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Buzz Groups

template with blue background

Time and Effort

Instructor Prep TimeLow
Student Activity TimeLow
Instructor Response TimeLow
Complexity of ActivityLow


Buzz Groups are teams of three to five students formed to quickly and spontaneously respond to course-related questions. A group can reply to one or more topics, and all groups can discuss the same or different topics. The discussion is informal. Students do not need to arrive at a consensus because the goal is the exchange of ideas.


Use it when you want...

  • To have a warm-up activity before a whole-class discussion,
  • To generate information and ideas quickly,
  • To allow students to express their thoughts and practice sharing their ideas,
  • To increase students’ repertoire of ideas around a topic, or
  • To lay a foundation for a rich and engaging discussion involving the entire class.

What students will need


The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Buzz Group learning activity within a classroom with a physical distancing layout.


  • Identify a topic for discussion.
  • Craft a discussion prompt that is conceptual rather than factual, and that will stimulate an open-ended examination of ideas. Try responding to the question yourself, so you are confident that they will generate a variety of responses.
  • Choose how you are going to present the prompt question, such as on a worksheet, presentation slide, or whiteboard.
  • Develop handouts to guide the activity using Google Docs and/or create a Blackboard Collaborate Ultra session in which students will work collaboratively.


  • Form groups, announce the discussion prompt and provide a time limit for activity. Note: Consider limiting the group size to 2-3 students. Groups larger than 2-3 people are encouraged to use text-based chat features instead of speaking to one another to reduce the noise volume in the room and to prevent shouting across long distances between students.
  • Share the method students will use to work collaboratively on the activity. 
    • Option 1: Students speak with one another across the empty seats.
    • Option 2: Groups follow a link that creates a new version of the template in Google Docs. The document is shared among the group members and with the instructor.
    • Option 3: Direct students to the Canvas course space and into the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra session. Create breakout rooms spaces for each group. Note: Breakout groups are only available in sessions with 250 or fewer attendees. You can create up to 20 breakout rooms. There is no limit to the number of attendees you can put in each group.
  • Ask group members to exchange ideas in response to the prompt.
  • Check periodically to see whether groups are still engaged and focused on the assigned topic. If off-topic, shorten the time limit. If on-topic but time has ended, consider extending the deadline.
  • Have groups report out results, or build on students’ work.


  • Review the outcomes of the activity.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

  • Classroom furniture is not to be rearranged to facilitate activities. If you need a different general assignment classroom to meet your instructional needs, contact your curricular representative.
  • If students are to move around the room during an activity, consider the mobility, location, equipment, and furniture needs of all students.
  • The physical distance between students (particularly in large lecture halls) may make it difficult for students to hear one another when they are asked to speak.
  • This same physical distance may increase the noise level in the room as students try to speak to one another. This noise level may cause issues for some students. To this end, it is recommended that group size be limited to pairs (ideally) or triads at most. Activities requiring larger group sizes should utilize text-based chat solutions like those found in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.
  • The technologies recommended here should meet most campus accessibility requirements. However, you should check with the McBurney Disability Resources Center for guidance on any specific accommodations for your students.

Technical Documentation


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp 164-169.

See Also:

Keywords:buzz-groups, discussions, active learning, remote instruction, physical distance   Doc ID:104151
Owner:Timmo D.Group:Remote Instruction
Created:2020-07-20 10:45 CDTUpdated:2020-10-30 15:53 CDT
Sites:Remote Instruction
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