Since attending online lectures is even more intensive for students, their attention spans will be even shorter. It is therefore crucial to think about ways to keep students focused during virtual lessons. In this ECHO Tip, we will discuss five activating applications that can be incorporated easily into online lectures, for both large and small student groups. We focus on teaching methods with high levels of interaction, either between the lecturer and the students or among the students themselves. The size of the group will of course be a deciding factor when choosing an interactive teaching method.

Working with buzz groups 

One way to get students to participate actively in an online lecture is to use the technique of 'buzz groups'.

Organising a discussion

In some programme components, debating skills are practised and assessed. These skills can also be covered in online lectures. Even when debate skills are not explicitly included as an objective for the course, a short discussion during the lecture can help the students regain their focus on the lesson and on the learning content.

Brainstorming with the students

In a traditional lecture, you can write students’ ideas on a blackboard, whiteboard or flip chart. Most online environments also have a sort of 'whiteboard' that both the lecturer and the students can write on, depending on how the permissions are set.


Organising online quizzes is a way to involve students actively. Not only do these quizzes provide variety during lectures, they can also give you more insight into each student's initial situation, involvement and progress. Make sure to take enough time during the lecture to review the different answers and to highlight and explain the correct answer.

Encouraging students to ask questions 

With distance learning, students tend to be more reluctant to ask questions, as there are more obstacles to overcome. So in some cases, it will be important to encourage students repeatedly to ask written and/or oral questions during your online lecture.