91 Synchronous Online Discussion

Synchronous Online Discussion

Structuring synchronous discussion groups through the use of ground rules and reflection

When planning a synchronous meeting Armstrong and Thornton (2012) stress two recommendations: (1) care must be taken to ensure that the sessions are well planned, well organized, and effectively facilitated, and (2) the principles of democratic instruction must be followed. 


Ground Rules: 

General ground rules for all discussions held in the synchronous session include (Brookfield, 2007):

  • Speak one at a time for 2 minutes as called by the facilitator
  • No interruptions
  • No criticism of anyone’s answers, even if they are incorrect
  • Mutual respect by and for everyone in the discussion
  • Communicate in the clearest way possible
  • Provide the most accurate/comprehensive answer possible
  • Genuinely try to be understood by others

The Classroom Critical Incident Questionnaire (Student Self-Reflection): 

This questionnaire serves as a weekly reflection for the synchronous online discussion session and allows the instructor and student to examine additional areas that may need to be addressed. This questionnaire could be hosted via Desire2Learn, email, etc.  What follows is a synopsis of the Classroom Critical Incident Questionnaire (Brookfield & Thornton, 2012), please see the cited reference for the original document.


Please take about 5 minutes to respond to each of the questions below:

  1. At what moment in class, this week did you feel most engaged with what was happening?
  2. At what moment in class, this week did you feel most distanced from what was happening?
  3. What action by anyone (teacher or student) in class this week did you find most affirming or helpful?
  4. What action by anyone (teacher or student) in class this week did you find most puzzling or confusing?
  5. What surprised you the most about the class this week?


Armstrong, A., Thornton, N., (2012). Incorporating Brookfield’s discussion techniques synchronously into asynchronous online courses. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 13(1), pp.1-9

Brookfield, S. (n.d.). Critical Incident Questionnaire. In The Classroom Critical Incident Questionnaire.  


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