Getting started with synchronous online course development

The Office of Digital Learning has put together the following information to help you get started in planning for your synchronous online course. For general questions regarding synchronous learning, please contact the Office of Digital Learning.

Make sure you understand what is meant by “synchronous” online learning

In a synchronous online course, the instructor and students are online at the same time. Course material is delivered and discussions occur in real time, using web conferencing (e.g., Zoom) or similar technology. Students can ask questions, take tests, or participate in discussions online while the instructor is available to assist them.

The alternative to synchronous online courses are asynchronous online courses, in which course materials (lectures, readings, discussion forums, assessments, etc.) are prepared in advance and made available for students to access and engage with on their own schedules. Asynchronous courses do not include set meeting times.

If you are interested in developing an asynchronous online course, please contact the Office of Digital Learning for more information on how to get started.

Submit an Online Course Approval Request Form in Curriculog

To begin the course development process, the faculty member or department representative will need to submit the Online Course Approval Request Form in Curriculog. The form will need to be approved by the department head, the college dean, the Office of Digital Learning, the Vice Provost for Online Education, and the Office of the Provost.

Meet with an instructional designer from the Office of Digital Learning

Once you have been approved to teach a synchronous online course, make an appointment with an instructional designer who will work with you and be a resource throughout your synchronous course development process.

Review the University Standards for Digital Instruction

Make sure to review the University Standards for Digital Instruction. Please keep these standards in mind when designing and building the online component of your course.

Download the synchronous online course template from Canvas Commons

ODL has created a Synchronous Online Course Template for use by faculty in developing their online courses. This template provides a basic structure of a synchronous online course, including weekly modules, activities, and assessments. The template also provides information on what the faculty member should fill in to meet the University Standards for Digital instruction, as well as links to screenshot tutorials on how different tools within WebCampus work.

You can find ODL’s Synchronous Online Course Template by logging in to WebCampus, then clicking the Commons button on the global navigation menu to the left of the page. Use the search bar to search for “ODL SYNCHRONOUS ONLINE course template.” Then click the Import/Download button to the left of the page.

Alternatively, you may email the Office of Digital Learning to request that the template be loaded into your course for you.

Attend workshops and register for training

The Office of Digital Learning offers faculty development programs in teaching and learning. These programs go deeper than individual workshops and trainings to promote faculty knowledge and encourage innovative practice in teaching. Click here to explore workshops and trainings.

Please contact the Office of Digital Learning so that an Instructional Designer can enroll you into our Online Course Design Basics course. This training is beneficial for anyone that is teaching a course online on WebCampus, regardless of the modality.

Install, set up, and schedule Zoom sessions

Synchronous online teaching occurs over Zoom, which is the primary web conferencing tool available for the University. The University of Nevada, Reno licenses the Zoom for Education plan for all faculty, staff, and students. This plan allows for unlimited duration meetings, meeting capacity of 300, and cloud video storage for recorded meetings. Please visit the University of Nevada, Reno Zoom web portal to provision your account.

Prior to teaching, you must familiarize yourself with this tool. Please carefully read the Zoom information for instructors section of ODL’s Zoom webpage, which includes the following information:

  • Setting up your Zoom and starting a session
  • Guiding students in joining a session
  • Troubleshooting common issues
  • Enabling captioning, recording, and securing Zoom sessions
  • Adding co-hosts, allowing students to present, and more