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Live online interactive learning and large cohorts

Activity ideas for your LOIL session

It is possible to plan effective use of LOIL time that promotes interaction between staff and students, even with large cohorts of 300 students, or more.  With large cohorts it is critical to focus on maximising the opportunity for all students to participate. Group-based activity is an effective approach and can be facilitated quite easily online.

Some suggestions for using LOIL time with large cohorts include:

Group or project work

Establishing small groups or teams who work together throughout a unit can support both cohort-building and LOIL. Consider grouping students with those whom they may also share in-person time, so that they work together throughout their in-person and remote tasks on small-group exercises. These groups can be activated within LOIL activities to present pre-prepared collaborative material or to undertake small-group tasks or discussions via breakout rooms. These can then feed back into the plenary. Students will also develop their teamworking and project-management transferable skills (Bovil, “Cocreation in Learning and Teaching: the case for a whole class approach in higher education,” 2019).

Discussion activities

Structured debates using breakout rooms, ask students to pick a side and explain/defend their position, in real-time problem solving. Allow students to post their own examples.

Question and answer sessions

Collect questions in advance of the LOIL session via a Q&A forum. Send a question survey before the LOIL session – collecting information from students in advance will show that you’re interested in their opinions. Run a poll or quiz before the live session to test students’ knowledge of the preparatory material. Pose a question, then give students time to think and write an answer. Allocate a task for students to complete while you review the chat comments/questions, then bring students back together for answers.

Flipped Classroom

Can you approach your session differently and flip the classroom completely? Have a look at our suggestions for designing a flipped classroom.

Technologies to support large cohort groupwork

We recommend using Zoom for large cohort LOIL sessions so that you can break your large cohort into smaller groups (Zoom can accommodate up to 50 ‘breakout’ groups in each session).

A standard Zoom meeting has a maximum of 300 participants, which should suffice in most instances. For cohorts greater than this (or below if desired), and depending on staff availability, you can:

  • Split your contact time in half and deliver a LOIL session for half the cohort and repeat in a second session with the other half.
  • Deliver parallel sessions (i.e. two or more Zoom meetings) run by mulitple staff.
  • Discuss a ‘large room’ licence with the TEL team, as this allows access for either 500 or 1000 particpants.  Your department will need to fund this.

Pre-assigning students to groups in Zoom

You can assign students to breakout groups within a Zoom session (either directly, or let Zoom randomly assign them), or you can choose to pre-assign your students to specific breakout groups before a live session. Pre-assigning students can be beneficial as it limits any issues arising within the session itself. You can pre-assign up to 100 rooms and up to 1000 participants (depending on the size of your license).

As discussed above, it is critical to identify how this interactive activity contributes to students’ learning experience as a whole, either across the unit or the course. What do you want your students to learn or develop through interactive activity? What prior knowledge and skills does this build on? What will it enable them to do next?

Further resources

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