Step one in creating a successful online learning environment: build a learning community. How can instructors start this process? Just as a face-to-face class may spend the first class session getting to know one another, the online class must do the same, maybe even more so. Since online learners start out with a cyber-separation, course designers or instructors need to make an extra effort to create social connection in a nonthreatening manner. Think about a traditional in-person class. Students gather at the classroom door prior to the start of class. Conversations arise about the course, similar interests, and life outside the classroom. When the class ends, students gather in the halls and/or common areas on campus in order to create personal connections and friendships. This socialization is priceless in building a safe environment for learning. So, start this process by breaking the ice.
Here are six engaging icebreaker activities that all use a discussion board and are easy to implement. This coming term, update the usual introductions forum by trying out one of these instead.
1. In Line
This activity uses two discussion forums. In the first discussion forum, students score themselves on five given statements to indicate a level of knowledge or interest. The top score of 10 signifies a high interest or ability to teach. A score of 1 indicates minimal knowledge and/or interest. Once students have entered their scores on the given statements in their initial post, peers look for classmates with the score closest to their own on each statement. Next, using the learning management system (LMS) messaging tool, students introduce themselves to this classmate. Through messaging, students find other common interesting of one another. Ideally, students have found a partner. If the a student already has a partner, then he or she can reply to say so. The student returns to the forum to find another similar score. Lastly, it is now the student’s job to introduce his or her partner to the class in the introductions forum.
1st forum: Score Yourself
Example statements (provided by the instructor)
2nd forum: Introductions
Hello all, I’m introducing my new friend Sandy Smith. She loves to read mystery novels and watches more cooking shows than actual cooking…
2. Lost in Space
Instructions are not the only way we learn more about people. Sometimes we learn more about people through seeing their priorities. In this imaginative icebreaker, students pretend they are living on a space station for a year. Suddenly, the station is malfunctioning and they have fifteen minutes to gather only five items to take with them on the evacuating space shuttle. This is not a time for deep thought. Students are instructed to quickly type out the five items they are taking with them. Once all participants have enter their items on their initial posts, peers read through the entries to find similarities and/or curiosities. Students post replies to comment and ask questions about the reasoning behind choosing the items. Give students categories of technology, personal, and survival to start their explanation.
3. One Word
This activity is one of my favorites. I’ve used this icebreaker in both in-person and online learning environments, as well as with eighth graders and college students. Students think of one word that best describes them or their life. They start their initial discussion post by stating this word in bold, then describes why they chose that word. Students review peers’ posts and finds someone whose word resonates with them. Replying to that post with the connection and tries to find two other nouns that the two classmates have in common. Note: Students always do better with this activity when a strong example is provided after the instructions.
I’ve chosen this word because I feel like my life constantly has challenges that I overcome in order to achievement my goals. For example…
Change up the text by starting student introductions with an image. Students find an image of an object that represents them or why are are taking the course. (Canvas Hack: Students can select the image icon in the rich text editor toolbar and select Flickr to search for images and add them easily.) Students add the image and an explanation of why they chose that particular object. Start this activity by posting your object and explanation. Once students have completed their initial post, their job is to respond to interesting images and reply with a question. Original students reply to the question with an answer.
I simply love history. It’s the story that no fiction could rival…
5. 2 Truths + 1 False
An oldie, but a goodie. Students post two truthful statements and 1 false, without labeling. Peers review and reply with their guesses on which statement is false and explain the reasons behind their guess. After a given date, students return to their original post to reveal the actual false statement in a reply. Also, within this revealing reply, students list the names of the peers who guessed correctly as a little applaud in this friendly game.
A simple activity kicked up a notch. Students use their own first name to create a short poem. Writing their name vertically, students use each letter to start a line, or be the main word in a line, that describes something about themselves. Peers review all poems and try to remember details about each classmate. The instructor then creates a short quiz using the statements posted in different poems. Classmates take this fun quiz to show their knowledge of their peers.
Example of Acrostic Poem
N - Not a fan of pie.
I - I love cookie dough Ice cream.
C - I prefer Cooking over eating out.
O - My family has an Olive Oil ranch.
L - Learning is fun for me.
E - I’ve ridden an Elephant in Thailand.
Remember to grab the free 1-page guide to assist you in preparing for your next online course.
Free Guide: 6 Engaging IceBreakers
Select the link then login or register to access and download.
Nicole Mace believes that distance education is a true game changer. She has spent close to a decade in education and spends her free time reading anything she can get her hands on about online learning.
Nicole's Guest Posts