Utilizing Breakout Rooms for Group Dynamics Course

Editor’s Note: The following post is an assignment from the La Salle faculty training course Collaboration Online Plus. In this assignment, course participants are tasked with redesigning an face-to-face lesson for the online environment. Please show support to your fellow Lasallians by leaving your feedback on their ideas in the comments section below this post.

In Chapter 6 of the “Tips, Techniques, and Ready-to-Use Activities for the Virtual Classroom”, Jennifer Hofmann discusses utilizing the breakout room feature available in synchronous platforms, to conduct a “Group Scavenger Hunt” activity. This allows students to breakout into smaller groups and complete an assignment. The groups can then rejoin the class to discuss the process and results.

 In the past, one of my favorite ice breaker activities for my “Group Dynamics” class is an exercise called “Lost On The Moon.” I feel like I can easily adapt this activity for my students to complete in an online synchronous environment.

The initial assignment would explain to the students that their spaceship has just crashed on the moon and they need to make the journey to their sister ship 200 miles away. They are then given a list of 15 items and are asked to personally rank them in order of their importance for survival.

Using the breakout rooms, I would divide the class into random groups of 4 or 5 students. Within each group they would be asked to choose one person to be the observer for the group. This person will not participate in the activity, but simply take notes using the provided “observer worksheet.” Each group will then need to discuss and provide logical arguments for how they ranked their items.

Joining back together as a whole class, the observers in the groups would report on their findings. Next, the following questions would be presented to the entire class:

  • Did the groups solve problems more effectively than individuals?

  • Did anyone take on the role of leader and if so, how did the group respond?

  • Which behaviors seemed to make group functioning more effective?

After completing this assignment, I was excited to see how easy it could be to use activities that I had previously viewed as only being able to be successful in the traditional classroom, in the online synchronous environment!

5 replies on “Utilizing Breakout Rooms for Group Dynamics Course”

  1. Good use of the breakout rooms. I like that you assign a recorder role, but allow the other students to fit into their own roles naturally…and then reflect on the social dynamics. I would definitely add a time limit to this activity as it seems like that groups could go off on many tangents if left without a deadline. All in all very cool assignment. I’d be interested to see if there was a large difference in behaviors among the groups or if they all feel into similar patterns. A good follow up might be for them to do a graphic diagram of the group dynamics using pictures or other multimedia. Thanks for contributing your ideas to our blog!

  2. Hi Amber. As I reflect on the use of breakout rooms, I find that there are many activities such as the one you described that we use in the traditional setting that transfer well to online teaching. I agree with Nick’s point about having a time limit, though from my experience the students will always want more because of the challenging and interesting topics such as this one.


  3. I am excited to see a face to face class transition into an online assignment. I like the reflective questions. It gets the students to think deeper into the assignment and their part in it (individual and group dynamics). It is interesting to see group dynamics occur in the classroom setting and I like that you continued that in the online class. I agree with Nick and Corrado to include time limits in order to maintain control.

  4. Thanks so much for all your comments! What a great suggestion about the time limit. I didn’t even think about it because normally, its just me in front of the class, saying “Okay, time’s up!” I will definitely try to think of things like this in the future 🙂

  5. I enjoy the dynamic nature of this assignment and am appreciate the ability to map this face-to-face activity into an online paradigm.

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