Conducting Online Meetings

Most teachers at the TU Darmstadt currently hold their online meetings with the web conferencing system Zoom instead of teaching in presence. Sometimes online meetings are also held to conduct hybrid teaching. Different implementation variants are depending on the type of course. Especially in online-only teaching, we recommend using online meetings with care and encouraging interaction in a targeted way.

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Online-Only Teaching & Hybrid Teaching

With the occurrence of the Corona pandemic, the necessity arose to rethink teaching scenarios: at the TU Darmstadt, in the first step, for the most part completely online, in the meantime also partly as hybrid teaching settings.

Online meetings, which are conducted with the help of a web conferencing system , play an important role both in online-only teaching, because they enable “meeting each other” and live discussion. They also enable the active participation of online participants in a hybrid course, which takes place on-site with some students.

Learn more about hybrid teaching settings

Considerations about online-meetings in online-only teaching settings

If online meetings are implemented in online-only teaching, this is the closest to the usual face-to-face teaching. – People meet regularly. The usual teaching-learning rhythm is maintained. – Accordingly, in online-only teaching, many courses now take place in Zoom meeting rooms instead of the usual lecture hall. We would like to consider some aspects of this common practice.

Based on these, we recommend: use online meetings with care.

Is it necessary to have live sessions every week?

Online meetings are worthwhile to facilitate direct interaction. However, if pure knowledge transfer takes place in the form of a presentation, this can also be pre-produced in the form of a video and made available on the Learning Management System . Students can watch these at their own pace. In addition, online meetings can be held in smaller groups for targeted interaction and discussion of questions.

It is also important to keep in mind:

  • Online live formats often generate high data loads (with an increasing number of participants).
  • Not all students can participate live in the course (e.g., for technical reasons); for these, documentation should be made available on the Learning Management System.
  • Designing online meetings interactively is challenging (technically and didactically) and should be well prepared.

Based on the number of participants and the desired amount of interaction in a course, the following implementation variants for online meetings usually result. The transitions are fluid, but the larger the group, the more challenging it is to design an online meeting interactively.

The group is still small enough for the participants to have a direct interaction with each other via sound and possibly video – moderated by you as the lecturer.

  • possible for seminars, exercises, tutorials, group work (up to 20 – 30 participants)
  • a high amount of interaction possible through direct audio/video communication, chat and screen sharing to show each other something

Interactive Design

Even if the technical possibilities and the smaller number of participants theoretically allow a high amount of interaction, participants are often reserved if the interaction is not specifically encouraged and moderated.

Here is a selection of several methods:

  • Use of whiteboard or temporary work in group workrooms (possible with the web conferencing systems Adobe Connect and Zoom (via breakout sessions))
  • Involvement of further online tools, for example:
    • for live voting
    • for collecting information (Padlet , ),
    • for mindmapping (Mindmeister )

Get more ideas to encourage interaction.

Online meetings conducted in a presentation format are usually characterised by a low level of interaction. This is often caused by a larger group size, where a direct interaction via audio/video is no longer workable. Communication between participants is usually limited to chat.

  • possible for small to medium-sized lectures (up to 300 students)
  • presentations are usually shown via screen sharing
  • meeting room settings should be set so that participants are muted when they enter and their video is switched off

With increasing teaching experience and knowledge of the web conferencing system, the level of interaction can also be increased in this format.

Possibilities for more interactivity and variety:

  • More than one person presents an input (there should be a moderator for this setting).
  • Students can write questions in the chat, these are collected and the lecturer responds to them at certain times (here, too, a moderator is advisable who monitors the chat and collects the questions).
  • Targeted question sessions via the chat or the report function, i.e., the lecturer asks a question and the students should answer via the chat or the raise hand feature. Then their microphone is actively switched on.
  • Include live voting to encourage students to “think and stay tuned”, just as in a face-to-face lecture (live voting systems or polls in the web conferencing systems can be used for this).
  • Interrupt the presentation format during the lecture and include phases that are more seminar-like, e.g., by having the large group work temporarily in group workrooms (possible with Adobe Connect and Zoom (via breakout sessions)).
  • Creative implementation of activating didactic methods also in larger courses – take a look at our collection of ideas to encourage interaction .

Alternative to online meetings in presentation formats

Alternatively, the presentation-oriented knowledge transfer can be outsourced to pre-produced videos that are made available on the Learning Management System . In addition, you can offer smaller online meetings (e.g., supported by tutors), which are more interactive in the form of seminars to enable a direct interaction and to discuss questions.

You can also encourage interaction in the asynchronous learning phases via the Learning Management System to give students a feeling of social inclusion. This is often a neglected but important success factor for the learning process and a challenge in larger courses, especially online.

Recording online meetings

In principle, it is also possible to record online meetings in presentation format – as a backup and to make them available to students (who could not participate) later via the Learning Management System.

You should generally ask for the consent of the participants! – This is particularly important if individual participants are recorded via audio/video contributions or by name in the chat.

Especially for courses with a large number of participants, there is also the technical option of offering them as a live stream.

Live streams can be implemented with the web conferencing systems Zoom , DFNconf, and with the video content management system Panopto .

The live stream of a lecture is an option for very large numbers of participants and means a 1-to-N transmission, mostly without a discussion channel, i.e., zero interaction. It has a lower data load than an online meeting, which means that a more stable connection can be expected. However, setting up a live stream can be technically challenging.

Students access the live stream via link (distributed by the lecturer in advance). But they do not join the online room. This means that you as the lecturer do not see any participants at that moment.

Tips and Hints:

  • You can still provide moments of interaction for your students by conducting live votings and it creates a feedback channel that makes the participants visible.
  • You can also record streams – as a backup and make them available to students later via the Learning Management System.
  • An alternative and technically much simpler and more secure solution, but without a “live moment”, is the pre-produced lecture recording , which is made available to the students on the Learning Management System at certain times.

Online meetings are not only helpful in current online teaching. There are also settings in classical face-to-face teaching in which online meetings are a helpful addition. For some of them, the transition to hybrid teaching is fluid.


  • Online consultation hours can be conducted flexibly in terms of location, even with several students. The teacher can, for example, use a tablet and the whiteboard function to show arithmetic tasks. The students can ask questions via microphone/chat.
  • International cooperations in courses can be realised more easily with the help of online meetings.
  • External experts who could otherwise only be invited to the course at great expense (time, travel costs) can be easily connected to an expert discussion via the web conferencing system.
  • Presentations can be followed live online via the web conferencing system and questions can be asked via the chat channel – for example, in the case of presentations by invited speakers that you would like to open up to a group of people who cannot be present on site.