For an online course, real-time chats (often referred to as synchronous discussions) provide an opportunity for students to interact with you and their classmates in a “live” setting. They may take place as a stand-alone discussion, or they may appear alongside a webinar or a presentation within an online collaboration platform. They’re also a helpful means of building community in your online course.

But, because these sessions lack the visual and aural communication cues present during an in-person conversation, the act of managing that chat can pose a challenge. (And, of course, if things get too far out of hand, the chat becomes almost impossible to follow—and learning becomes nearly impossible as well.)

In E-Learning Companion: A Student’s Guide to Online Success, Fourth Edition, Ryan Watkins and Michael Corry provide several strategies that students can employ to get the most out of live chats that take place during their online class sessions and group meetings:


      • Type out your questions before the chat begins.
      • Do not respond to all questions or greet everyone when they arrive.
      • Raise your hand by sending a blank message.
      • Ask questions that are focused and on-topic.
      • Address your questions to the person who should respond.
      • Take notes while the chat is going.
      • Do not send emails or surf the Web during the chat; be an active participant.
      • Send follow-up questions using email. (31)


Reference: Watkins, Ryan and Corry, Michael. 2014. E-Learning Companion: A Student’s Guide to Online Success. 4th ed. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Copyright Cengage Learning.


What are your suggestions for a successful real-time chat in your online courses? Share them below.