Tips for teaching with Breakout Rooms

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In case you didn’t see our previous blogpost, breakout rooms are now available in Microsoft Teams. In preparation for semester 2 teaching and for increased online teaching, we’re going to give you some design tips on how best to make use of Breakout Rooms. They can be used to great effect to help support and further student learning, as well as offering the option to break down larger groups of students into more manageable discussion groups.

As with all our advice for online learning, think about what you want your students to do before, during, and after the activity.

Before starting Breakout Rooms:

  1. Familiarise yourself with how breakout rooms work. Breakout rooms can only be set up once the meeting has started. To create breakout rooms, you must be the organiser of the meeting.
  2. Design the task for students and communicate that with them beforehand. Ask yourself what it is that you want your students to be able to do after they have engaged with the activity? Do you want them to produce anything whilst in the breakout room? Do you want them to present anything when they come back into the main room?
  3. Make sure that students understand what is being asked of them before they go into breakout groups. Also, give them a strategy for contacting you if they’ve got any questions. This might be using the chat feature in the main room. Or a student re-joining the main meeting again.
  4. Let the students know how long they’ve got in the breakout room before they have to come back into the main room.

During the Activity:

  1. If any students have trouble joining the breakout room – for example, they’ve joined as a guest or their computers aren’t compatible with breakout rooms, ask them to remain in the main meeting.
  2. Ask students to use a shared document in their breakout room to keep a track of their discussion. This is something that they can bring back into the main room. Students can also work on a shared whiteboard in their breakout room.
  3. Feel free to enter the room at various points if required to give students the opportunity to ask questions.
  4. Use the chat function for each room to feed additional information in at any point or to ask your students to explore something else.

After the Activity

  1. Pool together the resources that your students have produced during their activity – ask them to attach to the chat of the meeting and share this to the rest of the group or via Blackboard.
  2. Ask your students to do an asynchronous task outside of the Teams session to consolidate their discussion or activity. This might be to write a reflective journal or blog post or contribute to a discussion board on Blackboard. This will help those who were unable to make it engage with the activities.

We’re really keen to hear about how you’ve been making use of breakout rooms in your teaching. Drop us a line on lteu@aber.ac.uk to let us know what you’ve been doing.

We are running training sessions on using Breakout Rooms. You can book onto our courses online.

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