How to use customised backgrounds to enhance simulations/role play based learning activities

Do you use simulations/role-plays as a learning activity in your teaching? Do you wish to enhance the authenticity of the students’ experience by using customisable backgrounds?

Use this lesson recipe to lead a session in Collaborate in which students 1) simulate/rehearse a scenario 2) take part in a debrief.

Applications include:

  • role-playing situations/scenarios.
  • screening students’ study backgrounds when they don’t want them visible to others.

Visit the hyperlinks in the recipe for specific guidance.

This lesson requires students to install software and to select a background image appropriate to their assigned role (see below), if they choose.

Before the session

  1. Develop or select scenarios/role cards that you can give the students as a pre-session task.
  2. Plan which students will receive which role e.g. who will have Role A, Role B etc. Plan which students with the differing roles will come together to act out the scenario.
  3. Schedule the meeting and let students know the session name and time, so they can access it in the appropriate Blackboard module. When publicising the session, do the following:
  • Inform your students of the purpose of the session (to role play/simulate a scenario relevant to the course).
  • Invite students to use SnapCam to modify their background during the role-play. Provide this guide on how to install and use SnapCam.
  • Assign students a specific role.
  • Assign each group a pre-session task: read the information about the scenario/role and identify an appropriate background image if they choose to use SnapCam backgrounds.

During the session

  1. Inform students that you’ll put them into breakout rooms based on their specific roles e.g. Role A + Role A + Role A, Role B + Role B + Role B, etc.
  2. Tell the students that while in the break out rooms, they should clarify the previously assigned role and agree on a ‘plan of attack’ in relation to the scenario. They may wish to practise using their backgrounds, too.
  3. Designate a time limit before opening the break out rooms. Pro Tip: As the time needed to move into breakout rooms can vary slightly depending on participants’ bandwidth, state a time when you will close the breakout rooms).
  4. Custom assign students to break out rooms. Group students according to their assigned role in the scenario e.g. all those with Role A in one group, all those with Role B in another group, etc. Press ‘start’ to move students into rooms.
  5. Monitor the main room or move between rooms to listen in/support. Pro Tip: If there is no-one in the main room and you have chosen to record the session, the recording will stop (not pause) while students and moderators are going about their business in the break out rooms. Restart the recording in the main room once everyone is back in or arrange for someone to stay in the main room.
  6. Close the rooms at the designated time to bring all students back into the main room. Pro Tip: It can take a little while for all students to come back to the main room.
  7. Provide students with the next instruction: Students will be split into new groups so that each new group will have at least one student with Role A, one with Role B, etc.
  8. Custom assign students to new break out rooms. Assign students to new break out rooms ensuring that each room has at least one student with Role A, Role B, etc. Press ‘start’ to move students into rooms. Pro Tip: A colleague or even a student to whom you grant the role of moderator can arrange these groupings in the background while you give instructions.
  9. Designate a time limit before opening the break out rooms.
  10. Press ‘start’ to move students into the new break out rooms.
  11. Monitor the main room or move between rooms to listen in/support, as necessary.
  12. Close the break out rooms to move all students back into the main room.
  13. Lead a debrief session: What resolutions where there in the scenario? Was this the case for all groups? What positively or negatively affected the outcome? If the scenario was to be run again, what would you do differently?

Top tips

  • Try out Collaborate and familiarise yourself with how to resolve issues that students might encounter.
  • Turn off notifications you don’t want to see/hear via Settings in the Collaborate panel.
  • Stop the recording if you started recording. If you make other colleagues or students moderators, they can stop the recording, too.
  • If you recorded the session, remember that it can take some time for the video to process and therefore it might not show immediately.
  • Tell students they can stay in the meeting if they wish. You don’t need to be present for the meeting to continue and by leaving the meeting open you provide additional opportunities to for students to interact.