Breakthrough with Breakout Room Feature
“Virtual Classroom is a great tool for e Learning but its use is still limited, say, if I wanted to create a few groups amongst my students in a physical classroom for some brainstorming activity could it be possible in your virtual classroom?”, asked one of the professors during the Teacher Training conducted by Team WizIQ at Department of Management Studies, IIT Delhi for Certificate Course in Business Management or CCBM.(Read all about this course in my previous post).
If you observe closely, the classic debate over traditional vs. virtual classroom comes down to only one thing and that is the ‘interactivity quotient’. Engineering or management institutes like IIT are slowly but surely facilitating the student-teacher interactions with the use of novel online tools.
Traditional teachers argue that a student in a walled institute has a larger scope for interaction than his/her virtual prototype. Considering the staggering amount of time spent by average student on the web/media, a real school provides the much needed break by means of face-to-face communication.
An online teacher on the other hand, uses the same information to an advantage by providing education by means of a platform the students are already comfortable with, i.e., the world wide web. Instead of despising the internet and blaming it for a possible extinction of the species of teachers altogether, he chooses to befriend it to revolutionize online teaching.
But then arises a concern, does a virtual classroom integrate all the features of a real world classroom? Is it possible to manage a class of 100+ students, all chatty and full of energy, wanting to express themselves? Sure one can make teacher-student interaction possible, but what about peer-to-peer networking? How does an online teacher conduct group discussions in the virtual world?
The idea of student interaction not only with the teacher but also with fellow mates is what makes a class. And imagine if a platform were to deliver an analogous feature in the virtual classroom! Such a feature would allow the online teacher/educator/presenter to divide a large group of students/attendees into smaller groups and make one of the attendees in each group as the leader. The group leader would be given audio/video controls and he/she would then commence the group discussions.
This particular feature is called Breakout Room and it is available in the WizIQ Virtual Classroom. Often under-used, this feature is capable of taking interactivity quotient to a higher level, thus abolishing all primitive concerns over the feasibility of the virtual classroom model.
On the morning of the class, Professor Priyank Narayan, the faculty for Creative Problem Solving (CPS) for CCBM contacted the WizIQ guy to know more about this feature. It took him less than 30 minutes to get the hang of it and before we knew, the evening class was already using it. This is how the events unfolded:
- Prof. Priyank starts his class on Lateral Thinking and gives the class some puzzles to solve; each student gets audio controls in turns to speak their thoughts.
- Later Prof introduces a Group Exercise wherein a list of articles are to be ranked in order of their importance for survival in a given state of emergency.
- He creates breakout rooms and makes leaders for each group. The leaders are given audio/video/writing controls and the group discussion commences.
- While the students are at it, Prof. Priyank enters each group virtually and keeps track of what’s going on.
- Group Discussion ends and the students are shifted to the main room for the assessment.
- The audio controls are then given to the group leaders to narrate the consensus report on the activity.
This is what Professor Priyank Narayan had to say post his session:
“The breakout room is a very interesting and powerful feature on the WizIQ platform that we used in class today. It allowed the class to be divided into smaller workgroups, ensuring participation by everyone even in an online classroom. The students experienced interactive two-way interaction including getting camera, mic and whiteboard control. This really added value to the online classroom experience and made learning fun . I want to thank WIZIQ for all their technical support in managing this.”
If you were to chance upon such a room where the teacher is but a small portion of the whiteboard screen, teaching the principles of Creative Problem Solving(CPS) perhaps, and the students sit mesmerized and interested, take part in group activities and wish to come back to the class everyday, you would know instantly of the presence of the WizIQ Virtual Classroom. And you would wonder in awe!