Throughout the other discussion post I've read lots of people mentioning the sense of community, and how do we build that online. In face-to-face sessions I will always do an ice breaker activity to start getting the group engaged, moving around, and talking with each other. I feel like ice breakers help to start developing the sense of community.
In an online session, where participants are meeting for the first time, what kinds of ice breaker activities have people used? Do people feel that ice-breakers have the same effect online as in face-to-face interactions? If you are limited for time, and only have 10-15 minutes for introductions/ice breakers, what would be your recommendation regarding ice-breakers?
If it's a group of people that will meet several times for online sessions, how would you tailor ice-breakers to this group vs a group of people that may be together online for only one session?
I would love to hear from people what has worked and what hasn't worked in terms of ice-breakers and introductions.
Hi Mariana - great questions.
A couple of concepts that have worked for me regarding introductions and icebreakers:
- When going through introductions I don't ask 'What do you do' - this forces learners to step into their professional personas (i.e. show what they know). Rather, I ask them to relate something personal about themselves - this allows them to be seen as individuals and helps to equate them as part of a peer community of learners.
- With icebreaker activities I try to present alternatives to the verbal/text-heavy communication that tends to be privileged throughout the rest of the course - using images and drawing are good ways to spark imagination and help conceptualize creatively.
I typically ask three question for the introduction - after you name, answer these question or pass:
1. How do typically you spend your time during the week?
2. Where do you practice your leadership skills (or whatever topic is being taught)?
3. What are your contributions and/or learning objectives for this course?
I prefer the open ended question that allow the students to have a voice, choice and control about what they want others to know about them that will let them see each other. If time or written content is limited then one word answers might be an alternative to long text or verbal sharing. I usually allow one minute for each student - so 20-24 mins for a full class in a F2F setting. I wonder how it would work for the online format.
Thank you for the ideas, Asif! I tend to go toward formal role introductions and really appreciate the suggestions around tapping into people's creativity in ice breakers. I loved the activity we did in the first session with storytelling. It was so much fun!
In the last couple of days, I read an article about how students hate icebreakers. Instead, the author suggested using specific activities to get students working together and building community online. Unfortunately, I cannot remember where I read it.
There are, however, a ton of articles on building community online. Here are a couple:
Hi Briana - good point re: how students hate icebreakers - those forced activities resulting in strained conversations meant to allow us to get to know one another.
A couple of questions arise for me:
- Is it possible for icebreakers to also be specific activities to get students working together and building community online?
- I'm wondering how you'd assess the Let's Build a Story icebreaker activity we ran in synchro session 1 - I'd love to get some participant feedback on whether that worked and how it could be made better.
I definitely think an icebreaker can be an activity in which students complete a specific task. I get my students into groups and working on a task during the first class every semester and I find that students are happy to get out of their seats and right into a task (now I'm going to have to figure out how to make it work online). I think it is the common icebreaker questions/prompts that make students cringe.
In terms of the Let's Build a Story icebreaker, I was happy that you picked me to go first. As I mentioned in another post, I struggle to pay attention during synchronous sessions and I am also far more hesitant to speak up and speak as fully as I would in a f2f situation (get me in a room of learners or an office meeting and you can't shut me up). Had I been picked later on I think I would have been really stressed and would have found it challenging to participate. That being said, I don't have a suggestion for making it better. However, I do think we have to be cognizant (and the icebreaker was a good reminder of this) of finding multiple means of expression for participants in a synchronous environment.
Thanks Briana for your thoughtful response.
I had never considered how sequence could impact the participant experience - so an eye opener for me there.
I think an icebreaker needs to be specific, but I am not sure it always has to be having people work together, especially if they do not know each other. I take the view that the icebreaker is about building relationships. I often start with a question as it relates to material... I begin most of my workshops/classes that are f2f in circle. So everyone is facing each other and equal... and I ask a question related to the material. So in my Leading Change wkshp, I would be asking for their personal response to the word "Change". Sometimes, I will pull myself out of the circle and record a word or phrase from their responses - and put check marks beside the ones that are repeated.... I taught a 2nd year Business Skills course last year and I have them introduce themselves and each other in a variety of ways for the first few classes (One wierd thing about yourself, something you and the person sitting beside you have in common, etc, etc). I was challenged by a student to do that at every class.. we made it through 9 weeks and then I ran out of ideas :)...
Now, I am trying to figure out how to recreate that online. I liked the story idea - a lifetime ago :)... I taught theatre to senior high school students and we often used the 'build the story'... both in words and then in actions .. I liked it, however, I would be hesitant to use in a large group because of how long it takes. Maybe send everyone off with the picture into breakout groups of 5-7 and then have them come back and share the story they created from the picture in say... 10 words??? or something like that. So the challenge is not only to add to the story, but also edit it .. I don't know, just riffing now ...
Wow - what great activities Patience - it'll be interesting to see how these translate online.
Thanks for the feedback and the ideas for improvement - make it small-group, make it collaborative, set contstraints.
There's a lot of discussion this week about breakout rooms and how to leverage them for group work - I'm hoping someone takes the risk to run a breakout activity :)
Now, I am trying to figure out how to recreate that online.
How about starting the icebreaker (building community) asynchronously and ask everyone to do an activity in the Forum, with a fun question such as
a) post (or draw) a picture of the kind of superhero you are, b) post an image of the hotel you would stay at if you had a free business class ticket c) post a link to song that you like and tell us where you were when you first heard the song.
Responding asynchronously before the synchronous course seems for me at least, build community better for a wide range of students. When I join a new online course as a participant, I feel like being thrown into a dark room trying to see who else is there. I definitely don't want to be forced into an online session to meet everyone online first.
I found it interesting that Ross and Asif put the online session for Tuesday and not Monday. Having the online session on Tuesday gave participants the time to start working and developing community by posting in the Forum and made the online session very interesting and enjoyable.
A very interesting topic indeed!
Thank you Doug - great ideas I can try.
Hi Doug and Patience,
Thank you for the excellent ideas. I really like the idea of doing an ice breaker exercise asynchronously first! I can see how having some online interaction before the session would help the students coming into the session feeling like they already know a little bit about each other.
I find ice breakers in the online space might be even more important that in class, if it's only to remind everyone that we share the time and "space" with other humans.
I participated in a few online classes and they had a whiteboard partitioned in squares as "landing" slide. Each square had the name of a participant and there was a prompt at the top. Everyone would respond to the prompt by either doodling, writing or putting in smileys. I found it effective as we saw each other contributing and the instructors got a sense of who is there.
I also agree with what has been said by others. If you find ways to meaningfully connect your icebreaker/warm-up/team-building activity with your LO, then you're on track to help your learners achieve your LO and get motivated to learn.
Great idea Jens! I have not heard of a whiteboard being used in a grid like that. I also agree with the importance of ice breakers in online formats as a way of increasing social presence - it is after all 1/3 of the "deep and meaningful learning experience" !