Time and time again, research is telling us that a sense of community is vital to the success of the online classroom. Setting the stage at the beginning of the term is a great way to help establish this sense of community. Thus, any “let’s get to know each other” activity is more than just a virtual handshake to start the term. Its that, and a first step into what will hopefully be a rich, personal, community experience for the online adult learner. One that inspires creative and critical thinking born of a sense of safety and support.
Icebreaker activities are a great way to start the term. Biography threads get the job done (I myself use those most often), but choosing a fun icebreaker activity can break up the monotony and show a bit of your personality to the students as well. I’ve done a web search and found a few ideas you might consider trying, if not this term then maybe a future one. Most can be adopted in both the face to face and the virtual environments.
1) Virtual Name Tags: I saw this idea on Online Teaching Strategies for Adult Learners. Click on over to see an example and the step-by-step instructions. This plays on the “Hello, my name is” name tag but expands the idea to include one-word descriptions of the students’ personality, interests, and hobbies. Its a quick, simple assignment that covers a lot of ground. If posted in a discussion forum, these name tags can generate a lot of “Hey, I like ______, too!” type comments.
2) Lost in Space Discussion Prompt: Found this gem on OnlineTeachingTips.org. The instructor posts this prompt in a discussion board thread and students respond, thus highlighting their priorities, interests, and perhaps quirky aspects of their personalities.
“Imagine you have been living on the space station for one year. Suddenly, the computers malfunction, and you have fifteen minutes to evacuate to a space shuttle before all life support systems fail. You will be allowed to take five items with you. Quickly, reply to this thread listing those five things without thinking too much about it!”
3) Childhood Dream: This icebreaker was highlighted on The New Social Learning Blog. The instructor posts a discussion thread asking students to share their childhood dream and then relate it to what their current career aspirations are. Then they can thoughtfully compare/contrast and see how dreams and goals change over time (or how they stay the same!). Its a bit more of a “deeper thought”-type icebreaker compared to the lighter ones, like Two Truths and a Lie (another goodie that I’m avoiding listing in this post because of its ubiquity).
4) Medieval Personality Test: The Fresno Pacific University Center for Online Learning found and describes this gem. Students click on a link that takes them to a Medieval Personality Test and the instructor asks them to post their results and share with the class. Students can agree or disagree with their results and its sure to produce a good combination of giggles and earnest introspection.
5) About Me Pinterest Board: TeachBytes suggests having students create a Pinterest Board and include 10 pins that describe their personality. This is a great way for students to share common interests. This might work best for smaller classes where the chances that everyone has a Pinterest account is higher or where the number of students needing to create a Pinterest account doesn’t burden the flow of the course.
Whatever icebreaker you choose, have a fun time doing it! Comment with your icebreaker experiences below!
Dr. Amaechi Nwaokoro, Professor of Economics
I believe that quality class platform and learning based on the objectives, effective periodic evaluation, and frequent communication will enable students to achieve class success and expected learning experience.
In my World Literature I course, I begin with an African dilemma folktale, which requires students to use their critical thinking skills.