Peer learning and breakout groups in live online lectures


Using Microsoft Teams and the Vevox PRS

In many cases we advise teachers not to do live online lectures. They are complicated, prone to technical problems, and lose the flexibility of pre-recorded videos. However, in some cases, they are worth the trouble. They are a good way of teaching in a fast, responsive, way, with students actively engaged together at the same time. This is useful when dealing with a difficult idea, a “threshold concept”. You can use “backchannels” and polling to get instant feedback from the students to evaluate progress, and then adjust your teaching (faster, slower, perhaps trying a different angle if necessary). We call this “responsive teaching”. In live on-campus lectures, we use a personal response system (Vevox) that allows the teacher to poll students, and for students to share ideas and questions through a Q&A channel. The same tool works well online (here’s a video demo).

In on-campus teaching, we can also use peer-learning techniques, and group-learning activities (case-based or problem-based). Again, this transfers well to the online environment. However, to enable this we need a more comprehensive collaboration platform, and some more advanced learning design. Teams, combined with Vevox, is one option. In May 2020 we tried this out at the University of Warwick TEALFest. This video explains why and how, with the complexity of the approach dissected in a kind of service blueprint diagram. As you will see, it is an advanced technique. having an assistant to support the teacher makes it easier. We recommend thoroughly practising and testing out the set up before running it live.

Dr Robert O'Toole NTF

Senior Teaching Fellow, Arts Faculty, University of Warwick. Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, National Teaching Fellow, Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence.

You may also like...