Lesson plans for interactive virtual classrooms (Zoom) 

Lesson plans are a strategy used by educators to map out the intentions and structure of a learning activity. In ordinary circumstances experienced educators teaching in their discipline don’t need lesson plans. But these are not ordinary circumstances. You may be teaching in the virtual classroom (VC) for the first time or even teaching outside your specialty – this is when lesson planning can benefit you and your students. 


The lesson plan is a statement of the aims and objectives of the session, and then a table with columns that describe the activity, the time allocationresources required and any notes.  

Example Lesson Plan

Ask yourself what do you want your students to achieve from participating in the VC?

It is also important to consider if there are alternative ways to achieve the same outcome?  At any time, but especially now, everyone’s time is precious, and heads are full of coping with a new way of living. There's no point running a VC if you are just conveying your learning content – do that in a pre-recorded video that can be watched whenever it suits your learners. Save your VC time for when it is important for your class to be together in the same room at the same time - so it can be a social learning activity. Using a lesson plan for your VC sessions really helps here as you can make sure you are not filling the time with ‘teacher talk’, but also allowing your students to speak. Remember this may be the only time that students can talk to each other, and they will be really missing that experience.

  • Consider whether student microphones and/or webcams should be on or off. This can vary across the VC, sometimes starting with them all off, then allowing students to have them on for certain parts. Make a note of this in each section of your lesson plan.
  • Add everything you want to share in the session (links, files etc) on your lesson plan.
  • Will you be recording the VC? Add a reminder in your plan to turn this on (it is surprisingly easy to forget)!
  • Clarify your expectations for the VC as part of the invitation/email to students. What do they need to do before the VC? What is the agenda for the meeting? For example, let students know if they will be in breakout rooms to discuss a topic and then reporting back before the session starts and they will be more likely to be prepared and willing to engage.
  • You may find that you need to allow more time than you would in a face-to-face class to complete activities and perhaps include less activities than usual.
  • Start with some pastoral care (this is a challenging time for everybody)
  • Move on to the VC agenda as a quick reminder
  • Don’t dominate the conversation – build in student talk time, with you and peer-to-peer discussions using the breakout tool.
  • If you are using breakout sessions – schedule them for the second half of the session as it may be hard to include late-comers
  • Pauses are great – build these into your plan to allow students to catch up their thoughts with yours
  • Have a clear closing activity and action for what students should do next
  • Check attendance
  • Upload the recording to Panopto
  • Add a summary of the VC in a forum, with a link to the recording/chat and reminders of what students should be doing next
  • The body language cues in a face-to-face class can be replaced with the status icons in zoom. When you want students to react, plan for this by giving instructions to use the status icons.
  • At least initially, as you and students adjust to online, slow the pace of the VC and don’t try to cover too much in a single session.
  • Silence truly is golden. Let students think!
  • Polls - great for quick questions, opinions, ideas
  • Annotate shared files/whiteboard - encourage collaboration through shared notes
  • Brainstorm ideas- Use the chat and ask students to type their responses to a question or challenge. The chat can be used to summarise and follow-up in a forum on the learnonline site after the VC.
  • Small group discussion and report back– using the breakout functionality. Here you can broadcast messages to the groups and visit students as they are working.
  • Record a video demonstration for students to watch prior to the VC and then during the class ask pre-prepared questions where different groups think-pair-share real-world examples of what was demonstrated.

Remember, lesson plans are a guide that will help you get the most learning from your VC sessions – but they also may need to be adjusted on the fly when things don’t go as expected

Finkelstein, JE 2006, Learning in Real Time: Synchronous Teaching and Learning Online., 1st ed. <https://find.library.unisa.edu.au/permalink/f/14gpir7/TN_pq_ebook_centralEBC469387>

How to check attendance in a VC https://lo.unisa.edu.au/mod/page/view.php?id=2002283

Breakout session https://lo.unisa.edu.au/mod/page/view.php?id=1815880


Example Study Plans