Interactive seminars (working groups) are an important part of academic education. Although some elements of the traditional seminar should be reconsidered, it is absolutely possible to create the academic setting of the seminar in an online learning experience.
You could use this...
- To help students gain a better understanding of the course’s content by facilitating more complex cognitive processes such as understanding, applying, analysing and evaluating.
- To create a moment where students can contribute to the program and the learning experience of their peers.
- To combine different formats in one session, e.g. a simulation, debate and peer feedback.
Keep in mind
- Consider the group size. This method works with groups of up to 20 students. If the group is larger it’s difficult to ensure the active participation and contributions of all participants. If you plan to use moderators and break-out sessions, it is possible to serve about 10 extra students, but this is not recommended.
- Interactivity is key. In a seminar, interactive working methods are essential. If these are not used sufficiently, it will turn into just another online lecture for a small group.
- Combine formats, as in many cases it will be difficult to achieve all set goals or devised work forms within one format. Do not hesitate to combine different formats: as long as this is clearly communicated, this should not lead to confusion.
- Don’t overestimate tech skills. Although students are used to working on computers and might use different educational platforms, don’t assume that they will understand everything immediately. Take some time to explain the used tools and their functionalities or provide tutorials.
- Go easy on the tooling. There are many tools and applications available to support online seminars. It’s recommended to work with the minimum amount of tools needed and only elaborate when you feel comfortable enough.
Options & examples
There are several options for facilitating online interaction and collaboration. Below are some that are used within Leiden University or that require little preparation. Of course, you do not have to choose only one format, sometimes a (combination of) other format(s) offer(s) a good solution.
- A digital seminar with break-out sessions
Digital seminars can be set up using Kaltura Live Room. The plenary part of the session should be used for activities that are relevant for the whole group, like announcements, instructions, and sharing conclusions. Students can work in smaller groups - the so-called break-out rooms - to work on assignments together or have small group discussions.
- A discussion
Academic discussions can be conducted live, but also in text. For example, a forum or a chat can be used for this. Just remember that the discussion should be moderated, just like it would be in real life. We advise you to visit the Discussions & debates page on this website for more tips.
- Simulating conversations
Practising professional communication skills is essential in many programs, e.g. when stating a diagnosis, giving consultancy advice, or defending a case. These simulations can be done in small-groups online settings, where students are assigned to a specific role they need to prepare and execute. For more information on this topic, have a look at the Simulation & Serious Games page on this website.
- A collaborative product
By having students work on a joint end-product that other students can learn from, knowledge and skills can be applied. Think for example of a podcast, advice report, or knowledge clip. The end-products can be shared during a seminar, so others can learn from it too. As a teacher, you guide and supervise the process when needed. You can visit the Collaborative Learning page on this website for more information.
In addition to the above-mentioned points, there are many other formats that can be a part of the working group. You can find all of them in this section on the website, or have a look at the overview at the Formats and Activities page.
Tools Supported by Leiden University
- Kaltura Liveroom for live sessions.
You can find a template for slides here.
- Use discussion fora in your learning management systems: