Using Breakout Rooms in Synchronous Online Tutorials

Main Article Content

Kathy Chandler

Abstract

This paper describes a small-scale, practitioner-led study of the use of breakout rooms for small group work in synchronous online tutorials using the Blackboard Collaborate tool. The project draws on the writer’s own experience of using breakout rooms in online tutorials over a period of 10 months, both as a tutor of two health and social care undergraduate modules and as a student of modules in a different faculty. It also draws on the experience of tutor colleagues.

The project identifies three main benefits of using breakout rooms. Firstly, they are a useful tool for facilitating collaborative learning and interaction. Interaction takes on particular significance in online tutorials. In a face-to-face session the tutor can see if a student’s attention has wandered and gauge their response to the session. In contrast, a student can log into an online tutorial room and appear to be fully engaged with a lecture style session, whilst actually doing many other things and learning little. Interaction in an online tutorial also provides students learning at a distance with a rare opportunity for peer-to-peer contact, which can be invaluable in building relationships and confidence. Further benefits are identified in terms of empowering students to contribute to the session plan and content and also giving the tutor a break from presenting.

Perceived barriers to breakout room use are identified around technical difficulties, small numbers of students and in terms of student skill and confidence. The only significant actual barrier to breakout room use identified relates to tutor skill and confidence.

Article Details

Section
Reflective Analysis Papers
Author Biography

Kathy Chandler, Open University (associate lecturer)

Kathy Chandler is an associate lecturer at The Open University. She can be contacted at k.m.chandler@open.ac.uk.

References

Alaszewski, A. (2006). Using Diaries for Social Research, London, SAGE Publications Ltd.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9780857020215

Baehr, C. (2012). Incorporating user appropriation, media richness, and collaborative knowledge sharing into blended e-learning training tutorial. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55(2), 175-184. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2012.2190346

Cole, S., Haynes, M., Lown, J., Ulanowsky, C., & Salmon, G. (1999). Effective group work, Milton Keynes, The Open University.

Fasso, W. (2013). First Year Distance Transition Pedagogy: Synchronous online classrooms. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 4(1), 33-45. 
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5204/intjfyhe.v4i1.141

Fenton-O’Creevy, M., Dimitriadis, Y., & Scobie, G. (2014) Failure and resilience at boundaries: The emotional process of identity work. In E. Wenger-Trayner, M. Fenton-O’Creevy, S. Hutchinson, C. Kubiak, & B. Wenger-Trayner (eds.) Learning in Landscapes of Practice: Boundaries, identity, and knowledgeability in practice-based learning (pp.13-29). Retrieved from http://www.eblib.com

Foronda, C. & Lippincott, C. (2014). Graduate nursing students' experience with synchronous, interactive videoconferencing within online courses. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 15(2), 1-8.

Heiser, S., Stickler, U., & Furnborough, C. (2013). Student training in the use of an online synchronous conferencing tool. CALICO Journal, 30(2), 226-251. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.11139/cj.30.2.226-251

Kear, K., Chetwynd, F., Williams, J., & Donelan, H. (2012). Web conferencing for synchronous online tutorials: perspectives of tutors using a new medium. Computers and Education, 58(3), 953-963. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2011.10.015

Laurillard, D. (2009). The pedagogical challenges to collaborative technologies. International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, 4(1) 5-20. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11412-008-9056-2

Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1990). Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

McDonald, J. & Campbell, A. (2012). Demonstrating online teaching in the disciplines. A systematic approach to activity design for online synchronous tuition. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(6), 883-89. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01238.x

Peacock, S., Murray, S., Dean, J., Brown, D., Girdler, S., & Mastrominico, B. (2012). Exploring tutor and student experiences in online synchronous learning environments in the performing arts. Creative Education, 3(7), 1269-1280. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2012.37186

Smith-Sullivan, K. (2008). Diaries and journals. In L.M. Given (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of qualitative research methods (pp. 214-216). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
doi: http://dx.doi.org.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/10.4135/9781412963909.n110

Tonsmann, G. (2014). A study of the effectiveness of Blackboard Collaborate for conducting synchronous courses at multiple locations. InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching, 9, 54-63.

Wenger-Trayner, E. & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2014) Learning in landscapes of practice: A framework. In E. Wenger-Trayner, M. Fenton-O’Creevy, S. Hutchinson, C. Kubiak, C., & B. Wenger-Trayner (eds.) Learning in Landscapes of Practice: Boundaries, identity, and knowledgeability in practice-based learning (pp.13-29). Retrieved from http://www.eblib.com

Yamagata-Lynch, L. (2014) Blending online asynchronous and synchronous learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(2), 189-212.