Live Q&A

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Context & Scale

A live Q&A session where questions are ‘crowdsourced’ from students ahead of time via an online discussion or polling tool. This pattern works best in a mixed-model delivery context where students initially learn content from self-paced online modules, and then actively apply information in tutorials with peers. The pattern supports this delivery model by providing an opportunity for deeper revision of content and for students to connect synchronously with their lecturers and peers in a live ‘event’.  This also supports teachers gauging students’ understanding.

Research on “flipped classroom” models (Bishop & Verleger, 2013) where students initially encounter content in individual settings has been shown to support learning. However, literature on the challenges of this delivery model highlights the issue of answering student questions (Bhagat et al. 2016Schultz et al. 2014). Unlike traditional lectures, students learning via online modules can’t interrupt their lecturers to ask questions. Research has recommended an effective response to this challenge is the use of online discussion forums to build learning communities of peers (Lo & Hew, 2017). This pattern builds on the online discussion pattern (TBA) by providing a forum beyond their tutorials for students to come together synchronously with their teacher to review and revise.


Re-shaping lectures into self-paced online modules removes the opportunity for the ‘live event’ experience where a whole cohort comes together to connect synchronously with the teacher, peers and content. In the context of self-paced learning modules, students need multiple opportunities to ask questions and check their understanding. Coordinators also need an opportunity to gauge students’ learning progress.


A live Q&A that crowdsources students’ top questions ahead of time via an online voting tool, such as an online discussion, for a planned and structured revision session.


  • Create a Discussion forum in a Learning Management System (LMS) site with a category dedicated to live Q&A.

  • Schedule the live Q&A session with timetabling at the beginning of the week to review the previous week’s materials.

  • Instruct students to post their questions to a specific place on the discussion forum.

  • Instruct students to vote on questions they want answered and give details of how and when to vote by.

  • Use top-voted questions to structure the contents of the revision session. Run session on Zoom webinar or large synchronous online meeting.

Examples of pattern in use

First-year data analytics unit

We developed this pattern for a large postgraduate foundation unit in the Business Analytics discipline (QBU5001) with a cohort ranging between 700-1600 students across semesters. This pattern was developed in the context of broader developments in the unit. Traditional lectures in the unit were re-shaped into self-paced online modules to address issues around increasing student numbers causing inconsistencies in experience due to a lecture stream model.

This pattern was iteratively developed and implemented in QBUS5001. We acknowledge the unit coordinators and lecturers involved from the Business Analytics discipline, including Andrey Vasnev, Anastasios Panagiotelis and Jessica Leung. 


This pattern arose as the co-design team re-shaped traditional lectures into self-paced online modules. In doing away with the traditional lecture, the teaching team saw value in maintaining a ‘live event’ where the whole cohort synchronously came together to connect with their teachers, peers and content. The teaching team also wanted to provide an alternative avenue for students to ask questions and revise content. Finally, the team wanted a way to gauge how students were travelling week-to-week with what they were learning, and especially to further support at risk students.

Before semester

01 > Set up a unit discussion forum linked to LMS.

02 > Schedule the session with timetabling. Consider which day of the week is optimal e.g. Monday works well to review prior week’s content, or Friday to review that week’s content.

03 > Choose session platform e.g. between Zoom webinar or Zoom large meeting.

04 > Design a space for the live Q&A within your LMS. Consider the structure of where this is placed e.g. multiple pages in a weekly module structure, or a single page if not using weekly modules. Live Q&A page can include the date/time of the session Zoom link and other info/instructions.

Start of semseter

05 > Communicate the aims and expectations of the live Q&A to students from the outset of the unit. Students should understand the difference between a lecture and Q&A session. Where a lecture introduces content, the aim of the live Q&A session is to revise content, so pre-work from students is required.

06 > Provide clear instructions to students on how to participate, including how to ask questions ahead of time and how to login to the session e.g. send an LMS announcement in week 0 and reiterate instructions on a dedicated LMS page.

07 > Decide if you want students to be able ask follow-up questions during the session, and how this will be managed e.g. using the Zoom Chat function in webinar or students asking verbally in Zoom large meeting.

During semester

08 > If possible, post weekly slides and recordings on LMS for students to refer back to, or for those unable to attend the live session.

09 > Consider cross-referencing the most popular questions asked on the discussion forum with other data points you may have (e.g. any assignment results, such as a high proportion of students failing one question) to help validate which topics to cover.

Technology/resources used

This pattern relies on an ONLINE DISCUSSION with the capacity to vote on questions within the LMS, and a video conferencing software to host large synchronous groups. This example used the ED discussion forum linked within Canvas, and a Zoom Webinar. (In the next design iteration, we will trial a Zoom large meeting where students can see each other and have the option to speak, unlike a Webinar where only presenters can speak).


Evaluation data was collected from students through a survey and focus group across two semesters. In S1 2021, majority of surveyed students (90%) strongly agreed, agreed or were neutral that the live Q&A session supported their learning. All students (100%) agreed, strongly agreed or were neutral when asked if ED discussions supported their learning. Follow-up questions in the focus group revealed students found the ED discussion was preferable to ask simple questions as students received an almost instant response and wouldn’t need to wait until the scheduled session to receive an answer. Students preferred the live Q&A for more comprehensive explanations, or being able to get extra context on a concept, such as its practical applications. For example, learning why a certain kind of statistical test would be used in one situation and not another. Further responses revealed the format supported “shy” students to feel comfortable to ask questions.

About the Authors

jessica tyrrell

humble educator | radical creativity | critical curiosity

Leave a Reply

5 responses

  1. Terry Wickenden Avatar
    Terry Wickenden

    I want to convert my Weekly Consultation Hour for first year students into a clone of a Live Q&A session

    1. Rachael LoweRachael Lowe Avatar
      Rachael LoweRachael Lowe

      Great idea Terry, I would like to hear how you go!

  2. Elaine Huber Avatar
    Elaine Huber

    I would like to use this with my high performing students who could answer the live Qs that we select. I would train them first on the benefits of sharing their knowledge.

  3. Andrew Brock Avatar
    Andrew Brock

    I liked the idea raised that a spin off with this pattern was that content gaps could potentially be identified by students which would then feed back into improving the learning content.

  4. Benedicte Rokvic Avatar
    Benedicte Rokvic

    Q&A sessions, a great way to identify where the online content need better explanation. With the questions that come up almost each semester let’s use the Q&A feedback and incorporate in asynchronous interactive activities.