Icebreakers are a great way to build a communication channel between classmates. It can increase the trust between the student and the teacher and also improve relations between students themselves. However, with online courses, sometimes having an icebreaker is not enough. Especially in courses where you have either all the students in different locations or you have the students split in locations. For example, you have a group of students who are face-to-face with the teacher and some who are receiving a video conference from a distant location. With this particular way of learning, it can be very difficult to engage the students who are distant. One way of resolving this is to use group activities which pair or group together students who are local, and students who are distant. Listed below are two different group activities that could be used for an online course.
One activity is called “Contest of the Week” and was developed by Stuart Schwartz from the University of Florida. How the activity works is that it allows students to participate in the lecture by adding more material to the lecture itself. After class, students can work in pairs or a group to find articles online or relevant links that can be posted on the Course Management System or Learning Management System. This particular activity has a few benefits. First, the students are becoming better researchers and are familiarizing themselves with searching online and through databases. Secondly, they are learning to work together and to share resources online. An important part of online learning is online collaboration. Being able to work on a single document with multiple people is an essential skill to have when entering the workforce.
A second activity is one that I have found to be successful and it is to have an online wiki page for different groups. The class will get split into groups that include people locally and people who are distant. Their job is to do an activity together and to keep updating the progress on an online wiki. If the students are working on a group research paper they can update their information and results on the wiki. It allows people to interact with each other online and to build something together. While a wiki starts off being empty, in the end it can grow to be large. This will allow the students to see their progress over a period of time and have something to be proud of in the end.
Working on a wiki together also involves a lot of communication. In order for the wiki to have no redundancy and to have a nice layout, communication is needed between everyone working on it. This will help not only the student’s online skills, but also their writing ability and communication ability.