Template 2 - Interactive Zoom session featuring small group work

Eden Templates for Online Classes and Seminars

Scenario: this session could run following a recorded lecture. It involves an initial plenary led by the class teacher, an interactive discussion, and small group work with groups of 2-4 students working in Zoom 'breakout' rooms. It is intended for a group of up to 20 students.

Advance preparation:

  • Class/seminar teacher

    • PowerPoint slides – perhaps 10-15 minute presentation and slides with questions for an opening plenary discussion

    • Slide and/or document that sets out the small group activity in detail. (This should be shared with students in advance. See Appendix B.)

    • Series of follow up questions to guide post-activity discussion

    • Review the Eden advice on leading an online seminar

    • Review the Zoom video on using Breakout rooms

  • All students

    • do readings/problem sets/ and view relevant lecture.

    • Review small group instructions that have been sent in advance. (See Appendix B below.)

    • Review the Zoom video on using Breakout rooms

Opening 5-10 mins

  • Welcome students as they arrive in the Zoom discussion space. This could be a spoken welcome or via the chat facility in Zoom (see section 'At the start of the session' of the Getting started with Zoom checklist .)

    • Things to consider:

      1. Determine whether everyone will have cameras on or off. Having cameras on enables participants to see verbal and visual cues. Cameras off may be necessary if individuals have insufficient bandwidth.

      2. Determine whether you'll have all microphones off by default as participants come into the discussion.

  • Ask students to say 'hello' to the group and perhaps what location they are joining from, or a similar icebreaker. This will also give everyone an opportunity to ensure their equipment is working and to hear their voice. Speaking in an online discussion session can be daunting at first and an icebreaker will help students develop confidence.

  • Run through any housekeeping or etiquette points at this stage. For example,

    • how will participants signal that they wish to speak (via the 'raised hand' option?).

    • Will you encourage/enable participants to use the chat facility during the session as an alternative means of raising questions/making observations? Some teachers encourage this and others find it distracting unless they have a co-teacher helping them who can read what is coming in via the chat. The second colleague can then summarise or select a number of key questions/points which the session leader can address.

    • Additionally, how will students signal to the group if they can no longer hear the presenter or see the slides? (Again, the chat facility can be helpfully used for this.)

    • Is the session being recorded? This can be useful for students who cannot attend or who wish to use the session for revision. Additionally, if you choose to record, the recording can be paused and re-started if there are topics/discussions that you wish to omit. Remind participants the session will be recorded (if applicable) and that the recording maybe viewed by students/people who have not taken part in the session (if applicable). If you choose to record the session, do so using the "Record to Cloud" function. This will save the recording in your Echo360 library and can later be linked to your Moodle course.

  • Offer a clear outline of what the session will look like. Explicit signposting throughout the session can help participants understand how the concepts and tasks fit together, particularly given that some of the visual cues from the physical classroom are now absent.

Teacher presentation plus discussion: (10-15mins)

  • Teacher 'shares' slides from their machine so that all participants can see. Then the topics can be explored in a such a way that participants either a) only see the slides and hear the teacher's commentary OR b) see both the slides and the speaker. During this segment, the teacher can pause for questions or comments and enable individual participants to speak by unmuting their mics or (if the mics are all unmuted) calling on those who have virtually raised their hands.


Small group activity using Zoom virtual breakout room (10-15 mins)

  • The teacher indicates that students will now be assigned to small groups and shortly they will see on the screen only those who are in their group. The teacher will assign each group a task on which to work and they will have 10 minutes to complete the activity. Ideally, each group will work on a unique question or problem. During that time, the teacher will drop into the virtual breakout rooms to ensure everything is going to plan and be available for any questions. (See Appendix A below.)

Students should be asked to a) plan to report back to the plenary when the class reconvenes and b) to nominate one person to summarise their discussion and share. (See details, Appendix B.)

Follow up feedback session (10-20 mins)

  • After 10 minutes have passed, the teacher brings all students back together

    • The teacher should let all groups know when they have 2 minutes left by using the 'Broadcast a message to all' option. This gives the groups a chance to start wrapping up and planning what key points they will report back to the plenary.

  • The teacher chooses 'close all rooms' and students automatically reconvene in the plenary. The nominated speaker from each group reports on the small group discussion.

  • Other members of each group are asked whether they have anything to add and the remaining students are asked if they have questions or comments for the group.

  • After all groups have spoken, the teacher can outline key points that have emerged and identify any significant issues that may have been overlooked, thereby bringing the exercise to a clear conclusion.

  • It might be useful to have a quick debrief to learn how the small group discussion worked, especially if this is the first time students have used virtual breakout rooms.


Plenary discussion (5 – 15 mins)

  • Building on the previous exercise, the class could move onto a discussion of a reading or method or case study. Here the teacher could pose a series of questions and after each one invite participant responses. Things to consider include:

    • It may be useful to have each question on a slide, so that participants can see and hear them.

    • It can be challenging to keep track of everyone who wishes to speak in an 'open' discussion of this nature. We suggest asking students to 'raise' their hands using the Zoom icon and calling on them in turn.

    • Another option is to enable students who prefer to type brief responses in the chat facility to do so, and the teacher can pause to scan these and respond to some or all of them.

    • Consider circulating the questions in advance of the sessions, so that students have time to think about possible answers.

Wrap-up (5 mins)

  • Offer a clear summary of key points from the session. Indicate what self-study activities students should do and discuss with them what the next virtual session will entail.

Additionally, you might wish to follow up the session with a quick email message or informal survey asking how they found the session and whether there are things that could be done differently.

Appendix A: procedures for operating small groups via Zoom break out rooms

Please see this Zoom guide to breakout rooms for a video demonstration.

  • In Zoom, go to 'meeting settings' and then in 'advance settings', ensure that 'Breakout rooms' is enabled.

  • When you host the Zoom seminar, the 'Breakout' icon will be at the bottom of the screen.

  • Click the icon to begin using Breakout rooms. (Each small group will occupy 1 'room' and will only see the other students assigned to their 'room' once the setting is activated.)

  • A panel will show the list of all participating students and you will be invited to determine the number of rooms and whether you wish to have Zoom assign the students into groups automatically OR whether you will assign them manually.

  • Choose 'Create Breakout rooms'. (At this point, students are still in the plenary session.)

  • Click 'Open all rooms'. At this points, students will automatically be moved into their small group.

  • As the teacher (Zoom 'host'), you can

    • Move between 'rooms'

      • Broadcast a message to all participants, regardless of room.

      • 'Close all rooms', thereby returning all participants to the plenary

  • Students in the Breakout rooms can

    • Speak with each other

      • Share anything from their screens (Powerpoint, Word docs, etc.)

      • Work on a shared whiteboard

      • Leave the breakout room and return to the plenary at any point.

  • If desirable, the teacher can reopen the rooms using the same procedure as above.




Appendix B: Instructions to students for small group work in Zoom

(to be sent in advance of the seminar)
In our next online seminar, we will spend some of the session working in small groups.

  1. The activity will entail the following:

In groups of between 2-4 people, you will be asked to address one of the following questions/activity/problems:

  • Question 1/activity prompt

  • Question 2/activity prompt

  • Question 3/activity prompt


The group will have 10 minutes to discuss their question/task and come up with 3-4 key points to share with the plenary group in the feedback discussion.

  1. The broad procedure will be as follows:

  • We will spend the first 10-15 minutes in a plenary discussion in Zoom.

  • Then, I will assign students into groups. When that occurs, you will find yourselves in Zoom with your group only.

  • You will have the usual participant features: including video/audio and the ability to share your screen (including Powerpoint, Word documents, etc.) and chat via text.

  • I will visit each group to check how the activity is going.

  • You can also 'ask for help' and send a message to me.

  • You can leave the breakout room at any point and return to the plenary session.

  • With 2 minutes to go, I'll remind everyone to wrap up the discussion.

  • When the group activity time is up, I will close the breakout room and we will all be back in the plenary space.

  1. What to do in your small groups:

  • When everyone is the breakout room, please introduce yourselves to ensure that everyone can see and hear each other.

  • Please identify one person from your group who will take notes and report back during the whole group feedback session. There will be opportunities for the other group members to add further comments.

  • If you finish your task early, you can think about questions that you might have for your peers who are working on the other questions listed above.