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How to Communicate Effectively in Online Lectures

By Chloe Lane

Updated August 6, 2021 Updated August 6, 2021
  • Communicating effectively in online lectures can be tricky and many students struggle to feel connected and engaged.

  • Top Universities teamed up with student living specialist, Scape, and their communication expert, Professor Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon to reveal how to make the most of online lectures. 

Sponsored by Arden University

By now we’ve had a chance to adjust to the ‘new normal’. It’s generally now a given that lectures will be online, meet-ups with friends will be virtual and you will be wearing sweatpants to university.

Online lectures offer a very different experience to in-person ones and while some people prefer them, others feel unable to engage with the lecture as well as they would’ve done in person.   

We’ve teamed up with student living specialist, Scape, and their Communication Expert, Professor Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon, to offer some top tips on how students can make the most of online lectures by communicating more effectively.

Be social and get involved

Be social and get involved

Since you’re not in the same room as your classmates, many students prefer to hide behind their camera and switch off their microphone. It can often feel awkward to try to be sociable in an online lecture.

However, Scape's Professor Doherty-Sneddon believes that online lectures may pose an opportunity to get to know the people on your course.

“The virtual lecture format means you get to see people’s faces more than you would do when you are turned towards a lecturer in a lecture theatre,” she said. 

Although it might be the last thing you want to be doing before a 9am lecture, making an effort to talk to other students on your module and pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone can make you feel more confident and connected.

Professor Doherty-Sneddon said: “You’re much more likely to feel confident expressing yourself and offering your opinion in lectures once you feel personally connected to those on your course.”

She suggested another way to connect more with your classmates is to set up a group chat for the students in your module on a messaging app such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.

Turn your camera on

Turn your camera on

The easiest way to instantly feel more connected in lectures: turn on your camera. Yes, it’s easier – and comfier – to watch lectures in bed in your pajamas but turning on your camera will help you engage more and learn more in your lecture.

“While turning your camera off might seem appealing to the introverted out there, it is important to be aware that it will stop you from accessing visual cues. It’s those visual cues that help us to better retrieve and remember information from others,” said Professor Doherty-Sneddon.

Turning on your camera will also be nicer for the lecturer, who will be grateful not to have to teach a class of black screens.

Get involved in the lecture

Get involved in the lecture

So, your camera’s turned on and you’ve said hi to your classmates before your lecture. Now you need to take an active role in learning. This could be as easy as answering or asking a question or by taking notes on what the lecturer is saying.

Professor Doherty-Sneddon said: “When communication is one-sided, it’s quite often easy to forget what has been said.

“To get the most out of your lectures, engage with your lecturer and look for opportunities to ask questions. This will allow you to clarify their points and receive feedback.”

Make eye contact

Make eye contact

On a call of 50 or more students making eye contact might seem a bit pointless but making an effort to interact with the person speaking can help you take in more information and be more engaged in the conversation.

Make sure you react when a reaction is expected, whether this is a nod or responding to the lecturer’s questions.

Professor Doherty-Sneddon said: “If you don’t want to put others off, it can be kind to react to what they’re saying. It’ll show that you’re not staring at them but are instead engaged in what they say.

“A quick yes, no, laugh or nod isn’t going to disturb them but can reassure them that you’re focused and understanding them.”


How have you found online lectures? Let us know in the comments below!

This article was originally published in March 2021 . It was last updated in August 2021

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Written by

As Content Editor for and, Chloe creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. Chloe has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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