A Framework for Engaging Students in Synchronous Class Sessions: Interactive Lecture

A Framework for Engaging Students in Synchronous Class Sessions: Interactive Lecture

There is a plethora of strategies and activities for engaging students in the remote learning modality (Amobi 2020, Chick, Friberg & Bessette 2020; Martin & Bollinger, 2018). In a national survey of faculty during the spring COVID-19 pivot, 63% of participants identified student engagement as a major challenge in the transition to remote teaching. In addition, 74% of the same population affirmed that student engagement would be a major instructional priority in fall 2020. How will faculty deliver on this important pedagogical goal? Here is an example.

In this infographic, I present a comprehensive model for planning and implementing a synchronous class session instead of just focusing on engagement activities per se. Interactive lecture is a framework for teaching that combines engaging, focused presentations with active learning activities to promote student learning (Major, 2018; Milner, Kotlicki & Andrzej 2007). It has been used to great advantage in in-person classes, and is applicable to engaging students in synchronous class sessions on Zoom as well.

The framework is organized around three major components that should be included in class planning: Pre-planning, Process, and Close.

Pre-planning focuses on the need to develop the mindset and a workable action plan for making the classroom an inclusive learning environment for all students. It also emphasizes the importance of articulating the purpose of the learning before class begins. Students will be different in the fall. Given the times of trauma and upheaval that we are living through, it is more urgent than ever for instructors to elucidate the purpose and rationale of the learning material.

Process represents the body of the synchronous session. It begins with an emphasis on establishing instructor-learner interaction with students as soon as they begin to log in to the class. Gooblar (2020) reiterates the need to establish mutual trust with students. In other words, make the classroom an inviting and a safe place for students as they are arriving in class. Once class begins, focus of capturing students’ attention and centering it on the learning.

Next, build on the strong beginning with a clear, focused presentation of a chunk of content. A ballistic continuous exposition delivery method will only sap out the engagement momentum (Bruff, 2019). Interactive lecturing exemplifies agile teaching where brief chunks of content are interspersed with engagement activities that involve students in applying what they have learned. Student engagement is not an exclusively instructor initiates-student responds-instructor evaluates (IRE) form of interaction. Rather, it is a three-way approach that encompasses instructor-student, student-student and student-content interaction. This is the essence of real interactive lecturing.

Close indicates that a powerful teaching process calls for a purposeful wrap. The momentum that has been generated during process will be lost if the class ends abruptly or if the last few minutes are taken up with housekeeping announcements. Therefore, it is important to debrief the session with a closing bookend to consolidate student learning. This way, the closing bookend of one class becomes the bridge to the opening bookend of the next class.


Amobi, F. (2020). Four Strategies for Facilitating Group Activities in Remote and Hybrid/Blended Classes.

Bruff, D. (2019). Intentional tech: Principles to guide educational technology in college teaching. Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University Press.

Chick, N., Friberg, J., & Bessette, L.S. (2020). What the research tells us about higher education’s temporary shift to remote teaching: What the public needs to know, from the SoTL community.

Gooblar, D. (2020). Your students will be different this fall.

Major, C. H. (2018). Engaging students through interactive lecturing. NEA Higher Education Advocate, 36(5), 6-9.

Martin, F., & Bolliger, D. U. (2018). Engagement matters: Student perceptions on the importance of engagement strategies in the online learning environment. Online Learning Journal, 22(1), 205-222.

Milner, B., Kotlicki, M., & Andrzej, R. G. (2007). Can students learn from lecture demonstrations? The role and place of interactive lecture experiments in large introductory biology courses. Journal of College Science Teaching, 36(4), 45-49.

Funmi Amobi is an instructional consultant in the Center for Teaching and Learning. She provides pedagogical support to faculty through 1:1 consultations, mini workshops (Sparkshops) on teaching-related topics, dissemination of infographics on evidence-based instructional practices and co-facilitation of faculty learning communities.

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