Monday, September 06, 2010

Break Out rooms

Last week we experiemented in our Faciliating Online course with using break-out rooms... these are folders within the interface that can be used to divide a larger class into smaller groups, meaning that interaction within that group is seen only by that group.

Really enjoy the idea of break-out rooms and that our facilitators for the day allowed us to try them. Thank you heaps... I appreciated their courage to use them, especially as I hadn't seen them used before. It was a valuable session.
Break-out rooms have obvious facility and application. They provide additional opportunity for students to contribute.

Thoughts for pondering before using a breakout room
  1. Facilitating the group (turn-taking): We still found that we hesitated to start... not because we didn't know what to do, but more because ours was not the responsibility to direct other students. I personally am quite comfortable to take a semi-facilitating role in a group, but not over the top of someone else who may appreciate the opportunity. So, we all hesitated; finally someone stepped in and we moved forward. So, this leads to the next thought to ponder.
  2. Solving a problem: We were asked to discuss an idea, which we did. (However, my ideal about how long is reasonable for one person to 'hog' the microphone may be different from classmates, and therefore I felt a slight sense of frustration when a speaker's thoughts were not so collected leading to  more time than what I considered was a fair share.) But that's beside the point.... this experience has taught me to think about instructions. In my break-out rooms, how directive and specific should I be? My instructions might look something like this: First: select a group facilitator (to guide turn-taking and help with keeping to the topic and summarising, Second: discuss the ... [task]... Thirdly, At [specify a time], use the whiteboard to summarise the discussion... etc. To finish: At [specify a time] return to the main class.
  3. Bringing the class back together at the end of the session: Wow! it had never occurred to me that bringing everyone back together (especially once they've started) could be an issue. Using a timer was a good idea, I'll do that. But also... perhaps, could the facilitator visit each group individually (don't know what the Elluminate's facility for doing this is...) and gently break into the conversation, and get the group to begin feedback on the main whiteboard while he or she visits the next group until they have all joined the main class and everyone has made it back. (Would this be possible? or is the software a little limited for this?)
What I really appreciate about this process, and about the commitment of my peers in this course, is that without it and them (you!) I wouldn't have had the opportunity to reflect on using break-outs with an online class. Grateful!


willie campbell said...

I do appreciate your thoughts on this.
I have to say that I felt like someone herding cats uphill for most of the time. I still can't work out how to get the screens with questions into the breakout rooms, how to set a timer that all rooms can respond to. The Elluminate Recrded demos are like promotional material- tells what but not how.
All I hope is that this exeprience will give others courage to have a go and let us all know how to use this tool well for the benefit of group members.

Sarah Stewart said...

I really appreciate this opportunity to play, Willie...and thank you for your observations, Katherine.

I'd like to have another couple of sessions doing give us a chance to hone our skills...We'll have to get a repeat session organised :)

Gillian said...

I too enjoyed the experience of the break out rooms. the tricky bit which I am still getting used to is when to take a turn with no visual clues from others as to whether they wish to jump in first. disconcerting to appear to talk over someone else. Also not 'hearing one's own voice' when using the mike I am still unclear if anything I said was actually heard by others. But easier to try in a small group.

Kim Mc said...

I agree Katherine, it is really exciting & useful to be completing a course with like-minded individuals who are keen to try out new techniques & technologies to develop their skills and assist others.