Breakout rooms boost engagement for participants in the virtual classroom

Posted on August 18, 2020
Breakout rooms boost engagement for participants in the virtual classroom

As executive learning moves out of the classroom and online during the pandemic, many people are unsure of what to expect from the new experience.

Schulich ExecEd’s virtual classroom training has been designed not only to welcome participants to this new mode of learning but to demonstrate the added value online technology brings to it.

One feature of Schulich ExecEd’s virtual classroom sessions often gets special mention from participants: breakout rooms.

In response to the need to practice social distancing, program facilitators have spent many hours rethinking their program material and how best to deliver it online. Scheduled breaks for small working groups to interact with each other is one of the ways they use the video-conferencing platform’s capabilities. The instructor can create small discussion groups and assign them to a virtual breakout room – a chat area where participants can share ideas and work through projects as they would in an in-person session. The facilitator can “drop-in” to each room to check progress and answer questions with the click of a mouse. It is a tool for engaging students that works.

Most participants in the recent three-day Project Management Course, even if they expressed a preference for in-person learning, found these virtual discussion groups helped maintain their engagement with the group and with the material. Most said they were completely satisfied with the experience, with one commenting that “the breakout sessions were particularly effective in providing a practical application to the theory.”

As with all Schulich ExecEd programs, interaction between participants from different industry sectors is a key component of the learning and many were surprised to find that still happened in the virtual classroom, particularly in the breakout sessions. “Everyone was very involved and had good conversation and content [and] good ideas,” said one student. Others said they were pleased with the “brainstorming and collaborating within the breakout group” and enjoyed how the breakout rooms allowed time for “hands-on learning”.

As the group warmed to their virtual classroom experience, they began asking to try out more of the capabilities of the platform, such polls, quizzes and access to pre-recorded modules, all of which are features in many of the Schulich ExecEd programs that have been restructured for online delivery.

All in all, participants responded to the new learning mode with enthusiasm and, as usual, gave high marks to the instructors who put in the extra effort to replicate the best features of in-class learning in the virtual classroom.

To find out more about Schulich ExecEd programs available during this time of online learning, visit our Virtual Classroom/Online Learning page.