Synchronous communication technologies and strategies in online education for the enhancement of the learning experience: a systematic literature review

D. Vlachopoulos, R. Belinga

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review


Effective and quality online education requires an instructional design approach that can lead to educational transformation. This approach can be characterized by advanced flexibility, learner autonomy and extensive use of digital technologies to enhance learning outcomes. One of the main challenges of online education, which has been investigated by current researchers in the field, is the physical distance between educators and learners. In this context, synchronous communication, perceived as the direct communication that occurs in real time between learners and educators, has been considered as a way to bridge this distance and improve communication and interaction in teaching and learning.

As the field of synchronous communication in online education is ever maturing, this paper attempts to systematically review the literature relevant to technological tools and strategies, which can lead to a productive student experience. The two authors collaborate to apply a qualitative method, coding and synthesizing the results using multiple criteria. The main objective of this systematic literature review is to identify the tools, theories and strategies that online education providers can implement to ensure that synchronous instruction enhances students’ learning outcomes. The research, which was conducted between January and April 2020, used Google Scholar and ProQuest data bases. The reviewed papers were selected with prior chosen keywords: synchronous communication, technological tools for synchronous communication, effective synchronous communication, synchronous communication learning experiences, strategies for synchronous communication, theories for synchronous communication, software for synchronous communication. The term interaction was also used instead of the term communication in the combination of keywords mentioned above. The keywords were combined while operating the Boolean operator “AND”. The selected papers were published in peer-reviewed journals, in English, between 2010 and 2020. The selection process consisted of four phases: Identification round, first round of exclusion, second round of exclusion, and final inclusion round. The identified articles were collected in a shared RefWorks project.

On balance, results are divided in two main groups:
a) technological tools, which enhance synchronous communication,
b) learning theories and strategies, which can contribute to an effective synchronous communication experience.

As a final step, the authors consolidate evidence for the benefit of academics and practitioners in online education interested in the efficient use of synchronous communication for pedagogical purposes. Such evidence also provides potential options and pathways for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEDULEARN20 proceedings
Subtitle of host publication12th annual International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
EditorsL. Gómez Chova, A. López Martínez, I. Candel Torres
PublisherIATED Academy
ISBN (Electronic)9788409179794
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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