Synchronous Toolbox: Breakout Rooms

While distance-learning platforms are always improving, online learning still has its downsides. One downside is the lack of natural peer-to-peer interaction and collaboration. To compensate for this, many distance-learning platforms have “breakout rooms.”

Breakout rooms allow you to break up the class into smaller groups, as you would in a physical classroom. You can do this by assigning students to different virtual rooms or “breakout rooms,” where they can take advantage of the smaller group size.

In smaller groups, students have more time to speak up and share their thoughts. Small groups are also more conducive to discussion. And they’re especially helpful for students who are uncomfortable speaking in large groups. Another benefit to breakout rooms is that they add variety to the online lesson, helping to keep students interested and attentive.

As the teacher, you can pop into each breakout room to check up on students and offer guidance. Students can likewise take the opportunity to ask you questions.

Breakout rooms can be used for many purposes, including brainstorming, role-playing, group projects, and small-group discussions. And students can use the various tools from the synchronous toolbox to accomplish them.

In their breakout rooms, students might brainstorm a list of ways to save energy at home. One student from each breakout room can write the group’s answers on a whiteboard, and later share them with the class. Or you can assign a text, such as a biography, for students to read in their breakout rooms. Then they can use the chat tool to discuss what they thought was the most interesting fact that they learned about the person.

Before sending students to breakout rooms, be sure to explain what their task will be and how much time they’ll have to complete it. When time is up, have students reconvene in “the main classroom” to share their work. If students prepared role plays in their breakout rooms, they can act them out in front of the class when they reconvene.

Breakout rooms allow students to get to know each other better. They enhance the synchronous learning experience, and help make the transition from in-person learning to online-learning a smoother one.

Back to archive