I'm interested in exploring how we can design more engaging synchronous sessions, so I gravitated to the second topic, Design Ideas.
All of the resources in Topic 2 I read/viewed mentioned using breakout rooms as a way to increase student engagement and learning in synchronous sessions. One of the things that I feel goes against the concept of building community with breakout rooms in synchronous sessions is that everyone gets removed from the main classroom when they go into a break out room.
One Sunday, I participated in a virtual conference of 50 people that solves this problem with a graphical interface as in an actual F-2-F "conversation cafe." with a new "virtual conference" software called Remo. The session started with three of the facilitators presenting to the group. During this time it is not possible to enter the cafe. When the breakout sessions begin, a classroom full of virtual tables appears. To join a room, participants select an empty chair and claim a spot in the discussion, and a video of others in the room appears on the screen. At any time, we can move to another room, a rest area or even the instructor's room. The other virtual office layout is interesting, as well.
I found seeing a graphical view of the classroom, helped maintain community amongst the class better. Have you experienced a feeling of detachment (community) when going into breakout rooms synchronous sessions or is it just me?
Hi Doug - interesting post and interesting product - reminds me of an article I read that proposed using metaphors from the physical world to represent demarcations in cyberspace. The cafe/table visual metaphor certainly does this - allows participants to 'scan' the space and 'sit' where they feel comfortable - which is very different from the disorienting feel of being transported (without your say) from the main space to a breakout room.
Question: would you say that it's the experience of (i) going away from the main group, (ii) being transported into the breakout room, or (iii) working with a smaller group in the breakout room that feels contrary to the concept of building community?
Hello Asif - That sounds like an interesting article. If there is a link I'd be interested in reading this too. I agree the feeling of being transported (without my say) into the wilderness without any control to get back is the issue. Your post reminds me of the movie Passengers, where Chris Platt loses his tether while doing a spacewalk, and lost until Jennifer Lawerence figures out a way to connect again with him.
My answer to your question is (ii) being transported into the breakout room.
I would also say the degree of alienation is related to timing. If the team already has developed a strong bond or community then I find it less alienating to go to a breakout room.
This may show that using break out rooms to build community does not necessarily work. It is better to build community before.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with breakout rooms. I was also wondering about ways to build community with the larger classroom. The intro activity we did yesterday when we built a story together involved everyone in the same room and facilitated learner-to-learner interaction. I am interested to learn more methods of how to strengthen community and guide team-based learning with the whole class.
Here you go Doug - not exactly the same article I read (many years ago) - but covers similar ground: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0192/49292844b694de3aaec19866912bc0cbfece.pdf
Thanks for your responses - interesting nuggets to consider re: learners' lack of empowerment in online learning spaces - as shaped by facilitator-centric tech tools - and how that can impact learners' sense of community/alienation.
Thanks Asif for searching for the link! I've already downloaded the article and started taking a look. Interesting concept of living in a separate world.
Nice imagery Doug! I like that movie as well. Yes in terms of breakout groups I think communication is important - let participants know what is happening and why. Also building community before sets up a climate of trust so its always a good plan.
Thanks, Ross, I look forward to hearing more from others the advantages of break out rooms. Break out rooms require knowledge of discussion and I find a lot of my students need to be taught this idea first.
The detachment is definitely an issue as far as I'm concerned. I think it has something to do with mind/body and our senses. So I was interested in hearing about your experience with Remo.
I have a teen group over the summer for a digital illustration course that will now take place online. Four days a week and 6 hours classroom a day! BlueJeans as the platform - I have been told I can drop in to the breakout rooms with out notice - which I find pretty disturbing, I expect I will figure out a more thoughtful approach! I like the idea of being able to oversee the groups breakout room activities somehow without being too invasive. Maybe they can post images and sound bites back to the main classroom or even between the groups.
Wow, that sounds intense!
I like your idea of the students posting their work as they go along to a more common space for everyone to see. I think that would be reassuring to each group to know that everyone is producing and they'd be able to see what else is going on. Whenever I've done a drawing course (oh, too long ago), I've always liked that part where we walk around the room and look at everyone else's stuff.
That's an interesting point about being connected with our senses. There is a lot of research discussing how the learning environment affects learning so I can see there must be some connection. I'm glad to hear I'm not alone about feeling alienated in breakout rooms.
I've used the post images etc idea before in synchronous and asynchronous sessions using the Padlet.
In the gallery, there is a sample of a drawing class that I have attached in the pdf file below. I feel Padlet would work well for this group since it is visually focused.
I really like the idea of a sustained break out room posting to a central place their progress for others to see..
I think if it is a sustained breakout group - maybe having a set time that you will be coming into each group - in some kind of rotation, so they know that you will be coming to help them at a certain time, which allows them to generate questions that they might have for that help.