Techniques for facilitating breakout group activities
Breakout Groups Activity
- Tools used: Blackboard Collaborate Ultra breakout rooms and Google Slides
- Activity length: Single sessions, ranging from 10 minutes or longer.
To make live breakout groups engaging, create an activity that gives students a task to complete, a problem to solve, or other goal-oriented activity. By combining a shared document with live breakout rooms, you can ensure that students stay on task.
NOTE: This approach leverages Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. Blackboard Collaborate Ultra will no longer be available for use at UW-Madison after June 30, 2021. Get more information.
First, set up a Google slide presentation. On the first slide, put instructions for the activity. Create additional slides with group identifiers along the top (e.g., group numbers, names, etc.), but leave the slides themselves empty with a text box available. Be sure you adjust the slide deck’s sharing settings to Anyone with the link can edit.
Next, during your live session, explain to your students what the goal of the exercise is. Then share the link (url) to your prepared slide deck with the whole group in the chat. Make sure all students are able to access the document and answer any questions about the activity. Students should be instructed to note the group that they are in once breakout groups start and then navigate to their respective slides to complete the activity. You should estimate the length of time students will work on the activity so they can plan their time accordingly.
Tip: Use assigned roles to ensure task-orientation. Leader, Reporter, Timekeeper.
- Leader: Starts the discussion by introducing themselves. Ensures all members have a chance to share.
- Reporter: Responsible for typing on slides. Shares summary when groups end.
- Timekeeper: Knows how long breakout groups last. Reminds the group when time is running out.
- All share ideas.
Next, move students into rooms using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra's breakout groups. They will use their microphones in breakout groups to talk while documenting their work on their slide. If desired, the Reporter could share their screen with the group, or all members can watch what they type by navigating directly to their group slide. Allow students some time to get started with their discussion.
Moderating group engagement: You can view the shared slide deck in Gallery view and observe students’ work. Use the comment feature of slides to ask follow-up questions, encourage more critical thinking, or compliment students’ work. Slides also have a built-in chat function to communicate with the whole group (be sure students know how to open the chat panel and are aware that you will communicate with them through chat).
This activity can then be downloaded and shared with students for review and/or as an archive of participation. Using collaborative slides is one way to keep your eye on all groups simultaneously without having to “pop” into their breakout group and disturb the flow of conversation. After a few minutes, if students aren’t actively engaged on their slide, you could enter their breakout group to find out if they need additional support.