Suggested class size: up to 40
Suggested length: up to 60 minutes
When teaching online, don’t forget to incorporate your usual good teaching practice techniques, such as asking questions, using wait time/think time, nominating spokespeople to report back following group-work, allowing space for questions, providing feedback, and including specific tasks or activities.
Open questions can be directed to students and tasks can be set just as in a campus class session. Running small group sessions with your students is a great way to involve your learners and encourage them to discuss and apply what they have been learning, in a collaborative environment. The platform is ideal for questioning and discussion and can draw out they key knowledge acquisition from other areas, for instance following learning asynchronously in the form of screencasts and reading.
The key to running small group sessions is to foster an environment of participation, activity and inclusivity.
Activities for small group sessions
- Utilise the tools within your online environment that allow students to work collaboratively
- Share a whiteboard or blank slide, getting students to contribute ideas or answers to a question by writing on the whiteboard
- Use an image, map or diagram and get students to highlight key parts by drawing shapes or annotating
- Pose a question to your students, either standalone or with accompanying images / data in your slide deck
- Invite your students to share their thoughts using the chat. Break from talking for 30 seconds – 1 minute to allow students to compose their responses and post them in chat, and to give you the chance to skim through their answers
- Respond to answers collectively by drawing out common themes, and individually by speaking to students by name and talking about their answer. Invite and encourage them to elaborate on microphone, if they feel comfortable doing so.
- Recap the most important points that came out in the chat before moving on with presentation or next activity
- Settle students into a session with short sections of presentation, interspersed with small chat-based discussions
- Split the students up into small groups of 3-5, working on researching and discussing a common topic, or assign each group a smaller element of a larger topic to create a jigsaw activity
- Have them work for 10-20 minutes in their separate groups to discuss together and produce a short output of what they’ve discussed
- Bring them back into the main class room. You can then hold plenary feedback as a class or have a representative of each group be invited onto the microphone to share their groups findings. Some groups might share documents their group produced to the whole class.
Pace of activity
An example interactive online session structure:
- Present for 10 minutes on a topic or concept, including time for attendees to settle in and join the session. Guidance: Sharing content in Teams Meetings | Sharing content in Blackboard Collaborate.
- Task 1: Introduce an activity for 10 minutes of interaction, such as annotating a slide/whiteboard, discussing a question in the chat or running a poll. Elicit responses from your attendees and provide feedback – highlight key contributions and invite the student onto microphone to explain their answer in more depth. Guidance: Teams Meeting Whiteboard | Blackboard Collaborate Whiteboard
- Present on a topic for a further 5 minutes and introduce your next activity.
- Task 2: If suitable, set up a collaborative activity. Break the students into small groups for around 15-20 minutes to discuss and produce some research. Drop into groups to encourage and guide the discussion. Guidance: Blackboard Collaborate Breakout Groups | Microsoft Teams Breakout Rooms | Supporting Students to Engage with Breakout Groups
- Invite feedback from the different groups for 10 minutes, with a representative of each group sharing their findings. Guidance: Promoting attendees in Teams Meetings | Promoting attendees in Blackboard Collaborate
- Summarise the topic, and provide feedback to the group about the most important takeaways for the session. Hold a short Q&A for the remaining 5-10 minutes. Finally refer back to the session outcomes and demonstrate how they have been met. Signpost any next steps and close the session.