Online group activity for 18-21?
February 8, 2021 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Need ideas for quizzes and other activities for building group cohesion and building contacts among our undergrad students.

We are looking to support our UGs (assume 18-21) with events/meetings/activities that bring them together to work in groups. Normally our students form groups fairly naturally through group work, labs etc as well as outside the academic space. That is out this year, no face to face this term and many are stuck at home so fairly isolating for many students. We are running a weekly quiz (more like pub quiz than academic but daytime and not boozy) just to get them talking in groups. We are exhausting our ideas so anything you have in terms of:

1: New topics for quiz rounds. (We do can pictures, have done where in the world, invisibles film quiz, music, etc as well as straight up questions)

2: New themes for quizzes or other events. (We have done a scavenger hunt relating to campus before.)

3: New events, whatever you can think of.

The easier something is for us to set up the better of course. Students are a fair mix of different nationalities so anything too fixed in a single culture could be exclusionary. All are trainee engineers if that helps, all with laptops, but we can't get physical kit to them.
posted by biffa to Human Relations (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: minecraft project night? something where they work on ideas for kids, like mentoring robotics teams or something?
posted by th3ph17 at 4:37 PM on February 8, 2021

Best answer: My work uses Roundsy for virtual happy-hour-type get-togethers. It shuffles people into groups of 5 with an optional conversation-starter prompt, and reshuffles every few minutes. I find it a lot easier to chat and get to know people in the smaller group than when there's a lot of people. I'm not sure if that's what you're looking for, but I've really enjoyed it for getting to know folks in my department -- I started this new remote job during the pandemic, so I've never met anyone there in person.
posted by duien at 4:53 PM on February 8, 2021 [5 favorites]

Board/tabletop games? I'm possibly biased but they're a lot of fun and, depending on the game, can be done with little to no prep. Something like Microscope looks like it could be a lot of fun.
posted by Alensin at 5:05 PM on February 8, 2021

Best answer: If you search Pub Trivia Questions, you'll get lots. or do news trivia, similar to Wait Wait. This is a fair bit of work, so task members of the group with finding trivia questions and being the host by turns. It's actually useful as research and public speaking. Building together in minecraft sounds cool.
posted by theora55 at 5:59 AM on February 9, 2021

Best answer: Do their courses also involve/require group work? One of the things we're finding at my university (which is hybrid, so we end up with a little over half of our calculus students remote, some in very different time zones, and a little under half in person) is that students are feeling extra time stress with online learning. Many of our students would not feel like they have time or spoons to participate in extra outside of class activities like this. So activities that help support specific student needs (study skills? other remote learning or pandemic related skills? you might need to poll your particular students to figure out what would be good) while also being fun games or not for credit might get better participation rates. Or just focus on increasing group work participation in the classes themselves. To do this, we've looked in to how to make our group work activities more fun (that may require more time than you and your fellow instructors have available at present, unfortunately), more organized beginning of semester introductions, and making participation a clear part of the marking scheme. 'Course, lots of our students arrive with negative impressions of group work from past school experiences, so are resistant to having participation in group work be required as part of the marking scheme - to solve that, we (try to) make sure to give them lots of evidence-based info/explanation about how to do group work effectively, why we are requiring it, and more specifically how it will help their grades/marks even if it initially feels like it is taking longer/is a waste of their time. And we (try to) balance that out with individual work, as well, of course - having multiple pathways for active engagement/participation in the course and multiple paths for student success in the course is ideal (again, instructor time in designing this is a limiting component).
posted by eviemath at 6:39 AM on February 9, 2021

Best answer: Addendum on a related topic: we've talked with our students a lot more directly/explicitly about study skills and metacognition this year, including creating an effective study schedule with school-life balance, and math anxiety. We had them journal on these topics after watching brief videos or short online readings, as well. We didn't follow up on the journals enough, but overall our students last semester seemed to get a strong sense that their instructors cared about them and were looking out for how to help make the online learning experience as positive as possible. So our end-of semester comments included lots of dissatisfaction with the difficulties of online learning, but appreciation for instructors and classmates and a sense that (most) students felt like at least their were in this tough situation together with everyone else (fellow students and instructors both). One of the reasons group work is important is that giving students the sense of being in a cohort or community of learners improves student learning outcomes and also improves retention (which our department head, dean, vp academic, and president all care quite a bit about, of course). The students feeling like their instructors know and care about them and are looking out for them serves similar ends, as well. So even if you don't get the take-up that you hope for in your extra-curricular group-building activities, if you've gotten student input on topics or activities, and have communicated why you're doing it and how you expect it to be beneficial to students, they will see and appreciate that, which will yield some of the benefits that you are hoping for from the activities.

My cat, who has a very cute photo, is also an honorary class TA this year, and sends the students encouraging messages (mostly about the importance of getting enough sleep, but this would vary by non-human TA, I imagine - eg. a canine TA would probably talk about the importance of play) a couple times during the semester. That's been a very small detail, but popular with the students.
posted by eviemath at 6:57 AM on February 9, 2021 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Many thanks for the very considered response eviemath. The students do have group work that has moved online. What we are trying to do with the fun quiz based sessions is replace some of the community building stuff we wold normally do through the year, which is discipline themed but a bit more esoteric. We want to build links between years, which isn't covered by the class work. Also, just let them know we are thinking of them and realise its tough and quite boring to be stuck at home, so its split off from the classwork and just aiming to be fun, but letting them meet in a space that gets them talking to each other, so they will talk to each the outside the classroom. We hope this goes to stronger community, less isolation and, as you say, these things might also help retention.

I like the cat idea, I will talk to the DoEd. about pimping out my cat for some of that.

I think doing the skills specific stuff sounds good also. We have been really emphatic about tutorials this year, but these sound like more advanced stuff than we have been doing, and it might not be too late to deliver some of those.
posted by biffa at 7:48 AM on February 10, 2021

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