One of the hardest parts of fostering an engaging virtual classroom environment is bridging the gaps between yourself and learners.
Virtual classrooms remove a lot of the natural social aspects that learners are exposed to, and it’s up to instructors to replace it with interaction that suits the virtual learning world.
If instructors don’t utilize icebreakers, learners may feel awkward and have a hard time becoming involved with the class.
Here are five tips to breaking the ice in a virtual classroom:
1. One random object
This game involves learners selecting a random object within their reach and explaining what it is, allowing the rest of the students to guess. Remember to encourage your learners to opt for the most unusual item.
This can create humorous dialogue which gives learners the opportunity to speak about something that isn’t so personal, and that will prime them for speaking about more important things.
Instead of asking people to explain their life stories and making them feel uncomfortable under the spotlight, they’ll have an easier time discussing why they have a strange paperweight.
2. Ask lighthearted, direct questions
This exercise is commonly referred to as ‘social questions’, and it’s widely used in virtual classrooms.
Asking a lighthearted question to a learner allows him or her to share as much or as little as he or she feels comfortable with.
Varying the questions you ask learners will help everyone get to know each other a little better. It could be as simple as asking them where they’d rather be at that given moment, or as imaginative as asking them to describe their dream house in detail.
3. Two lies, one truth
Ask each learner to present three statements about themselves in a random order. Two of them will be truths, and one of them will be a lie. You can involve other learners in the conversation by encouraging them to openly speculate which statements are true.
Everyone will have an opportunity to try to pull a comical act of deception on their classmates, and this can cause everyone’s sense of humor to show through.
4. Who’s done what?
Before your class, compile a list of goals. Some of them should be ambitious, and some of them should be common. They can relate to work, personal achievements, and common things that people put on their ‘bucket lists’.
Have everyone find three things on the list that they’ve done. If someone hasn’t done any of those things, allow them to add their own unique experience. Learners will be curious about people who have accomplished things they want to do, and people who have done them will be eager to share their stories.
5. Tell it in a tweet
Twitter limits users to 140 characters, and you have to get creative to adequately squeeze a lot of information into such a small space. By either using Twitter, or simply applying the character limit, have your learners express as much as they can about themselves within that limit.
That will condense the things that are most important to them, and their peers will have a sense of who they are.