Course Activities - Icebreakers

Overview | Instructional Use | Tips | Shortcomings | Potential Technology | Resources

Icebreaker activities have the potential to increase the feeling of rapport and camaraderie among online students. Since online courses can be taken by students who might be located all around the world, students from different countries might have the wrong perception of not having anything in common.

Through these activities, online students are more emotionally connected to their classmates thus reducing their feeling and perception of being working with a group of strangers. By sharing their goals, expectations, hobbies, and other personal information, students are potentially able to identify themselves with the rest of the class.




Since online courses lack the rich interaction found in traditional courses, icebreaking activities provide a helpful opportunity for online students to socialize and become familiar with each other.  Most of the icebreaking activities are quite simple and do not require a great amount of time, yet in spite of their simplicity they could be quite effective in promoting social interaction.

Through icebreaker activities, students might realize that they share many goals and interests such as favorite sports, songs, and movies, classes already taken, places visited, etc.

By being more emotionally connected with their classmates, students might be more motivated to work together, potentially increasing the quality and effectiveness of teamwork.

  • Conduct the icebreaking activity during the first week of your online class.
    If possible, consider using an icebreaker activity in real-time using a videoconferencing application. This will allow for students to see and listen to each other. Depending on the number of students, they could introduce themselves individually or they could be paired off (using the breakout rooms feature provided by most videoconferencing applications) and then pairs can introduce each other to the rest of the group.

  • If a synchronous activity is not possible, consider using an Online forum in which students post a brief introduction of themselves. Encourage including course expectations and non-sensitive personal information such as hobbies, past accomplishments, jobs, future plans, etc.

  • When using Online forums, encourage your students to comment briefly on “at least two” classmates’ introductions. By specifying “at least two” they don’t feel force to necessarily reply to all introductions.

  • If your class includes team projects, consider using the information from your students’ personal introductions to form the groups: teams of students who have the same/different interests or professional background.

  • Icebreaking activities might not be beneficial for all online students. It might be primarily suitable for students who are more sociable and extrovert. However, some students might just complete the activity as a requirement.

  • Some students might feel uncomfortable disclosing personal information. To reduce potential uncomfortable situations, give students the freedom to share the information they want. Also, inform them that they are not required to answer any additional personal questions from their classmates.


For synchronous icebreaking activities, it is necessary to use a videoconferencing application such as Adobe Connect. In order to be able for students to see and listen to everybody else, students should have a webcam with an integrated microphone. To reduce the potential issue with Internet bandwidth, when having more than five students it is convenient not to have all their videos simultaneously but one at a time.

For asynchronous icebreaking activities, students could use an Online Forum.