Low cost and significant advances in technology now allow instructors to create their own virtual learning environments. Creating social interactions within a virtual space that emulates the physical classroom remains challenging. While students are familiar with virtual worlds and video meetings, they are inexperienced as virtual learners. Over a nine year period we applied iterative cycles of action research through numerous large classes to systematically uncover attributes of success when executing synchronous learning in distributed environments. Findings show technology is not the source of problems; rather, difficulties emerge from human behaviors and their interactions with system features. We conclude with practical takeaway guidelines for video conferencing and immersive virtual environments and a model of nexus of control that elaborates software and classroom management attributes that can lead to successful execution.