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Synchronous Virtual Learning

Students join live classes to receive real-time support


Virtual schools have many options for structuring their daily schedule, which include when students log on and off, complete assignments, work independently, collaborate with peers, and more. Schools may have flexibility in deciding how often students should meet in a whole group with their teachers versus engaging with learning material and completing coursework independently. Offering students the opportunity to meet regularly for synchronous live sessions with a teacher can provide students with ongoing academic support, social-emotional learning (SEL) check-ins, and real-time learning modifications (i.e., intervention, enrichment) that can help students be successful in their online journeys.


If implemented and executed well, synchronous live classes can be beneficial for students and teachers. Virtual schools vary greatly in the amount of synchronous classes they offer, from no synchronous classes for some and daily synchronous classes for others. While synchronous classes will depend on each school’s individual resources, teacher capacity, and other factors, here are some recommendations shared by virtual schools already engaging in this work:

  • Make live classes engaging. Multimodal learning is important. Teachers should plan live classes with lots of breaks, a variety of activities, and different choices to make them engaging for students. Teachers should limit new material to less than 15 minutes and try to incorporate brain breaks, SEL check-ins, and student feedback. They can also utilize embedded virtual tools such as the chat feature, breakout rooms, and polling options.

  • Record classes. Students may have to miss a live class for a variety of reasons, so teachers should ensure that they record the class (especially when new material is presented) and post it where students can easily access the content (e.g., LMS, class website). (Note:: Before recording any synchronous instruction, be sure to get permission from parents and/or students.)

  • Experiment with scheduling. Some virtual schools only require one synchronous class at the beginning of each day for one to two hours (see Virtual Advisories), while some offer multiple options throughout the week and allow students to decide when to join based on their schedule. Schools can try different schedules that fit their model but they should ensure that they are taking student and parent feedback into account as they adjust their schedule.

  • Don’t require all-day live classes. Students can experience fatigue, headaches, and overall disengagement if they are required to be in live classes for multiple hours per day. Schools and teachers should think strategically about why, when, and how often students should be in live classes, and if lessons and coursework can be completed asynchronously.

  • Avoid concurrent learning when possible. Given capacity constraints, timing, and other factors, many educators are being asked to lead a lesson with students physically in the classroom alongside students who are attending virtually. This structure can cause students to be disengaged on both ends, and the teacher may feel stuck between two different worlds that require different teaching styles, preparation, and resources. Sometimes it is hard to avoid, but when possible, it is helpful to support one group at a time.

  • Lean on the remote space. Offering resources, materials, support, and even content online (and/or remotely) enables both in-person and virtual students to engage equitably and effectively across the virtual divide. This can be important when pointing to resources during live support so that all students can access them quickly and seamlessly.

Strategy Resources

Gem Prep Online's Weekly Live Lessons

Gem Prep Online requires students to join two to three synchronous live lessons per week... Learn More