Icebreakers are short activities, regularly at the start of courses, tutorials, and also meetings, that provide an opportunity for students to interact via instructors, TAs, and also one one more. Icebreakers array from straightforward inquiries to course-related prompts and structured activities. In online settings, icebreakers leverage innovation to affix all members of an digital course across physical ranges.

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Social Presence and Engagement

Icebreakers have the right to promote social presence in an virtual course. This is what students experience when they feel connected to their fellow students, their instructors, and also their TAs. Students are more encouraged to learn and succeed once they feel linked to their digital course neighborhood (Jaggars & Xu, 2016).

Social existence can be completed by cultivating emotional and also cognitive engagement in a course. Icebreakers play a role in facilitating interactions in between members in the course and also can encourage meaningful engagement through course content.

To learn more about engaging students virtual, read Fostering Engagement: Facilitating Online Courses in Higher Education. (See component 3c. of units 3-5 to uncover useful techniques and viewpoints, featuring College of Waterloo instructors.)

Facilitating Icebreakers

Set the stage for engagement

As the instructor, you have actually a critical duty in modelling engagement for your digital course. Start by introducing yourself and also inviting students to carry out the same. Message an announcement so that all students can view it or begin a conversation board topic for students to respond. Be creative – share a photo, record an audio message, or film a quick video introduction! Include indevelopment that you would certainly additionally favor to recognize around your students to provide them an instance of what their own introductions need to look prefer.

Think around your objectives for the icebreaker

Knowing what you’re trying to accomplish will certainly inform what types of activities you will certainly carry out. Typical purposes of icebreakers include:

Helping students feel favor they’re part of a communityFinding out students’ existing knowledge and also perspectives around course contentFacilitating groupjob-related and uncovering each group member’s strengths

Relate the task to your course.

Use icebreakers as an opportunity to get students reasoning around course content and to gauge their expectations for the course.

Ask concerns related to the course content.Looking via the syllabus, what topic looks the the majority of interesting to you?Questions can likewise be discipline-related.Literature: What is your favourite novel/created work?Health: What does being healthy and balanced mean to you?Engineering: What is one thing you use all the time that is designed well and one point via an inconvenient style that you would change?Ask concerns that can increate your teaching.What have the right to I execute to make discovering in this course more engaging for you?What is your favourite strategy of studying?

Provide framework and also clear expectations for engagement.

Give clear instructions so students understand also what to perform and also let them know ahead of time so that they have the right to prepare. For big classes, think about separating students into teams of 8 to 10 for the activity. You deserve to ask students to lead activities within smaller sized groups to proactively engage them.

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Set expectations on just how frequently or exactly how much students must interact with one an additional (e.g. exactly how many type of peers must they respond to?). Consider requiring students to interact or many students may not take part.

Have fun!

Keep your icebreakers easy and also light-hearted, particularly for digital courses wbelow students may be skeptical to share personal stories. Quick and also basic tasks are easy to facilitate and connect students.

Icebreaker Ideas


Asynchronous ways of engaging students are many reliable in digital courses. In LEARN, take into consideration establishing up a discussion board to facilitate basic, asynchronous icebreakers.

At the begin of the course, ask students to introduce themselves and also embed an icebreaker activity in their introductions.Ask fun concerns or prompts you would like to know around your students past their scholastic term and also program. Encourage them to share a photo with their response.How would certainly you explain yourself in 3 words/images? What is your favourite _? If you were a type of _, what would certainly you be? If you might take a trip all over, where would certainly you go? Share a photo of your favourite memory related to _.In enhancement to the course-connected concerns pointed out earlier, you can ask:Why did you take this course? What execute you hope to learn by the finish of this course?Encourage students to respond to various other short articles. Prompt them to reply to a peer with whom they share somepoint in common. Start conversations by asking students to finish their post with a question for various other human being to answer.


Synchronous icebreaker activities are restricted by time constraints. Activities that call for each person to respond in real-time are the majority of appropriate for little group settings such as tutorials. Consider providing instructions for your icebreaker in breakthrough if world require time to prepare.

Ask a brief and straightforward question.Would you quite this or that? What are you looking forward to this week?If webcams are enabled:Try an activity wbelow you give a prompt to uncover an object nearby (e.g. “uncover something blue”) and have each participant share what they uncovered.If your web conference technology supports custom backgrounds, ask students to turn on their favourite backgrounds.Keep in mind that synchronous activities may not be inclusive to all students throughout time areas.

More Resources


Jaggars, S. S., & Xu, D. (2016). How carry out online course style attributes affect student performance?. Computers & Education, 95, 270-284.

Results of this study show that students are more most likely to achieve better qualities once their discovering atmosphere entails social interactions. Students are encouraged to perdevelop well in the course if they interact with others in their virtual course neighborhood.

 This Creative Commons license lets others remix, tweak, and also construct upon our occupational non-commercially, as lengthy as they crmodify us and show if changes were made. Use this citation format: Icebreakers for Online Classes. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.