Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Online Icebreakers - Creating Community for Adult Learners

Online Icebreakers - Creating Community for Adult Learners

Community building in online learning environments may be one of the most difficult aspects for adult learners.  While it is possible to use discussion boards to enable interaction between learners, Oosterhof, Conrad, and Ely (2008) state that this is not the same as community building.  The use of icebreakers are meant to initiate conversation and facilitate the building of community.

Looking back on your experiences as an adult learner in an online program, have you established any relationships with your classmates outside of the course environment?

Consider your experiences on a more personal level.  Do you feel like you have been part of a learning community or have you felt isolated?  Would the use of ice breakers and the opportunity for informal conversation have helped eliminate feelings of isolation?

By Tuesday: Share your experiences with icebreakers that you feel were either successful or unsuccesful.  For this discussion, suggest an activity that may help adult learners to build community in an online environment.   Support your activity design using the recommended resources listed below.  Use at least one additional resource.

By Sunday: Respond to at least two of your peers’ discussions.   In your response, discuss how you would respond to the activity they suggest.   Do you think that you would be inspired to continue a discussion with your peers based on this activity? Why or why not?

Instructions  and Requirements

  • For this discussion post, please use proper APA formatting as described by the University's website.
  • Use and properly cite, the recommend resources plus at least one other resource.
  • Ensure your posts are free of spelling and other errors.  
  • Initial posts should demonstrate that you have synthesized the resources and your personal experiences for clear and concise expression.  
  • The initial posting must be submitted by Tuesday at 11:59 PM PST.
  • Responses should have depth and encourage continued discussion with the original poster and others.  Avoid "me, too!" and "I agree!" type posts. 
  • Respond to at least two of your peers by Sunday at 11:59 PM PST.
For further details on grading, please refer to the rubric .

Recommended Resources 

Resources indicated with (link) are available via Walden University Library or Google Scholar.  The link is provided, but you must be able to sign in to the Walden University Library to access these resources.

Chlup, D., & Collins, T. (2010). Breaking the ice: Using ice-breakers and re-     energizers with adult learners. Adult Learning, 34-39. (link)

Horton, W. (2006). Chapter 9: Design for the virtual classroom. In E-Learning by Design (pp. 463-471). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (link)

Oosterhof, A., Conrad, R.-M., & Ely, D. P. (2008). Assessing learners online. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. (text)

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2007). Chapter 8: Promoting Collaborative Learning. In Building online communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom (pp. 157-184). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. (link)

Swan, K. (2002). Building learning communities in online courses: The importance of interaction. Education, Communication & Information, 2(1), 23 - 49. (link)


  1. The standard "Introduce yourself" discussion activity has never been a good ice breaker for me. I either forget to reply or I feel I am saying the same thing over and over again.

    One ice breaker that I have found interesting is Two Truths and a Lie. Another that I just came across is "Lost in Space" (, n.d.). This ice breaker presents you with the scenario of: You have 15 minutes to clear out of a space station (computer malfunction - life support lost). Quickly name the 5 things you would take with you.

    Reference: (n.d.). Pedagogy. Retrieved from

    1. Diane,
      Thank you for your post. The "Lost in Space" activity sounds fun, actually!

      Do you think that adult learners may have a tendency to feel that ice breaker activities may be a waste of time?

  2. Rebecca,
    These are very well written instruction and an easy to follow rubric. I really like where you instructed to "Consider your experiences on a more personal level." A personal touch is so much better than having to site everything as many discussions will have us to. I know that it is thought being people take you thoughts more seriously if it comes from an article posted in a book or journal article, but their information comes from personal experience so why can't we be more mindful of ours and use it as part of our proof of knowledge. I feel this gives the participant a sense of self where their experience is appreciated and it will give you more quality of work.

    Eric Bronley

  3. Thank you, Eric. While I see the need for scholarly discussions guided by rubrics, I feel that they may contribute to the continued isolation of the online learner. Over the last two years, I think that I have learned more from the personal experiences shared by my classmates than I have from the scholarly part of the discussion!