Creating a true classroom culture is perhaps the most challenging aspect of virtual education. Facilitating learning in an online environment is quite different from teaching face-to-face in the classroom. Among all the different learning experiences offered in the virtual classroom, synchronous learning sessions represent the most similar experience to the traditional classroom. Because they usually take place only once a week, it is very important to plan these sessions thoroughly in order to ensure that this virtual face-to-face time with students is maximized.
Dedicating the first session to learn about students' backgrounds, interests, previous learning experiences as well as individual learning styles will give instructors the opportunity to collect all the information needed to make sure that the rest of the synchronous sessions in the course are engaging and relevant to their students. Equally important is that instructors integrate multiple collaborative learning activities within these sessions, giving students the opportunity to interact with each other in meaningful ways. Student-centered synchronous sessions are a central component to build a sense of community, a community of learners, in the virtual classroom.