Task 5: Share your ideas (up to 2 hours in lots of small chunks)

Picture of Florence Dujardin
Ice-breakers and professional knowledge
by Florence Dujardin - Tuesday, 17 March 2015, 3:15 PM


I used to teach on an online Master's programme in professional communication where all the students were professionals (eg marketing, technical writers, online engagement managers, etc) and mature learners. So I had to take this into account when designing ice-breaker tasks.

I combined ice-breaking with a little bit of reflection and professional learning by asking students to write a vignette (200 words or so) about communication planning, using their personal professional knowledge. The next instruction was to ask students to ask each other questions, so that they would a) learn about each other, b) get used to have a dialogue with peers, and c) possibly gain some professional knowledge (relevant to the aims of the Master's course).

What I got back was quite good fun for students and for me too. The vignettes also created a baseline for later online activities which involved applying communication theory to enhance practice.

I hope this is useful to somebody :-)

Best regards


Picture of Ari  Naidoo
Re: Ice-breakers and professional knowledge
by Ari Naidoo - Wednesday, 18 March 2015, 6:47 AM

Hi Florence 

Coincidentally (or maybe not) I facilitate an academic writing series of workshops for support staff as well as novice researchers using a rubric for assessing writing that I have developed. Rather than the vignette I have used an autobiography as the anchor piece. In my 2014 series the half page autobiographies developed into 8 page pieces with photos and one with an original poem. So, from ice breaker to a printable vanity piece for these new graduates. 

In another session I have used the idea of passing around small bits of office stationery (paper clip, staple, post-it, etc.) and the holders of the objects have to describe what's in their hands - can be fun depending on what objects one can find :-). 

good luck 

Ari in SA

Abi Ball
Re: Ice-breakers and professional knowledge
by Abi Ball - Wednesday, 18 March 2015, 9:02 AM

Hello Ari

We have real difficulty getting some staff to even provide the most basic of details in their online profiles (and don't even get me started on the photo issue...)  So I'm interested to know how you get your students to engage with the autobiography activity, is it assessed?

I think the stationery activity sounds like fun - and also something that could work online, have you tried it online?


Abi Ball
Re: Ice-breakers and professional knowledge
by Abi Ball - Wednesday, 18 March 2015, 8:56 AM

Hello Florence

Like you I used to teach professionals and mature students but on an online Certificate in Management programme.  I found it difficult to get them to engage with non real world activities so really abstract (or even just silly or fun) ice-breaker activities were not very popular.  They used to engage much better with activites such as explaining their hopes and fears for the course or why they had enrolled on the course.  Could it be that fear of failure or looking a bit daft is putting students off?  I wonder if the online nature of the course affects their behaviour or if it is just that they are professional and mature and would behave like this anyway?


Picture of Cheryl Scudamore
Re: Ice-breakers and professional knowledge
by Cheryl Scudamore - Wednesday, 18 March 2015, 1:54 PM

Dear All

My one previous experience of running an on line course was also with adult learners in the work place. I don't think a "novelty" ice breaker would have worked for them but they did write a short piece about where they worked and what their expectations were for the course - this did also count for credit towards the course - so not assessed in a critical way but compulsory if they wanted full credit. Once one person posted others joined in - because fundamentally people are nosey and were interested in what other people were doing.

I have seen fun icebreakers work well with adult groups face to face though - the two truths and one lie one is very funny face to face :-)




Picture of marion waite
Re: Ice-breakers and professional knowledge
by marion waite - Wednesday, 18 March 2015, 2:47 PM

Hi All

Just reading down the thread. Like many of you I have experienced ice-breakers F2F and online. Some of you seem to be coming up with ideas about a task which is fun but can be further developed as a course progresses. Human relationships seem so fundamental to learning and this seems like a good strategy to develop and bulid upon them.


Picture of Linda Bryant
Re: Ice-breakers and professional knowledge
by Linda Bryant - Wednesday, 18 March 2015, 5:31 PM

I wonder if face to face icebreakers will translate - maybe in a slightly altered format.

I will be using a 'speed-dating' format for an Awayday where we want participants to get to know each other. People talk to each other for 2 mins each to tell them about themselves by way of introduction. I suppose you could use this online by creating a presentation slide and each person would complete just the one for themselves and everyone would read all other slides.

The type of icebreaker that I use tends to depend on the objective of the event also whether I want people to step outside their comfort zone (stretch) or stay within it (non-threatening). Most of the icebreakers we've used in our introduction module are mostly written word. More visuals would be good - like for most presentations pictures often say more than words.



Picture of Cheryl Scudamore
Re: Ice-breakers and professional knowledge
by Cheryl Scudamore - Thursday, 19 March 2015, 3:58 PM

Hi Linda

I wonder if there is something here around creating a personal interaction? Maybe the old stalwart of find out about the person next to you and present it to everyone else approach might work - so one step back from your idea. Set up pairs at the start who then right each others slides. At least two people have a close interaction to start with?



Picture of Elizabeth Lovegrove
Re: Ice-breakers and professional knowledge
by Elizabeth Lovegrove - Friday, 20 March 2015, 7:49 AM

Hmm, agreed -- all of my favourite ice breakers are the ones where people actually get to know a bit about each other (depends on context, of course, as Linda says -- sometimes they do just need to be a bit of fun to help people relax).

The trouble with an online version of 'find out about someone else and then introduce them to the rest of the group' is it would be easy for it to default to you copy-pasting the text I've sent you about me, without interacting with it... Which has just led me to a new icebreaker idea, which I will put in the icebreakers Google presentation :-)


Picture of Michael Mason
Re: Ice-breakers and professional knowledge
by Michael Mason - Friday, 20 March 2015, 12:06 PM

At my College, we are mainly teaching adult professional learners (average age about 30). We teach real estate practice and students are usually in related real estate work and learning in their spare time. They can be based anywhere in the UK with a proportion overseas too.

The tried and tested ice breaker I tend to opt for on line teaching is to invite each student to post a little about the geographical location and their work role. This seems to work reasonably well in terms of generating participation. This may be because answers in each case will be individual and cannot be wrong! However, you have to recognise there are often students who may be out of work and studying on a full time basis. Asking them about  their workplace role may only make them feel awkward and left out from the start.

This forum has been good for stimulating ideas. I am conscious my established approach may seem a bit unimaginative now.


Malcolm Kirkpatrick
Re: Ice-breakers and professional knowledge
by Malcolm Kirkpatrick - Sunday, 22 March 2015, 7:12 PM

Hi Linda,

I have participated in that kind of icebreaker in January this year  and it worked very well except the person that I interviewed and presented on, was an incognito Prof. who later on, split from the student side to lecture us!

He was a good sport and had a good sense of humour tg !