Use Synchronous Sessions to Build Community and Connect Globally

Tags: , , , , , , ,


Only a small percentage of students participate in study abroad programs and many groups are underrepresented. There is little diversity in race, gender and ethnicity nor access for non-traditional, lower socioeconomic groups, those with disabilities and first generation college students (Fischer, 2012). Using synchronous online meeting tools to create globally networked learning experiences can enable all students to have a meaningful international experience, combat a student’s sense of isolation in fully online courses, and build community. However, simply calling for all your students to be online at the same time does not create a meaningful experience that will contribute to meeting course objectives. It is important to allow time for thoughtful planning about how you will design the sessions and collaborate with your partner. Here is an approach for planning your collaboration with your partner and setting up your synchronous session around role playing.

If you don’t already have an international partner, the SUNY COIL center ( is a good place to start. Other sources to locate partners are: Virtual Exchange Coalition ( and Skype in the Classroom ( You also might want to reach out to universities with whom your institution already has international agreements.

A collaboration does not need to be an exact match in content. An interdisciplinary collaboration can add a lot of value for students and faculty. A collaboration does not need to be for an entire semester, however, a minimum of 2 -3 weeks is recommended. The most successful international collaborations include multiple synchronous virtual meetings, a format for asynchronous online interaction (LMS, blogs, etc.), a virtual collaborative exercise, and informal communication channels (Facebook, What’s App, etc.).

As a first step share the collaboration document with your partner. We then suggest the following steps for a sample 3 week collaboration:


  • An asynchronous “icebreaker” discussion to build excitement and give learners a chance to informally get to know one another and learn about each other’s culture.
  • Students voluntarily enroll in the informal communication channel.


  • A live session focused on getting to know one another. Ask students to do some research about the other country and come prepared to ask at least one question. As you plan your live session, you can use the synchronous session checklist as a guide.
  • Assign an exercise to be completed in pairs or teams composed of students from both countries. Some sample exercises are shared in Artifacts.


  • Another live session to share the results of their joint exercise and their experiences working together across cultures.
  • A concluding asynchronous discussion.
  • An anonymous final evaluation of the experience.

Link to example artifact(s)


  • Patrice Torcivia Prusko Cornell University
  • Lorette Pellettiere Calix SUNY Empire State College

As an example of an exercise to integrate students from the two countries, we include a video and instructions for a role play exercise on cross-cultural negotiations. Students were assigned to teams with 2-3 students from each country. They had to organize and meet on their own to plan and record their work. Sharing this task helped to establish relationships that endured beyond the collaboration period. Instead of recording, the students could enact the role plays during a synchronous session, but would still need to meet on their own beforehand to prepare.

Link to scholarly reference(s)

Calix, L. P., & Prusko, P. T. (2015). Building Community with synchronous sessions. 31st Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning. 350-354.

Calix, L. P., & Prusko, P. T. (2015) Synchronous activities for online synchronous class. Online Classrooms, Magna.

Calix, L. P., & Prusko, P. T. (2014) Technology to foster cross-cultural student collaboration. SUNY Empire State College All About Mentoring, 45, 30-38.

Calix, L.P. ,& Prusko, P. T. (2013) The value of a virtual term abroad. SUNY Empire State College All About Mentoring, 44, 94-99.

Fisher, K. (2012). Colleges are urged to try new approaches to diversify study abroad. Retrieved from:


Prusko, P. T., & Calix, L. P. (2016). Use synchronous sessions to build community and connect globally. In B. Chen & K. Thompson (Eds.), Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Center for Distributed Learning.

Post Revisions:

Click to rate this post!
[Total: 0 Average: 0]