Emulating Social Interactions Online: A simple idea!

Relationship Building

Relational development can be considered a vital component of effective teaching and learning, indeed one that has an impact on learners’ motivation and achievement (Niemi & Hotulainen, 2015). Some argue these relations are built through positive social interactions with peers (Cemalcilar, 2010). However, moving to online learning has reduced the opportunities for learners to interact on a social level, so how are these valuable interactions among learners being facilitated in online learning environments?

Below is one suggestion being used to build positive relationships in some Further Education & Training (FET) online classes.

Suggestion: as an alternative to waiting silently for all to log on at the beginning of classes, set the first 5 minutes of each class as ‘Social Catch Up‘ time. As learners begin to log on, open breakout rooms and assign learners into small groups in the breakout rooms.

Tip: open more breakout rooms than you need i.e. if you only ‘create’ 2 rooms for your early arrivers, as more learners join, you will only be able to assign learners to these 2 rooms.

Extra benefit: Before assigning learners to a ‘social’ breakout room, the tutor/trainer has the opportunity to greet each learner individually. A spare breakout room can also be used for a secure one-to-one conversation between the tutor/trainer and an individual learner if or when the need arises.

Learners feedback to date:

“Thank you for the social piece yesterday, it was really great to get time to just talk”; “I feel so much lighter after that!”; “Being put into social catch up groups is a great way to find out more about others in the group”; Our little catch up sessions in the zoom breakout room with some of our classmates is a brilliant way to talk to each other.”; ” …lets us communicate and build relationships as we would if we were in class”

As this becomes a routine, learners often rejoin the main room laughing and in high spirits. If you haven’t already, give this a go, it really is time well spent!

The video below gives a quick introduction on how to use and manage Zoom breakout rooms.

Cemalcilar, Z. (2010). Schools as Socialisation Contexts: Understanding the Impact of School Climate Factors on Students’ Sense of School Belonging. i, 59(2), 243-272.

Niemi, P., & Hotulainen, R. (2015). Enhancing students’ sense of belonging through school celebrations: A study in Finnish lower-secondary schools. International Journal of Research Studies in Education, 4(5).

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