Modality Expectations

In lectures delivered live online, embedded interactions and discussions are designed for remote, yet "present" learners. While these sessions may be recorded, they are generally not intended as enduring references as they include the usual nuances and peculiarities of any live event. 


Best Practices 


Maximize Real-Time Learning


1. Provide Pre-Session Materials

Reserve live, online lecture time for content that is new, cumulative, or particularly complex -in essence, content that will require you to do frequent comprehension checks with learners. Wherever possible, provide materials with which learners can engage independently prior to the lecture (providing clear instructions on how much time student should set aside for the pre-session materials). You can use PennBox (HIPAA Secure) to share many types of files, including videos you create from home.

Tip: Concerned about learners who -because they have not engaged pre-session materials -pull the lecture from focus? Try assigning quick quizzes that correlate with pre-session materials. Online quizzes can be easily created and distributed via Canvas, Qualtrics, and Poll Everywhere.


2. Prepare Yourself

  • Update and Test Technologies. 
    • Computer operating system
    • Web browser
    • Videoconferencing software
    • Webcam, speakers, microphone
    • BlueJeans/Zoom settings
    • Wifi connection

Tip: Interruptions caused by wifi connection strength are common. Communicate Plan B: let your students know what they should do if you lose your ability to deliver your lecture.

  • Minimize Distractions. Close computer programs that may take away your attention or sound notifications during your lecture, and  avoid rooms with air vents or that are near dishwashers, dryers, and other noisy appliances.
  • Check Yourself. Adjust your camera angle and lighting to your preference, and just be generally aware of how your clothing comes across in the typical head and chest shot.
  • Model Flexibility. If a child or family pet appears unexpectedly, the doorbell rings, or the neighbors decide it is a good time to mow the lawn, model flexibility. Be calm and carry on.

3. Create a Positive, Effective Learning Environment

  • Facilitate Introductions. If the group is not too large, use the popcorn method where one person speaks and then calls on the next person till all individuals have done their check-in. At very least, introduce yourself.
  • Pose Warm Up Questions. Ask a question that encourages learners to recall personal experiences related to content you are preparing to deliver or that alludes to pre-session materials.

Tip: Come prepared with LOTS of questions, and then enjoy the silence of wait time: ~10 Seconds 

  • Communicate Your Session Protocols. Create a list of "rules of engagement" for your online live lectures. (Remember, learners likely have multiple instructors, each with their own rules.) Consider showing this list before the start of each session. Your rules should clarify the following:

  1. Breaks. Will you provide breaks? (Breaks are strongly recommended for sessions greater than one hour). How long will they be? When should they be expected?
  2. Attendance. Will you take role? What about late comers or early leavers? Does calling in count, or do you expect learners to show their video?
  3. Participation. What do you expect? Do you prefer the "hand raise" feature? Chat box? Do you require learners show their video at all times, when they speak, ...?
  4. Background. Do you mind if students use custom image or video backgrounds? Do you mind if they are attempts at humor Does your learner population need to be reminded about cleaning up anything that might be captured by their webcams? (This includes proprietary lab data, patient data, as well as any inappropriate personal items.)

4. Follow Up

After your lecture, send a quick follow up communication that ties up any loose ends: answer questions that could not be addressed during the session, summarize next steps, provide additional materials, etc. Include important contact information and key course links in all communications to learners. 

Tip: Not every video recording needs to be an edited, polished production. For example, say you want to create a follow up video to clarify a concept or process learners did not seem to fully grasp in the time allotted for your live, online lecture. When your video is for a very specific learner audience or in response to a particular learning experience, turnaround time is more important than creating an enduring resource.  


5. Enjoy the Adventure



Quick Tech Reference

For Lectures Delivered Live Online

Instructional Purpose Tech Tool Notes
Create an Entire Course or Course "Home" Online
  • Check with relevant Course Directors, Program Directors, etc. for options. 
Share Files With Learners
  • HIPAA compliant
Stream Online Lecture
Engage Learners During Session
  • BlueJeans and Zoom also have embedded features for interactions, such as hand raising and chat.
Use Online Whiteboard
  • Ziteboard is not supported by Penn IT, and Penn does not hold a subscription; however, for instructors that rely on whiteboards, Ziteboard can be used for free with extensive features.
  • BlueJeans and Zoom also have embedded whiteboards.
  • Low-tech whiteboard options: Record yourself using a regular whiteboard.
Collaborative Brainstorming or Sharing Mind Maps
  • Poplet is not supported by Penn IT, and Penn does not hold a subscription; however, for instructors that rely on collaborative brainstorming or mind mapping, Poplet can be used for free with extensive features. 
Create quickie videos for follow-up  
  • BlueJeans and Zoom can be used to record your quick messages to students, even when no one else is online with you.
  • Screencast-O-matic works very well for beginners who just need to create a quick recording, and share it via link with learners. 


Modality Expectations

Pre-recorded lectures are best suited for information that can be segmented into conceptual, procedural, or informational chunk; complex material that may require learners to rewatch segments repeatedly; or material that lends itself to deductive reasoning (i.e., follows a pattern of Point/Principle > Example). This modality IS NOT for content that is reference information; is more efficiently read; or lends itself to inductive reasoning (i.e., follows a pattern of Example>Principle/Point.

Pre-Recorded Lectures Will Maximize Your "Live" Time With Students - Do not play a lecture video during class time -assign it ahead of time.


Equipment Needs: Keep it Simple

  1. Webcam. Standard on laptops and personal devices, such as phones and tablets
  2. Microphone. System microphones are standard, but if you plan to record video or audio regularly, consider a “snowball” or other external mic.
  3. Lighting. Set it up as even, bright, and front-lit
  • Option: Headsets and earbuds help with sound quality


Quick Tech Reference

For Lectures Delivered via Pre-Recorded Video or Audio

Tech Tool Recommendation Links, Instructions, Contacts
MediaSite Desktop
  • Loren Ipsem

Loren Ipsem

  • Best for recording and offering videos from within a Canvas course. 

Panopto is both a recording tool and a video depository. If you are teaching a Penn Canvas-based course, you can also use Panopto to manage and store your videos. 

MS Powerpoint
  • Best for beginners

Narrated slide decks make for effective presentations. One of the easiest ways to create a narrated slide presentation is to record your audio one slide at a time from within MS Powerpoint.

MS Powerpoint plus Techsmith Camtasia

  • Best for more advanced users or if you need both slides and presenter captured on video simultaneously (a way to simulate a MediaSite presentation at home).
  • Best for intermediate users who need a quick screen recording, but not much editing.


Modality Expectations

Learners are present in the physical room or watch the recording later in lieu of attending the live lecture. Learners may also opt to both attend the live, in person lecture, and later use the recording to review lecture material. Many medical school lectures are presently conducted in this way.


Best Practices 

Print-and-Go: Best Practices Tip Sheet: Traditional Lecture

  • Prepare for lectures by seeking answers to key questions.
    • What is the overall goal of the lecture?
    • How does the lecture fit into the overall course?
    • Who are the learners?
  • Provide the learners with an organized framework to structure their reading around a specific question.
  • Inspire and engage the learners to read more on the topic addressed.



Because it is so difficult to simultaneously present to a live, in person audience and an imagined audience who may be watching the recording at a later date, you may want to consider using pre lecture and post lecture materials and communications with learners to set expectations, noting the background information you are assuming that they have, and to address questions that you may have received from your "viewing" as opposed to your "live" learner audience. 

  • Share materials with learners prior to the lecture
  • Engage during the talk
  • Follow up after a lecture
    • Film a quick video 


Learner-Focused Lecturing

Where You Lecture, However You Lecture, The Learner is ALWAYS at the Center


What do you want learners to be able to do, to what degree, and under what conditions?

Consider learners' prior knowledge, concurrent learning experiences, next learning experiences.


How should you organize, design, and present your lecture materials to help learners to meet objectives?

Include a big picture perspective - Describe the organizational framework of your lecture - Provide a rationale for the learning experience - Show connections to learners' prior knowledge.


  • Speak clearly, and with voice modulation
  • "Chunk" lecture into 5-7 minute segments Pre-Recorded Audio or Video
  • Use questions to orient students to the material before presentation starts
  • Offer follow-up sessions via discussion boards or live virtual meetings Live In-Person While Recorded
  • Use "wait time" after posing a question: ~10 seconds
  • Move out from behind the podium Live In Person
  • Encourage bidirectional communication every 5-7 minutes or per major concept
  • Make eye contact with learners > look directly into the camera — Live Online

See Learner-Focused Lecturing section above

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