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Online lecture

Brief description

In an online lecture the educator communicates course content (using a whiteboard, PowerPoint presentation or similar) to students in an online setting instead of an auditorium. There are various ways of actively involving the students during the online lectures, for example, by using Mentimeter, Padlet and similar technologies that support students' understanding of the content.

Activate students during your presentation

You can activate students during your lecture to engage them in the content and to create variation in the lecture. By doing this, you can support active listening and hence help students remember and make meaning out of the presented content. Below a few suggestions for supporting students’ active listening.

  • Start out with an icebreaker
    Start with an icebreaker to engage students from the beginning of your lecture- this can be done together or in breakout rooms in Zoom. Getting students to talk early sets the expectation that this will be an interactive lecture.
  • Use the chat for questions - check it often
    During your lecture you can encourage students to write questions in the chat or in Mentimeter. Make sure to check for questions regularly or ask students to speak up if there is a question – it can be challenging to monitor the chat and to present content at the same time.
    • If needed you can appoint one or more students to monitor the chat, if there are many students in your class, or if you expect many questions.
  • Support note-taking
    Many students take notes so consider supporting students’ notetaking by providing a scaffold. This can be achieved with skeleton notes which are half-completed notes that students and you then complete during the lecture. Another option is so-called Nifty Notes (Lauridsen, 2016) in which students during short breaks in the lecture fill in a sheet of paper with four fields, each with their own headline
    • Something just covered that is new for me
    • Something I suddenly understand
    • Something I want to investigate further
    • Something I do not quite understand yet

You can share inspiration for notetaking from AU Studypedia with your students.

  • Make votes and quizzes
    Ask the students questions during the lecture and sum up in a vote or quiz where students can answer anonymously, and everyone can see the collected answers (again anonymously). This engages active listening and reflection on the subject. You can use Mentimeter, polls in zoom etc. For more guides go to quiz, tests and voting
  • Use breakout rooms for group discussions
    Make sure students get a chance to talk to each other – especially if they are quiet during your lecture. Consider using several small and fast group exercises/discussions or fewer more time-consuming group works. Remember online lectures are in general more time-consuming than physical lectures. The solution, however, is not to skip interaction – the solution is to select content more carefully.
  • Turn on the webcam
    If you want to engage with your audience, ask students to turn on the camera - especially when slides are not presented. You can also ask students to make hand gestures during your lecture for example to signal yes/no/thumbs up.

Video lectures

Video lectures can be a great way to supplement your (online) lectures and to support student preparation. However, be aware of the attention span for watching video lectures. Research suggests that viewers have a short attention span when watching web-based educational videos and that the ideal duration is no longer than 6–12 minutes. The following suggestions can be helpful in creating educational video lectures:


  • Use particularly difficult examples (derivations, argumentations, calculations) in your video lectures as the students can then go over them more than once.
  • Produce the videos using already available software such as Zoom, Screencast-O-Matic or Panopto. For more details go to video and sound
  • Divide your content into logical shorter chunks of 6-12 minutes. Rather several short videos than one long one.
  • Develop questions and other activities that activate students in connection with the content of each video. You can use mentimeter, padlet, discussion forum or the test tool in Blackboard/Brightspace.
  • Link the videos, other material, and activities together. This can be done by means of  Panopto activities in Brightspace.

Support independent studies

One of the main challenges in (online) lectures is presenting too much content because this will significantly reduce what students take away from your lecture. To avoid this, consider reducing your presented content and asking students to read and work with selected sections of your textbook or similar asynchronously. In addition, support this independent study work by:

  • Make a thorough reading guide
    The reading guide should guide students thoroughly through the materials, using an explicit description of what to read, why, explanation of contexts, and so on.
  • Guiding questions
    Ask students to be able to answer certain guiding questions after reading a chapter or a scientific paper.
  • Supplement with quizzes
    Provide students with reading quizzes, helping them to remember and apply concepts and words they have read in a textbook/scientific paper or heard in a video. Consider adding feedback or hints to guide students towards correct answers. These quizzes can be merged with the reading guide in a learning path. Read more about how to put quizzes in videos in Blackboard.
  • Supplement with videos, as suggested above
    This can be done using Zoom or, for instance, with screencasting. Screencasting is to record a video of your screen, including audio and webcam. You can read more about screencasts. The video can then be shared on Brightspace via Panopto.
  • Auditorium recordings or webcast studio
    In some cases, it may be necessary to record lectures in an auditorium or webcast studio. Contact CED for more information.

Worth considering

Video meetings limit your physical teaching options as you cannot use the entire room but only the space shown by the camera. Consider how you as a teacher appear on screen and use the necessary pedagogical instruments to make up for the lack of physical presence and movement. Consider your body language, for instance, and your facial expressions, gestures and tone of voice.

Test the connections before the video chat or online teaching situation begins.

Good advice for better online meetings:

  • Cable Internet is highly recommended! (You may need to move closer to your router).
  • Check the connection well in advance, and press “mute” on the channel.
  • It may be an advantage to use earplugs.
  • Check if all microphone settings are working.
  • You may turn off the microphone when you are not speaking.

Further reading

  • Healey, M., & Jenkins, A. (2009): Developing undergraduate research and inquiry. York: The Higher Education Academy.
  • Ramsden, R., Margetson, D., Martin, E., & Clarke, S. (1995): Recognising and Rewarding Good Teaching in Australian Higher Education: A project Commissioned by the Committee for the Advancement of University Teaching (Final Report). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.
  • Skodvin, A., Flyum, K. H., Knudsen, G., & Simonsen, E. (red.) (2011): Forelesningens kunst. Oslo: Unipub.
  • Lauridsen, O. (2016) Hjernen og læring. København: Akademisk Forlag


Please contact the editors at AU Educate if you have any questions about the content of the platform or if you need consultation on your teaching from one of the many skilled professionals at the Centre for Educational Development