of your synchronous component, your lesson plan is yet another entity in this process. Designing your students’ learning experiences (content, activities, assessments) using universal design for learning and instruction design principles will provide students with meaningful learning opportunities, regardless of when or where the learning is taking place.

If you are new to learning design or would like a refresher, Level I: Learning Outcomes, An Overview of Active Learning and Storyboarding your Course will nicely supplement upcoming topics in this chapter.

Priority considerations when designing and planning synchronous components

  • Wellness and Care Zoom fatigue is a legitimate concern. Foster a learning environment that supports and promotes healthy learning experiences for your students, your teaching team, and yourself.
  • Inclusivity and Accessibility – Design for an equitable environment that strives to eliminate barriers to learning.Teaching in an Accessible and Inclusive Classroom provides an overview of inclusion, accessibility, and accommodations as well as 12 “Tips for Creating an Accessible and Inclusive Classroom”.
    • Live Captions – Ensure the students have access to live captions during your session.
    • Captioned Recordings – Synchronous teaching components must be recorded and captioned. The does not include office hours and private discussions.
    • Accessible Presentation – Maximize your student connections with “General Presentation Techniques” in this Accessible Presentation guide (e.g. blind and low-vision students will not benefit from prompts like “Look at this”).
    • Culturally-Responsive Teaching – Integrate learning strategies that acknowledge the diversity of learners at the University.
  • Student Privacy – Students should not be required to turn their camera on. For more on privacy in synchronous sessions, read the Online Classroom Privacy FAQ on the University Secretariate website.


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Blended Teaching: A Guide for Applying Flexible Practices during COVID-19 Copyright © by Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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