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Online Icebreakers

 IcebreakerAfter commenting that all the icebreakers I could locate were intended for classrooms, I finally went on the hunt for those that were intended for use as elearning strategies. So, this is what I have found:

 This programme suggests a range of online icebreaker to promote student / teacher interaction. It begins a rationale for the use of  ‘icebreakers’ with what I would call the usual strategies such as being available. Tell us about yourself type of exercises. However it then lists several ideas I like no 15 in the series which asks students to write about their own experience of the topic in hand (in this case mathematics) – this is immediately followed with a quote related to this topic that is controversial and asks for coments on this. No 23 could also be used to good effect. I have seen this used in a class exercise where it worked well. Essentially it asks you to describe why you have the name you have. Another one that has a number of resources as well as a sound rationale for the use of icebreakers is this one which is a Pointer and Clicker article. (Not sure if this title has some significance?) Actually now that I look at it, although the introduction is sound, the icebreaker exercises seem to be for classrooms not elearning examples.

This one looks more promising and is designed for tertiary students. Its called Reinventing Class Discussion Online.  this makes the point that “the more knowledge students have about each other, the more sharing of social cues, the more motivated they will be to participate in on-line discussion”.  The idea that students might want to ‘hang out’ in a chat room (sort of equivalent to a coffee bar) is one suggestion. Another is to introduce yourself by identifying 8 nouns that apply to you. I suspect that there is a need to vary the exercise in order to keep up the interest of the lecturer! I notice that it has a reference to work by Lawrence Erlbaum who is a trusted author in tertiary education. The suggestion under the headings: Repair, Reconstruct and Formulations look possible.

  •  Reconstruct refers to students taking a ‘snip’ from another students work and creating a new message by responding to this.
  • Repair: this is where students correct, clarify comments made by other eg. I believe student X means……, or building on the comments by X….. They can also correct themselves.
  • Formulations: Students summarise and assess where the conversation is headed – this might point out a new direction or topic. 

Another suggestion is that students identify the type of message being posted eg. as a ‘joke’, an ‘opinion’ , ‘evidence’ – then others know how to repond. It also suggests that on-line contribution could be assigned marks …. a tricky venture – (opinion!)

Assigning people roles eg. the eternal optimist, devil’s advocate, trouble shooter or discussion moderator. The assignment of a role helps students to feel freer to express themselves or disagree with one another.  (I like the sound of this one. I have assigned people to either side of a debate in the past – which again worked well in some instances –  mainly when the students took on the role of being a devil’s advocate naturally. Assigning them to the role appeals to me).

Found another site that has a long list of possible tasks. Worth a look. Its called “using online icebreakers“.

NB: It seems to me that ice-breakers become even more important for virtual classrooms as establishing a social presence is much more difficult when compared to face-to-face contact.


August 26, 2007 - Posted by | E learning communities | ,


  1. Hi

    Enjoyed reading this post. The ‘Reinventing Class Discussion Online’ link was useful in summing up how we communicate in this medium. I liked the idea of keywords to clarify the type of comment (e.g. question, opinion, joke) – this could be useful for younger learners who have not fully developed clarity in their writing styles. (Although I’m not always sure my meaning is clear from what I write either 🙂 [Joke!]


    Comment by Yvonne | September 3, 2007 | Reply

  2. Hi Linda, I am keen to try these ice breakers. I have found that getting people in introduce themselves can be like pulling teeth. Cheers Sarah

    Comment by Sarah Stewart | September 5, 2007 | Reply

  3. Thanks for these icebreakers. I think they will be pretty useful. Might help to get people communicating with one another

    Comment by Carolyn | September 9, 2007 | Reply

  4. […] I’m on that subject again! Will review my own site to think of a better way of doing […]

    Pingback by My Assessment for this course: International Learning Evaluation « On the run | November 12, 2007 | Reply

  5. Hi Linda…how funny…just did a google search for online icebreakers and immediately found your post – great work!!

    Comment by Sarah Stewart | September 17, 2009 | Reply

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