Everyone wants interaction in courses, yet when a group size gets too large, it doesn’t have much interaction. A event in a physical space naturally makes teams based on who is nearby. When done online, this needs to be more explicit.

Primary articles

Basic concepts

  • Teams are pre-assigned

  • Exercise leaders (aka helpers) assigned per team

  • Teams stay together during the whole workshop.

  • Learners can sign up either alone…

  • … or they can sign up with a pre-made team: people who know each. “bring your own breakout room”:

    • When two people in a work group learn a skill, uptake within the group is often much higher. Thus, we strongly encourage pre-made teams that know each other.

    • Teams that all come from the same group or field, with a helper from that field, can transition to help


In the best online implementations, our teams have these properties:

  • Coordination of breakout rooms is a lot of work.

  • In zoom, we could request learners to rename to (N) Learner Name, and then quickly assign people. Now, you can have learners self-select their rooms. But will they actually do this, or stay in main room?

  • One helper is assigned per team.

    • In fact, we would limit the number of registrations to 5× the number of helpers so that all teams have a helper

  • Our registration system (indico) is capable of mailing personalized messages per person with their team information. This is quite a bit of work to manage.

But they have these disadvantages:

  • Much, much harder registration coordination, almost to the point of being impossible.

  • Number of attendees.

  • Difficulties when attendees drop out partway through a course.


Teams may natuarally form based on setting location, but

  • Teams may happen naturally by sitting at the same table

  • Do teams stay the same day after day?

  • Do teams get arranged in a manner useful for learning?

  • Do you have one helper per team?

  • Do you encourage people to interact explicitly enough?

  • Do you ensure that no one gets left out in the crowd? Are the teams explicit enough?

Discussion: what we actually do

  • For large enough CodeRefinery workshops, assign teams with one helper each. Deal with re-adjustment

  • The livestream option allows everyone else to follow along.

  • In other workshops, create breakout rooms but somehow try let people self-assign. Most don’t.

  • For large workshops without enough staff help, livestream and encourage people to form their own teams and watch themselves - we don’t actually need to be involved.

  • Teams can be delegated to a local organizer.



Consider these questions:

  • Should teams have similar or different people in them?