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Most distance courses have some opportunities for learners and tutors to work together in real time, or synchronously. In some cases, this synchronous communication takes place in the form of face-to-face tutorials; in others, learners meet online using web-conferencing technology. In some institutions, tutors also offer one-to-one telephonic tutorials.

Unit 5 looks at the many ways in which synchronous communication can be managed to provide maximum support for learners.


Tick the things you would like to be able to do by the end of this unit:

  1. Reflect on your approach to running tutorials – both face-to-face and online – and identify the ways in which you are currently providing scaffolding and support for your learners 

  2. Identify ways in which you might be able to make your tutorials even more productive in future

  3. Identify the main synchronous tools and techniques that are available to you for supporting your learners in their learning, including face-to-face meetings, the telephone, instant messaging (IM), web-conferencing and virtual worlds, and discuss the main considerations for facilitating communication using each of these 

  4. Discuss a range of activity types that can be used in synchronous sessions, both online and face-to-face, and identify ways in which each of these can be used in your own context

  5. Discuss the main principles of facilitating synchronous discussions, and give examples of how you apply these principles in your teaching 

  6. Discuss some of the possible benefits of online learning from a learner’s point of view

Use your selected outcomes to help you decide which parts of the unit to focus on in the greatest depth.

Reading and Reflection

Click on the following links to access the materials for this unit:

Why tutorials?
Collaborative learning activities for face-to-face and synchronous online sessions
Leading face-to-face tutorials
Telephonic support and instant messaging (IM)
Leading online tutorials
Dipping into virtual worlds