Synchronous Online Sessions

Synchronous live sessions are online meetings, webinars or collaborative sessions that take place in a video or audio conferencing tool. They are especially important when learning takes place mostly online, but are also powerful in complementing face to face sessions. You can use synchronous live sessions to:

  • present a topic
  • discuss topics with students
  • answer questions about a topic, or a course more generally
  • keep in touch with students
  • enable human connection with and between students when learning takes place mostly online
  • increase student engagement

Students can also use them amongst themselves to collaborate on tasks.

For online or blended learning, aim to include at least one synchronous session per week with students on each unit for an interactive taught session. Make the most of synchronous lecture sessions by including engaging interactions, such as polls or chat throughout. Use engaging and meaningfull tasks before or after a session, to draw out existing knowledge and views, or consolidate and build on the material discussed, respectively. Record these live sessions to provide an asynchronous option for students who cannot attend. This will maximize inclusivity and flexibility, as students will be able to learn from the sessions, even if they couldn't join at the time.


Collaborate, Teams and Zoom include chat, a whiteboard, polling, hand raising, screen, application and file sharing. However the detail of how these work may vary, so you should try them out to ensure they meet your requirements before use.

Synchronous live session tools
 Blackboard Collaborate (Recommended)Teams Zoom
Integrated into Blackboard* Yes No No
Maximum number of participants Standard: 250 – full functionality. Large: 500 – non-presenters can’t share audio, video, or draw on whiteboard. 1000 (standard), (breakout rooms up to 300) 300
Breakout groups Up to 20 in standard sessions (up to 250). Not available in large sessions. Up to 50 (to be set up by the organiser) Up to 50
Attendance tracking in Blackboard Yes No No
Maximum number of participant videos 4 49 in gallery view or together mode  49 per screen, you can swipe to the next screen to see all participants
Guidance and support Collaborate Teams for teaching Zoom guidance

*Integration into Blackboard includes:

  • tool automatically available in all Blackboard spaces
  • when you create sessions, they are automatically available to students enrolled in those spaces
  • tool available to Blackboard groups within spaces
  • recordings and chat logs are automatically stored within the relevant spaces.

Information correct at 27 January 2021. These services are developing rapidly so please check for updates.

Teaching spaces

If you need to video conference in a teaching space, you can use your own computer, or a video conferencing room (Surface Hub or Logitech Meetup enabled).

In teaching spaces, audio from microphones or from computers is channeled to speakers in the room and to the Re/Play recorder. It is not designed to be channeled back into computers, which would be required for video conferencing. There are also no cameras in most teaching spaces, apart from a few required by maths-based subjects that use chalkboards. Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom and Microsoft Teams are not installed on teaching PCs, as without audio or video they would not work (and might popup messages during teaching).