How might we design and facilitate more engaging, fun and interactive learning experiences with students in an online environment?
I wrestled with this question for a long time, especially after hearing from students that they are struggling with online lectures after the prolonged period of remote study.
Then I came across Miro and see so much potential in this collaborative board in creating a virtual “gathering place” where people behind the screens can actively get involved, interact and work together meaningfully.
That’s where I have been “secretly” working on this idea of ditching the PPT slide (not entirely… but quite significantly) and instead, translating the key content/knowledge into interactive activities, using the scaffolding approach and liberating structures.
Starting with a prototype to facilitate a small-group coaching session for 10 students, I continually improved the session design and my facilitation skills to eventually roll out to bigger classes of 30-50, then 100-120 students across different topics.
What makes Miro unique
Miro is a versatile collaboration board that allows participants to visually interact and work together by adding sticky notes, photos, and icons. It is a popular tool in the design space especially when it comes to bringing people together to collaborate on projects.
In using Miro for workshops and in the teaching context, it allows the instructor/facilitator to engage and empower learners by inviting them to share their inputs and involve them in class activities both individually and in groups.
My favourite Miro features are:
- The timer with music – great and fun tool for individual brainstorming activities before asking for group sharing.
- Sticky notes, icons and photos.
- “Bring everyone to me” – this allows the facilitator (typically the creator of the Miro board) to direct everyone to the specific frame/activity.
What went well
The sessions were conversational, interactive and dynamic with students actively contributing their inputs, perspectives and questions to collectively enrich the learning experience. As the participants were given the time and tools to process and share their thoughts via the Miro board, the discussions were vibrant and inclusive.
I received encouraging feedback with both academics and students reporting that they found the sessions interactive. Some said they had fun while learning important career skills – this is the most rewarding feedback to me.
The challenges and lessons learnt
Challenge #1: Switching between Zoom/Teams and Miro during the online session can be a challenge, as it can be hard to manage the interaction on Miro while attending to the chats on Teams/Zoom. It will be easier if you are using two screens.
Lesson #1: Conduct trial runs to ensure smooth operation and transition between platforms.
Challenge #2: Larger groups require longer and more thorough onboarding. As Miro is a relatively new platform (though it has gained so much popularity the past few years especially with the demand for virtual collaboration), it is essential to provide guidance, time, and space for new users to learn and experiment with key features/tools before the session starts. This gives learners the skill and confidence to participate throughout the session.
Lesson #2: The larger the group, the more time needed to be dedicated to onboarding participants.
Challenge #3: Managing students’ participation throughout the session to optimise inclusive and productive collaboration. This is a “two sides of a coin” type of challenge: on one hand, using Miro instead of the typical PPT opens new ways for students to share their inputs; on the other hand, it potentially creates some challenges when it comes to managing what students might say or share on Miro board.
Lesson #3: It is the responsibility of the instructor to set ground rules, to communicate expectations and to provide clear instructions to help participants engage meaningfully and constructively.
How can someone new to Miro get started?
1. Get your free Miro educator account
To get a free Miro account, you can request an educator account and use your university email to sign up. Approval normally takes around a day.
2. Start small
It is recommended that new Miro instructors and facilitators start small. For example, create a simple board with 1-2 activities, lead a small group of 4-5 and incrementally increase the size and complexity of your sessions.
3. Ask for feedback for continuous improvement
At the end of every session on Miro, I always try to allocate 3-5 minutes to invite participants to share their experiences, what works well for them, and what can be done better next time so I can continually fine-tune the board design and how I facilitate the session.
4. Make use of Miro resources
What I love most about Miro is the community and resources to support the users.
The Miro Academy provides amazing free courses, videos and live trainings that you can learn in your free time
The Miroverse gives you templates, workflows and projects from the Miro community so you don’t have to create everything from scratch.
The Miro Community is useful forum where you can ask your questions or discuss with other users regarding Miro topic/issues.
Miro Education Plan offer a free account (with advanced features) to staff members and students of educational institutions.
About the author
Tim is a dad, husband, and career coach/learning experience designer who seeks to use technology to facilitate deep human connection and collaboration in creative problem-solving projects. When he has some downtime, he enjoys cooking wholesome meals for his fam, going for a swim/run while listening to his favourite podcast, Hidden Brain as well as connecting with friends over coffee.