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A Starter Guide for

Engaging Online Meetings

Learning & Leading in the Virtual Classroom

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Online meetings are unforgettable when you use activities to facilitate discussion & learning

When participants are fully engaged, a video meeting can be more demanding of human attention than a F2F meeting. A one-hour Zoom meeting can be a powerful tool for supporting a learning community when you use time well for these purposes: 

  1. Emotional Check In (10 minutes)

  2. Provide New information (15 minutes)

  3. Small Group Discussion with Create-to-Learn Activity (20 minutes)

  4. Large Group Synthesis & Reflection (10)

  5. Parting Words (5 minutes)


Creating Media to Support Dialogue

The opportunity to collaborate with others and create something to display and share proves to be a highly motivating activity.


Create a Google slide deck with open access that you share with people in your online meeting. Small group breakout groups are responsible for creating a slide to represent a key idea from their discussion. 

FROM THE FRONT LINES. Participants choose one of four groups (K-12 education, college, library, and the home) and work in small breakout groups to share stories and discuss their experiences. They produce a single slide using images and language to capture key ideas. In the last 15 minutes of the meeting, participants share their slides with the large group. 

Because I am passionate about media literacy, one of my favorite online facilitation activities is the

Image Analysis Protocol. Check it out! 

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Some advice from

Renee Hobbs on facilitation: 

  • Show that you are paying attention with head nods and facial expression

  • Start on time and end on time

  • Use comprehension checks to make sure people understand the flow of activity

  • When using breakout groups, join each one briefly to answer questions or keep people on task

  • Summarize or restate key ideas that arise in a discussion

  • Make connections between ideas when needed

  • Use cold calling to ensure that all voices are heard

  • Vary the routines: use surprise to enhance novelty 


Use a pen or pencil as a "talking stick" to encourage people to visually signal their interest in speaking. When someone raises their talking stick, the person currently speaking symbolically passes the stick to the person of their choice. This creates conversational flow without the moderator's control.  

REMEMBER: Teaching online requires additional considerations than just meeting your students in the virtual classroom.

Reflect on these questions to improve your capacity for facilitating meetings:


  • What are some similarities between the F2F and the virtual meeting?

  • What are the differences that exist between these two spaces?

  • What concerns do I have about online meetings?

  • Are there activities I feel I might not be able to accomplish?

  • What are some opportunities to engage people in a virtual meeting space?

  • How can I use the virtual meeting space to create opportunities that I have not utilized in the regular meeting room?

  • How might I be able to address issues of access, including digital skills, Internet connectivity, and hardware?

  • How might I be able to address people's social and emotional needs when they are not logging in, keeping their screen off, or not participating in activities?

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