What Are Breakout Rooms?
Let’s say you have a large class delivered as a webinar. You can certainly make your session more dynamic by delivering real time quizzes or encouraging remote learners to connect with their webcams to contribute to the conversation. That being said, how do you encourage group work and peer learning?
This is where breakout rooms come into play. With breakout, you can breakout the main classroom into many different smaller rooms where cohorts of learners can learn & work together in their own space to complete group activities. This peer-to-peer collaboration is the perfect way for learners to engage the material presented to them through discussion and application.
The benefits of learning together or working together to accomplish an objective are many:
- Inspires Creativity – You’ve heard it said many times before, humans are creatures of habit. We get stuck in ruts and this can hamper our ability to solve a problem. Collaboration encourages many minds to come together to solve problems creatively.
- Blends Strengths – Each person on a team has their own strengths. Group learning encourages learners with different strengths to work together to effectively meet the challenges posed to them.
- Gains Perspectives – The best part of learning and working together is the ability to not only get a deeper understanding of the material, but to also gain understanding and empathy for our peers. Everyone has a story and that gives them a specific angle on a task. Collaboration encourages us to be open and learn from one another in ways we never thought of before.
- Builds Trust – It’s great to have learners or workers that want to shoulder their tasks because they are the best for the job. That being said, we’re a team and the greater the collaboration the greater the performance. Teams are better off when they can trust one another to handle their workload.
- Encourages Risk Taking – We all try to think out of the box when looking for a solution. Sometimes we have some crazy ideas that might just work. Or, they might just fail spectacularly. Collaboration encourages us to take chances on ideas that we might not take when deciding alone.
Breakout is a great tool for encouraging collaboration. We’ve seen a lot of great examples of how breakout rooms are utilized to enhance the online learning experience. Below we highlight some key breakout room activities that are certainly worth a try.
Top Breakout Room Activities
So, we’ve been talking about the benefits of working together in collaborative groups and how breakout is a great tool for encouraging collaborative work. But what are the actual activities that your learners can work on in breakout rooms? Are breakout rooms only for group work? We highlight some of the most popular and creative uses of breakout rooms that we’ve come across.
Role-playing is a great way to simulate real world scenarios in the classroom. It enables learners to interact with one another while taking on different roles – like a salesperson, customer, or manager – to apply the theory of the classroom to real life scenarios. It also helps us empathize with others, exposing us to different viewpoints that can make us more effective at our jobs. By taking on these different viewpoints, learners gain an increased ability to resolve situations. Role-playing is popular with teams that interact with customers frequently or have to manage others. After a facilitator presents a new sales script or some conflict resolution techniques, they can breakout the class into breakout rooms where each participant can fulfill a specific role.
2. Branching Scenarios
Branching scenarios are great for adding consequence to our decision making processes. We can simulate a situation in different breakout rooms and encourage team members to decide on their course of action. As they continue through their decision making, then we can pose new challenges and offer new decision points. These activities can be really fun and impactful.
3. Discussion Groups
With our plates so full of the day-to-day tasks, it can be difficult to find the time to have open discussions with coworkers around work processes or even how they’re doing. Breakout rooms are perfect for encouraging more intimate conversations in the context of a training session. I really like the idea of using breakout rooms to encourage employees to discuss ethics training or compliance training initiatives in a safe place. It’s important for employers to create a safe and inclusive work environment. In order to create such an environment, we need to be transparent with employees on what is appropriate in the workplace. Breakout rooms within the context of a larger ethics training initiative can provide a space for employees to reach a greater understanding and a greater sense of community.
4. Office Hours
Office hours is a creative use of breakout rooms. We’ve seen teachers schedule office hours and offer their students the opportunity to connect in their virtual classroom instead of meeting them on campus. Teachers then use the main classroom as a waiting room or lobby and selectively assigns students to specific breakout rooms for 1:1 conversations. In this way, teachers are able to offer a convenient way for students to meet them.
5. Private Workspaces
When onboarding new technology or delivering product training, the goal is to get learners to start using the new tools. Of course we need to present the tool or new feature and get feedback, but we know that in order for the training to really work, the learner must start using the tool. We can use the main virtual classroom to present the tool and cover high level tasks. We can then breakout the learners into their own breakout rooms where they can start working with the new tool. If they have questions, then they can ping the facilitator or teacher to join them in their breakout room for 1:1 assistance. This notion works for a flipped classroom model as well. Learners can work on their projects in class and can gain insights from the teacher as needed when they need it.
Practice makes perfect. Breakout rooms can be called practice rooms. One of the best applications of breakout rooms are for language learning. Teachers can teach a large group of students new vocabulary, quiz them, share video, etc, but the best way for language learning to take hold is to use it. Teachers can breakout the class into breakout rooms where groups of students can then practice speaking to one another. Teachers are able to jump from room to room to encourage students along the way and offer insights to help them improve.
Be Creative With Breakout
Breakout is an awesome tool in your online teaching toolbox. It helps make your online training more human by empowering your learners to collaborate. Breakout enables you to incorporate interactive activities in your online training making it more engaging and more effective. The best part is that it helps you get the best of both worlds. Sometimes we need to just present information to a large group of people and that’s fine. With breakout we can run more traditional webinars, but still introduce group activities that create a more lasting impact.
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