Online Workshop Facilitation Tools for your 2023 Toolkit

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With so many great online workshop facilitation tools out there, it’s sometimes hard to know which one to choose. 

Comparing the features and prices of the various tools isn’t an apples-to-apples affair. Not only that, it’s likely you will need multiple tools depending on the audience and how you wish to engage with them.

So where do you start? 

Well, we’ve put together a list of different online workshop facilitation tools our team has used and popped them all in one convenient spot. Right here!

Online tools that build virtual spaces

Virtual space tools are a logical place to start when you’re exploring online workshop facilitation tools. They let you build a virtual room for your workshop. With these tools, you can create virtual events and conferences that recreate that sense of navigating a festival ground or moving from keynote speeches to breakout rooms. You might even create a virtual office where people can gather, work and have chance interactions.

Virtual spaces such as those below can help create a sense of wonder and excitement in participants, though they do often require more set-up and overhead than a simple virtual meeting.

Workshop facilitation tools

Once you have a virtual space defined, the next thing to consider for your online workshop is the collaboration tool you will use. 

Good collaboration tools do more than simply capture input. Good collaboration tools support the evolution of ideas. They facilitate informed, equitable decision making while ensuring all voices in the room are heard.  Importantly, good collaboration tools support positive user experiences for both facilitators and workshop participants. This means they are easy for everyone to use.

This type of online workshop facilitation tools can be applied to a huge range of event types. They can also be used for online, face-to-face and hybrid sessions.

Video conferencing tools

Video conferencing tools proved to be our go-to tool during the pandemic. Not only did they help us work from home, they helped us to connect socially. These tools have evolved dramatically over the past couple of years with more popular software including a wide variety of features and integrations. Users expect this type of workshop facilitation tool to include built-in features such as chat, screen sharing, and recording. 

These are a very cost effective way of engaging with people without the expense of travel. They have also shaped how we work.

Polling tools

These tools usually have members of the audience access their mobile devices to respond to different questions. Those questions can take the form of a poll, survey, quiz and similar short-form activity. The results are then shared by the facilitator with the group as a whole. 

Polling tools are also a good way of engaging large in-person groups, such as conference plenary sessions. They make it possible to quickly capture and share feedback without the awkwardness of singling out individuals to answer questions in front of everyone.

Online communication platforms

This category of online workshop facilitation tools offer another layer of engagement. They can be used during the workshop and continue to be used afterwards. These platforms are really helpful when groups are working asynchronously and collaboratively.

Online design tools

Design software can support online workshop facilitation in three key ways.

Firstly, the graphics made by online design tools enhance the workshop experience. They create visuals that are eye catching, engaging and fun. They can help create visuals that evoke feelings, set a mood and spark curiosity.

Secondly, when visual assets are being workshopped, online design software can save time and ensure everyone is on the same page. These tools streamline the creation process. They help reduce errors when making the designs with easy-to-use templates. They also support shared access so a group can have input into a process rather than limiting that input to a single individual.

Finally, online design tools can help engage visual learners. They can help a group ‘picture’ a process. They can map out steps or a design. They can support an asynchronous approach with people inputting feedback, comments and suggestions  into a design before a meeting.

Final tips for choosing online workshop facilitation tools

Choosing the right tool for the job really makes a big difference. 

The right tools for you will depend on your unique workshop requirements – 

  • Your workshop deliverables 
  • Your audience size
  • Your budget

With multiple features often included in a single tool it’s important to take the time to thoroughly explore what each offers. Book in a demonstration with the provider to tour you through the product. Sign up for free trials making sure you have the time to explore the tool (before the trial expires). 

Looking for for a tool to facilitate your next online workshop? Sign up now and give GroupMap a try (no credit card needed).

Have more questions or would like a demo?

Case Study: Hackathon Brainstorming and Team Judging


GroupMap was used as the collaborative idea management tool for teams to create new marketing ideas using the lean model canvas and as an online competition judging software so that judges could score the team pitches in real-time. The Curtin University Marketing Hackathon was a 2-day event held at Technology Park. High school students, current undergraduates, and professional marketing gurus came together to brainstorm innovative new ideas to improve student attraction and retention.
[mk_image src=”” image_width=”800″ image_height=”350″ crop=”true” svg=”false” lightbox=”false” frame_style=”simple” target=”_self” caption_location=”inside-image” align=”center” margin_bottom=”10″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]Kicking off was a spread of ideas from student festivals through to a make your own “course”, teams then formed comprised of a minimal of 3 skill sets along with the founders.

Hustlers (someone who has professional industry experience) hipsters (the creative types able to expand upon ideas and generate content) and hackers( the programmer and/or website-maker of the clan), combined with an honorary high school student create a dream team of mixed superpowers (special skills and talents).[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”” align=”center” crop=”true”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1557985490678{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]But how do you coordinate the diverse views and conflicting views to create a more consensus approach? With time ticking, it was important that each and every person in the team was focused in the same direction.

Using the Lean Model Canvas as the foundation – with a small tweak customized to suit – teams rapidly planned out their plan of attack, consolidating their idea.

Teams could plan their approach, share this with their mentors and test which assumptions they needed to most validate.[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”” align=”center” crop=”true”][mk_image src=”” align=”center” crop=”true”][vc_column_text]

“Using the lean canvas on GroupMap was a really handy tool that allowed our group to systemize our strategy. It helped us find our feet using the template as a guide as it was really easy to go astray,” said Sean Eamer – current student and Hackathon participant. “We had to deconstruct our grandiose business idea into smaller pieces and proved to be a good way to go through and re-evaluate things.”

[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”” align=”center” crop=”true”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1557985591382{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]The next 48 hours was a fun, intensive and gruelling event, with pivoting of ideas, validation with key customers and reaching out to people online, face to face and in classrooms.[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”” align=”center” crop=”true”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1557985581188{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]Finally, it was time for teams to pitches. Judges representing internal departments, agency partners and student representatives provided feedback and scores against criteria, in real time, using GroupMap as a contest judging software.[/vc_column_text][vc_row padding=”0″][vc_column width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”” align=”center” crop=”true”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”” align=”center” crop=”true”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row padding=”0″][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1557985646858{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]We obviously can’t share what the winning ideas were, but congratulations to the winning teams from both the judges and from the People’s vote. We wish you a truck load of success as you move to the next phase of bringing these initiatives to life.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row padding=”0″][vc_column width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”” align=”center” crop=”true”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”” align=”center” crop=”true”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row padding=”0″][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1557985716737{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]So why run a Hackathon and how do you smash out amazing outputs over 2 days? Here’s what some of the judges had to say about the event. Read the full story here.

“We use startup methodology and processes to rapidly test some ideas on our customers, generate break-through thinking…. We were able to accelerate the design and development of new ideas over two days to such a degree that we had multiple test websites built, channel plans developed and initiatives practically ready to launch.”
Ty Hayes (Chief Marketing Officer)

“The diversity and quality of ideas generated demonstrated how a traditional marketing problem can be resolved quickly and effectively across a broad range of marketing platforms using innovative thought processes.”
John Discoll (CEO at Marketforce)

“With the university sector increasingly targeted towards online learning environments it is vital we maximise our use of emerging technologies and processes to become a recognised international leader in research and education.”
Valerie Raubenheimer  (VP Corporate Relations)


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Feeling inspired to run your own Hackathon?

We thought we would share a few learnings and tips.

1. Support from the top

It’s great to have energy on the day. In fact, the participants bring this with them. But the message from decision-makers and leaders is about supporting both the wins and fails of the day and nearly shouting out from rooftops about why they are supporting the event. The last thing you want is a room full of personal mental blocks full of people worrying about what they need to get done by as part of their day to day job.

2.  Space matters

Over cater just by a little, don’t skimp on the coffee, keep the brain health and don’t forget the right levels of cush for the toosh. Whether it’s bean bags, sound bytes or a good dose of fresh air, make sure both the devices and participants are juiced up and ready for action.

3.  Structure for synergy

Using collaborative software to allow for the pollination of ideas. Set the ground rules but don’t be an administrative nazi. Give people space to think but capture things quickly and encourage quick but effective decision making so that they can get on with validating the idea. Use team voting to get past blocks. Coach mentors to be add ons. They should offer direction, not just critique. Finally set a few milestones to keep teams on track.

4. Start with the end in mind

Okay, so this is a concept espoused by Steven Covey, but it applies even in the world of Hackathons. With limited time frames, teams need to focus on the key action points that will drive the greatest value and aim for a particular outcome by the end of the session. The judging criteria will drive behaviour and so it makes sense to create the context about how teams will be judged on their final outputs. Making sure your criteria meets the goals of the event. Think of this way…imagine the perfect demo and then work backwards from there.

5. Give feedback to teams and plenty of it

Whether or not your judges scribble things on little bits of paper or a worksheet, or use a real-time judging software, the key thing is to get that feedback to the actual teams. They have worked hard, and if there’s no feedback, there’s no learning. And isn’t that the whole point? Of course, we would recommend you open it up to the audience to give feedback to teams.  The worse teams have the most to improve so every piece of feedback matters.
Take a peek at what happened.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
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Want to use online brainstorming or competition judging software at your event? Get in touch with us.


The Basics of Mind Mapping – What You Need to Know When Brainstorming Online.


What is a Mind Map?

A mind map is a diagrammatic representation of ideas that radiate from a central concept, thought, theme or question. Ideas that branch out from the central node become more detailed and build on the previous idea.

Mind maps are incredibly flexible, and can be used in a multiplicity of ways. They could, for example help you capture –

  • the outline of a plan of action
  • the different perspectives of a particular issue
  • the framework of an essay
  • the scope of a project
  • the elements a programme

Compiled individually or in groups, mind maps can vary significantly from one to another. They can be constructed using a range of media from pen and paper, through to online collaborative brainstorming templates.

Fundamental to a mind map is its simplicity. Their purpose is to capture a summary rather than detail, and therefore it should be possible to construct one in a single, reasonably short session.

This article will go through the fundamentals of mind mapping. Read on below to learn more.

The Benefits of Using Mind Maps

Using a mind map yields a number of benefits including the following :

1 – Enhanced Learning and Information Retention

Mind maps mimic the way our brains work.

By surfacing the connections between ideas, students can form connections between what they know and the new information they are exploring.

Additionally, human beings are more likely to remember a narrative brought about by connections rather than disparate facts.

Mind maps can therefore be a valuable teaching and learning tool.

2 – Complex Issues are Easier to Understand

Mind maps have an inherent clarity.

The process of constructing a mind map sees people distill information. As such, they strip away superfluous detail while visually representing how key ideas are connected.

When shared, only the important details are conveyed therefore increasing the likelihood that they are understood.

3 – Better Information Structuring

Mind maps capture information in a logical structure.

The way in which they record ideas and the relationships between them, means they are able to convey the “big picture” simply and quickly, while reflecting the points that support that “big picture”.

This makes mind maps an ideal planning tool for things such as essays and reports, and scopes of work.

4 – Enhanced Productivity

Not only is mind mapping an efficient way of capturing information, it can organize that information with goals and associated tasks in clear view.

Mind maps can help a manager identify then delegate tasks or concepts that are aligned; they can also convey how those delegated tasks are linked, and necessary for the success of a project.

Mind maps can be used to break down your complex aspects of a project into smaller steps, which significantly reduces the amount of work done.

5 – Sparks Creativity

Mind mapping allows us to capture the first thoughts that spring to mind and anything and everything we can think of that is connected. This can foster all manner of creativity.

What Makes Up a Mind Map?

A mind map generally includes a combination of the following :

1 – A Central Idea, Theme or Concept

The central idea is usually called the core, and is the heart of the mind map. The core can be thought of as the firework that’s being launched into the air from which all other ideas will explode.

As the name suggests, the central theme is placed at the centre of the page or screen. It can either be a subject or topic, a problem or question, or even a concept or thought that is to be explored.

2 – Associations

Associations branch out from the central theme; those that radiate from the centre are known as first-level associations.

From there, second-level associations are made, then third-level associations and so on.

With the need for simplicity in mind, it’s generally understood that there should be no more than 6 or 7 association levels, thereby avoiding unnecessary and potentially confusing detail.

When associations are created, and connections between ideas are captured, they tend to be more easily remembered. It’s generally believed that showing those associations as curved rather than straight lines further increases the likelihood of recalling the ideas they connect.

The way in which the associations are represented on the page or screen can add further meaning to a mind map without cluttering it with detail.  For example, bold or coloured lines could draw attention to small but critical ideas. Additionally, the proximity of the ideas to the central theme can be used to reflect their importance.

3 – Keywords

Given a good mind map is simple, the use of keywords are more effective in delivering this simplicity than detailed phrases or sentences.

As a rule, a single word for each association works best, with the associations themselves helping to keep detail to a minimum. For example, “Venue” was used in the mind map pictured rather than “Conference Venue”.

Sticking to keywords also saves time. It allows you to quickly capture the main points needed to support your central theme and avoid getting bogged down in detail. 

In Summary

Mind maps are valuable as –

  • they can be applied to any field
  • there are no right or wrong ways to use them
  • they can explore whatever you wish to deliver the desired outcomes

Templates can supercharge your mind mapping, and GroupMap provides many brainstorming templates that allows you to brainstorm individually or as a team, anonymously and with the ability to ad images, links, colours and files.

Have more questions or would like a demo?
Recommended Posts

GroupMap Open Space Virtual Methodology

groupmap open space live session

Introducing TFK Consulting  

Thomas Krecker of TK Consulting

TFK Consulting is a group coaching and changing advisers based in Hamburg, Germany, who provide their service via virtual workshops, digital facilitations and face-to-face meetings or events. 

Thomas Krecker is the Principal Consultant who has had extensive experience as an events manager and conference organizer. Thomas believes in the power of technology to help deliver a more sustainable, accessible and engaging event. 

He has been working with digital tools for team building since 1995, using them for online and offline facilitating. 

Thomas also co-creates and co-facilitate online workshops for consultants across various industries and disciplines, who want to continue with their existing service offerings and methodology without going too deep into the online world. 

“Good coaching is not reserved for companies and executives. Much of the technology used today in business… can, of course, be used for all human issues, regardless of the environment in which we are located.” 

Challenges with offline Open Space 

Having run many conferences, events and conducting coaching sessions for businesses and companies around the world, Thomas saw the increased importance of new methodologies.

The challenge Thomas saw when conducting traditional conferences face-to-face are:

    • They can be dysfunctional. Studies, including that by University of Utrecht (Stroebe, 2010) show that brainstorming in groups is less effective than thinking for yourself. Continued interruption, group dynamics, hierarchy, extroverted vs less extroverted leaders were some of the main reasons found that can block free thinking!
    • They can be inaccessible. Face to face events are expensive to run and have a time resource effect as well. This can influence attendees’ ability to attend and participate.
    • They can be admin heavy. Most of the breakout and workshop sessions still use flipcharts, pinboards and needles to capture feedback. This often needed to be typed up, transcribed, and translated – a heavy time investment.
    • They do not meet the demands of modern agile Teams

“In 2014, we wanted to program our own solution for better meetings. Since then I have been permanently screening the market for a solution.”

As a solution they combined the Open Space meeting methodology with the advantages of digital facilitation using GroupMap, tablets and beamer instead of pinboards and flipchart, creating instant anonymity, silent work and inspiration, exactly as the participants needed.

GroupMap Open Work Space on tablets

Open Space – often called Barcamp or a non-conference – is participant driven and less organizer-convener-driven. Participants would decide about the conference agenda themselves and are also free to join or leave every conference session, depending on what interests them most.

The next challenge was, to bring this format into the online world.

This process was driven by the conviction that the so-called “new normal” in workshops and team development will need to be a mixture of online and offline meetings. The latter was to be run based on a needs capacity, and as appropriate to the teams’ priorities, such as sustainability, time and money considerations. 

GroupMap Open Space as a solution 

“It turned out that transferring an Open Space into online using GroupMap was much easier than expected.”  

GroupMap Open Work Space Information Booth

Thomas and his team synchronized individual Zoom meetings with GroupMap by pinning the meeting address on the related map.  Each map was then turned into online “rooms” each with a descriptive image that made it feel like you were physically somewhere!

GroupMap Open Space by TK Consulting

For example, the “Foyer” was used not only as the first point of welcome or entrance to the “GroupMap Open Space” but also a teaser practice for writing on a map. Meanwhile the bar and the information counter became easy points for participants to return, get help or just chat outside the other sessions. 

GroupMap Open Work Space Foyer      GroupMap Open Work Space Bar

Being able to enter the rooms without a host’s permission lets you stroll through and join the sessions as you would like – similar to if it was a face to face event. 

“The experience and the idea of room matters a lot to the human brain. It gives orientation, security and inspiration. It adds “a feel” to the screen.” 

Virtual Open Space is a hit! 

According to Thomas, the “GroupMap Open Space” style is one of the most successful formats he has run.

“One of the major advantages of [GroupMap] is the simplicity and the Pinboard look and feel. Especially in online workshops, where same participants are still stressed and get sidetracked by technical issues, the simplicity cannot be overrated.” 

GroupMap Open Work Space Activity

Through GroupMap Open Space conference can be successfully run through combining the use of features such as:

    • The ability to create your own maps – GroupMap’s self customized template options allowed Thomas to transform many existing methodologies – such as many of the liberating structures, root cause analysis, ZRM (picture based resource evaluation), Ishikawa and many more – into the GroupMap templates. 
    • Rating functionality – the ability to rate in different dimensions for brainstorming sessions help to define and weigh each idea in the brainstorming session. 
    • Automatic reporting the ability to have all the information from every session downloadable, without having to transcribe and type up – is a time and resource saving. 
    • Create new maps and workspaces instantlythe ability to create new maps, add new workspaces and sessions while participants are working in other maps allowed for a very agile and responsive way of delivering conferences. 

Session Board Example

GroupMap build teams and encourages brainstorming 

“GroupMap is the core of team building and brainstorming for our customers, like Google or Microsoft is the core for the standard processes.”  

Thomas indicated that the feedback on “GroupMap Open Space” has been predominantly very good, with most participants being impressed by the speed and the platform’s ability to create a real “group feeling” online. 

“The best feedback I heard was from a group of 35 consultants who ended up using a GroupMap Open Space as a substitute for a personal meeting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They had doubts that a virtual open space would work. In the end, they came out with better and more results than in any physical meeting before.” 

Want to try GroupMap for your next online meeting? 

Schedule a demo with a GroupMap team member at a day and time that suits you best or have a go of our easy to use, supported online collaboration tool for FREE for 14 days today. 

Virtual Executive Event with GroupMap- from analogue to digital in 3 days



Executive events for fast-growth companies 

Telescope Advisers is a management consultancy based in Georgia, Atlanta, with a focus on creating value and impact for fast-growth companies. Since 2000, its principal consultant, David Clark, has helped businesses and organisations around the world to bring clarity, focus and alignment. 

David outlined some of key highlights of Telescope Advisers’ work: 

  • A five year strategy for a $150m extension of the North Carolina state health system;
  • Business planning and strategies for implementation for Habitat for Humanity’s world-wide country programs, which became the most requested service by the organisation.

To deliver these results, Telescope Adviser would conduct management workshops, executive events and retreats. 

“Telescope Adviser’s retreats typically involve plenary sessions before breaking into smaller workshop groups for brainstorming and detailed discussions, captured on white boards or flip charts that will then need to be recorded or transcribed” said David. 


Pandemic pushed for executive event to go virtual

David had planned, months in advance, for a four day executive event involving participants from Australia, South Africa and multiple cities across the U.S. 

However, the Friday before the event was due to begin, countries, including the U.S. imposed immediate travel restrictions as part of their COVID-19 plans.

“Obviously a face to face meeting became impossible and waiting for things to improve before holding the retreat was also not an option because it would have significantly impacted the project schedule of the organisation we were working with,” explained David. 

It was decided by all stakeholders involved that the event should go ahead and be delivered in a virtual executive event format. 

“Everyone agreed on videoconferencing to deliver the event, and Zoom was an obvious choice, but the question remained on how do we manage virtual collaborative discussions and decision making process?”  


Creating a global virtual executive event in 3 days & counting

On the same Friday that domestic and international travel were being grounded almost worldwide, David began a frantic search for an online tool that could support virtual executive meetings and events, allow for online collaboration and is easy for everyone – with different levels of technology competence – can use. 

David recalled that his search generated many options but many were discounted because they were either too confusing to set up or complicated to use. 

“Time was ticking before the virtual executive event was meant to start on the Monday, before I recalled reading about an online brainstorming tool called GroupMap in a blogpost,” said David.

“A quick Google search, a read on the GroupMap website and an intuitive quick demo personally from its CEO, Jeremy Lu, convinced me that this is the most suitable and supported tool to run my first virtual executive event.” 

GroupMap’s features of 60 brainstorming and decision making templates (called Maps) that can be easily customised, the ability to create own maps to align with Telescope Adviser’s objectives, expectations or preferred formats were big ticks for David. 

“I was completely sold on the software and when I presented my proposal to the stakeholders, they were happy to proceed virtually on the Monday using Zoom and GroupMap,” said David.


GroupMap the right choice for virtual events!

“As soon as the virtual executive event kicked off on Monday, I knew we had made the right choice by using GroupMap,” David commented. 

As team breakouts occurred after the plenary session, participants started using GroupMap for brainstorming. 

GroupMap for voting on ideas

These GroupMap features helped kept the participants on track and importantly, engaged:

  • Ability to create Workspaces by group and day and controlling access so that participants will only be able to access the maps for each workshop. This ensured everybody was on the same page for each of the virtual workshops, eliminating any confusion. 
  • Ease of use for sharing and voting that allowed all participants to input their ideas, comments, suggestions individually or collaboratively before proceeding to online voting and deciding on actions.
  • Facilitator’s ability to customise the process in GroupMap on the fly, including when participants were busy with digital brainstorming and input into the maps, so that it is possible to quickly pivot based on the situation or discussions on the day.
  • All inputs captured automatically, so there was no need to manually record information or to be concerned about not capturing an idea or losing notes. 
  • Sorting functionality made it easier for representatives of each group to use reports of prioritised ideas, actions, timelines to present when the virtual plenary session resumed.

Benefits of digital facilitation fully realised

“GroupMap literally salvaged our virtual executive global event. We would not have been able to have our workshop nor accomplished as much without this tool,” said David. 

GroupMap’s SOAR Analysis Template

The flexible and customisable capabilities of GroupMap allowed David to run a number of proven approaches, normally done face to face, delivered online effectively. Some of these include:

  • SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results) Analysis
  • ESVP (Explorer, Shopper, Vacationer, or Prisoner) Retrospectives
  • Purpose Retrospectives
  • Understanding and Defining Purpose
  • Pitch a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)
  • Impact on ideas
  • Core competencies

Using GroupMap also showed participants of the many positive benefits of digital facilitation:

  • Cost savings – As is expected with face-to-face events, there is considerable commitment of time and resources required prior and during the events. The booking of venues, travel, physical equipment hire – all adds up – and can be significantly reduced virtually.
  • Time savings – GroupMap’s automatic recording of ideas and discussions means no more hours of transcribing required!
  • Accessibility For organisations with tight travel budgets or resource constraints, GroupMap is a must-have for all virtual meetings. 

“We [Telescope Advisers and our stakeholders] have always envisioned a world connected through technology. Now we know it has arrived and we are ready for this new era with empowering online tools such as GroupMap” said David.

“Next up for me is to use the software for a whole workshop and stop playing around with sticky notes. I am now a big fan of GroupMap.”


Want to try GroupMap for FREE? 

Schedule a demo with a GroupMap team member at a day and time that suits you best or have a go of our easy to use, supported online collaboration tool for FREE for 14 days today. 


Teaching with technology – Going beyond Kahoot, Socrative and other quiz apps.

4 Collaborative Activities Using GroupMap In The Classroom.

We all love a good classroom quiz competition. The thrill of competing against others in the classroom using tools such as Kahoot or Socrative adds a level of excitement and urgency. But when it comes time for students to come up with and share their own ideas, we need a different tool. After all, you can’t use a hammer to screw a nail.

Classroom brainstorming, for example, requires students to draw on what they know and to see other perspectives. It’s a great opportunity for them to flex their individuality through divergent, collaborative, and creative thinking. Likewise, developing literacy and comprehension skills, self-awareness and agency require reflective practice.

Using graphic organizers helps you scaffold learning, provides some structure for students to organize their thinking – whether it’s reading a text, planning their work or simply being creative.

PROS of using online graphic organizers

  • Being able to create and reuse lesson plan templates without photocopying – saving paper and time.
  • Student responses are tracked, moderated, saved, and reportable.
  • It helps show the relationship between ideas in an organized way.
  • Can quickly share ideas as groups provide feedback directly on student ideas.
  • It helps with comprehension, and understanding of meaning and relationships.

CONS of using online graphic organizers

  • Limit the students’ writing to whatever content, organization, or style is dictated by the graphic organizer.
  • Students need access to technology.
  • Traditionally with paper formats, students would only write enough to “fill the space”.
  • You need to find the right organizer for the task at hand.

In short, over formatting and regulating a graphic organizer can actually do the reverse of what is intended and limit student independent thinking. At the same time, you still need to have some basic structure to facilitate thinking and discussion.

It makes sense to explore and use a range of context-driven graphic organizers to fit the 21st Century classroom. An online graphic organizer with a tool like GroupMap lets you create a range of graphic organizers so that each student can add their ideas to the template individually or collectively.

We reached out to Ms Jenny Cotham (Masters Education), teacher and community liaison at Winthrop Primary School to share some of the practices she uses both in and out of her classroom. Jenny has used Kahoot and Socrative for creating quizzes along with a myriad of other Edtech tools to enhance her teaching. But when moving to activities beyond Kahoot quizzes, she’s turned to GroupMap.

School Background And Classroom Context

Winthrop Primary is a technology-rich school integrating technology into all curriculum areas. With its 1:1 Device and Bring Your Own Device initiatives, students can participate in class discussions and access learning resources, giving teachers the opportunity to better facilitate class discussion and achieve learning outcomes.

Jenny Cotham is a Primary School Teacher & Community Liaison who teaches middle school students. Her goal is to help teachers design learning opportunities that encourage students to be collaborative, critical thinking and innovative learners.

During the course of the year, Jenny says “ I need to collect and monitor student understanding of learning before, during and after lessons for formative assessment.”

“I want to give each student an opportunity to contribute to a lesson topic and share ideas.” explains Jenny. “Having this done in an organized, scaffolded way would mean saving me time and providing better feedback for each student.”

“I also needed to differentiate and individualize the learning outcome for each student ”She continues. “Outside of the classroom, I wanted a tool that would help gather and organize ideas and feedback from staff meetings, P&C committees, and the School Board so that we have data for decision making.”

Teaching Strategy And Philosophy

Winthrop Primary operates on a Gradual Release of Responsibility instructional framework. Lessons begin by familiarising students with a concept and end with applying understandings and skills independently. GroupMap is used as an online graphic organizer to capture what students think and to facilitate classroom discusssion. It gives each student a voice and keeps them engaged. Teachers can give feedback, facilitate discussion and promote group learning.

Cotham says, “each lesson involves a lot of discussion with students where they can impart and articulate what they understood about the concepts and in turn, learn from each other.” She shares 4 ways she’s used GroupMap as part of her teaching practice and professional life.

1. Graphic Organizers for SMART Goal Setting

Developing a child’s ability to intrinsically set and strive for their own SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) is a valuable life long skill.

Kicking off the term, Cotham asks her students to think about a SMART goal they want to set for themselves. This could range from behaviour to learning strategies to knowledge development.

Students working collaboratively on GroupMap

She asks what kind of challenges they think they might face and what support they needed (from her or others). Finally, she asked them to think about how they would measure their success.

Copy of blank Smart Goals Template – Implementation strategy

Each student enters their own goals in order to create their own printable copy, as well as a digital copy that can be seen by the teacher. “There’s room for individual input without being biased or influenced by what others have said“ Cotham explains.

Goals could be shared semi-anonymously with the whole group. In other words, students can’t see which goals belong to another student, but the teacher can.

As Cotham states, this also helps to “remove bias and the popularity contest. One of the kids the other day wrote that they could help with another person’s goal in GroupMap. They then realized it wasn’t their friend, but that’s not the point. They were to help anyone in the class.”

This allows them to see common goals and to build peer accountability into the classroom. It gives them the big picture and to feel like they are part of a community.

Whole class view of shared SMART Goal setting and planning.

“Going forward, I know which students need help and what kind of help. I can pair up students as needed. I can also ask them to comment on how they are going, and allows me to give me feedback.” explains Cotham.

2. Graphic Organizers For Classroom Brainstorming

What would happen if? That was the question put to students during Science when they had to brainstorm a list of variables that would impact how fast an alka seltzer tablet dissolves. (Rate of chemical reaction).

The activity was described to the class and the question was put to them. Using GroupMap as their graphic organizer, each student pair would add variables that they thought they could change as part of their experiment. This ranged from the type of liquid to the size of the tablet.

With the answers displayed in front of the class, Cotham and her colleague could easily facilitate group learning.

Watch it in action here.

Graphic organizers in action – a Science class

It’s pretty clear that teaching with technology can significantly enhance your lesson plan, make it more engaging for students when they are part of contributing to the class outcomes.

Best of all, there’s a lot less work for the teacher which is a great time saver. Evidence of learning and understanding can be seen immediately and feedback could be given in real-time. Debunking myths and recognizing thinking was a lot easier without production blocks, students being scared to be called out or having to collect all the ideas individually.

3. Graphic organizers for collaborative, fast staff meetings

As part of their ‘Be The Change Project’, Winthrop school aims to integrate a range of sustainability initiatives as part of the school culture.

The challenge was to bring all the staff onto the same page – and to share their current practices, as well as propose new ones. The statement proposed was:

How can we do that effectively so that everyone sees what is happening in the school, gain visibility into current projects and be inspired to create new ones?

GroupMap was for the teachers to share what they were already doing, as well as brainstorm activities around sustainability initiatives, strategies and tactics for the school. This started from a simple list-making exercise that could then be easily grouped into themes.

Common ideas grouped into themes

Cotham then created a brainstorming chart. On the horizontal axis was Local, National and Global to represent the geographic scope. On the vertical axis was the foci of programs such from pure sustainability to a focus on ATSI indigenous Australians.

Grouped ideas and activities could then be positioned across the chart in order to see where the current focus of the staff’s time, energy and resources were going.

Once all the grouped results were positioned, it was easy to visualize current projects in the school. Workload is reduced by identifying projects that could be worked on collaboratively. Opportunities to integrate projects and reduce workload could then be identified.

One of the initiatives explored was the Gardening Project, which teaches students to grow and harvest their own fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs. This helps them understand the food cycle, through to building a sense of community pride as well as getting their hands dirty with nature. They then used this in their own cooking classes and recycle any waste products back to the garden.

A benefit was that all staff instantly see opportunities to collaborate, understand current programs that the school was involved in and then build a sense of school pride.

The outcome, however, was just one benefit. Bringing together a large team of teachers to share their practice is a challenging exercise, let alone getting them to work on the same page. Cotham states “ we are seeing wider school adoption simply because we can use it at our staff meetings as well as the classroom. People get excited to use it and it helps us communicate what is happening a lot easier.”

4. Graphic Organizers For Lesson Planning

Teachers are well versed with the idea of the KWL template. It asks students to share ‘What they know’, ‘What they want to know’, and subsequently What they learned’.

Usually, this is done individually – student by student. This is great but just imagine the power of being able to share the collective wisdom of the group, pair up with research buddies and then reward learning by pointing out interesting facts and learnings.

In this example, Cotham asks students to first share what they already think they know about World War 1. Students are encouraged to “teach” each other based on what they already know. This is done semi-anonymously to avoid reticence.

This is a great way for the teacher to facilitate discussion and give feedback, debunk any myths and to reaffirm current knowledge.

Students share what they already know in a KWL template.

The next step asks them to add ideas about what they would like to learn or find out. This helps to build independent thinking and a sense of inquiry. Giving them more also means they are more engaged in their learning. After all, wouldn’t we all be more interested in something that we were curious about?

Cotham even went a step further to build reflective practice by having students look through the list and pick their top 3 areas of interest. Students could see what other kinds of questions people were asking.  Paired research becomes possible because you can group students with common interests together.

Alternative to Kahoot or Socrative quiz formats

It’s heart-warming to see the scope and diversity of questioning that students can come up with when given the opportunity. It creates agency and engagement. Teachers can better focus their time and energy on things that interest the students. They can quickly assess current understanding by harvesting the wisdom of the crowd.

All of these examples show how students move beyond selecting (and sometimes guessing) fixed answers from multiple-choice questions with Apps like Kahoot or Socrative.

Jenny Cotham’s tips for using GroupMap in the classroom

  1. There are so many options to help save you so much time. GroupMap supports a wide range of activities from student work, and classroom ideas to general brainstorming.
  2. Use the partially anonymous feature where you want to promote safety in the classroom. Ideas can be added by students without worrying about what their peers might say. But because you can see who said what and provide feedback to the relevant students.
  3. There are different formats from lists to charts to mind maps. So it’s good to mix up the activities to have a variety of activities.
  4. There’s definitely scope outside of the classroom. Perfect examples include staff input at Teacher Professional development days, PD workshops, and even board meetings.
  5. The lock map feature is really handy to stop students from typing and modifying the map. It helps me get their attention back to the front of the class when I need to give instructions for the next steps.

Facilitation tools and techniques for critical thinking at a Teacher’s PD workshop.

Case Background


Organizing workshops and brainstorming sessions can be a daunting task. If engagement levels are not high, people start to get bored. The fast-paced audience of the 21st Century demands real-time sharing of ideas to get more meaningful discussions. 


This case study shows how GroupMap was used by Teach for Australia (TFA) to facilitate a week-long professional development program for 80 associates and 3 workshop facilitators with multiple concurrent sessions and a range of group brainstorming, discussion and idea-sharing activities. These events are designed to cultivate learning and the acquisition of new skills, tools, and knowledge that empower associates to become more effective teachers and community leaders.

Teach for Australia is an innovative non-profit organization that aims to address the dilemma of educational disadvantage in Australia by providing all children, regardless of their background, with quality educational opportunities. 


They offer extensive programming and resources to both train and give support to up-and-coming teachers and leaders. These activities blend academic practice, with on-site mentoring, practical learning, and leadership development. 


Using GroupMap’s highly customizable tools, TFA was able to easily assist with fulfilling a wide array of tasks from scheduling of activities, generating discussion over key topics, uploading and sharing of resources, to a voting system to determine the best pitch. GroupMap addresses these demands to ensure everybody can participate without fear or worry.

Workshop and event goals

After speaking with TFA facilitators, three main goals were identified: 

  1. Provide trainers with a better way to facilitate idea sharing sessions using a range of different teaching strategies. 
  2. Create an easy way for all of the 80 participants and facilitators to share and access teaching resources. 
  3. Use a digital platform that encourages critical, creative and collaborative thinking.

Creating a Student-Focused, Collaborative Experience

With GroupMap, TFA was able to enhance their workshop using unique tools that provided real-time feedback and allowed better engagement.  Here’s how they did it!

1. An easy schedule to plan workshop activities

With GroupMap’s intuitive interface, the organizers at TFA found an easy way to plan the workshop sessions and activities, as well as share the learning materials for each session. According to Adelheid Stelter, Teaching and Leadership Adviser at TFA:

The first map we created was a schedule, outlining daily sessions… Under the individual session tabs, we then uploaded any resources needed, e.g., pre-reading articles, handouts, PowerPoint presentations or links to relevant web pages. This calendar could be accessed by all participants… [and] was also very useful to participants for catch-up purposes…

The participants, on the other hand, found it easier to access the resources they needed including links to websites, videos, Boxx, Youtube and other resources.


2. Customized workshop templates for break out activities. 

TFA facilitators wanted to create a broad range of activities, such as analyzing journal articles, considering the pros and cons of assessment strategies and brainstorming and exploring alternatives and choices for classroom management case studies.


For each of these sessions, they were able to choose an appropriate map from GroupMap’s extensive template library and then customize it to fit the activity.  

As Stelter points out, “Each session facilitator employed a suitable map for their activities, be it a SWOT analysis of teaching resources or strategies, a brainstorm, a connect-extend-challenge reflection or a check for understanding activity such as claim, explain, question.”


Each template also had organized headings so people knew what was needed, could their thoughts more easily, and thus add their ideas in a more orderly fashion. These maps were run across several concurrent sessions to capture activity which could later be compared and shared in a large group setting.


Unlike post-it notes and butcher’s papers which could only be seen by a small handful of people, the fact that ideas were instantly collected and shared to everyone’s screens allowed everyone to see and learn from each other. This helped to both encourage greater participation and interest. Not to mention it also saved loads of time since someone did not have to retype all the handwritten notes.


One interesting session significantly enhanced by GroupMap’s platform was the “pitch night”. To encourage innovation in the classroom, the activity called on teachers to pitch their ideas for educational advancement to their peers. The winning presenters then received a cash prize to help bring those ideas to life. 

Their peers in the audience were able to listen to the pitch and share comments and feedback via their mobiles. At the end of the round of pitches, they could then vote for their favorite top 3 ideas. The results were tallied in real-time to determine the winner while the other presenters received valuable feedback and support on their ideas.

3. Collaborative resource sharing. 

Another big benefit TFA found when using GroupMap for their professional development workshop was that it allowed them to create a space for everyone to add and share teaching resources across subject areas and year levels. 

Participants were able to break out into their discipline areas and share their ideas for particular subjects. 

In the end, the associates had built up a resource library of subject resources that made it easier to plan their upcoming semester. This meant that each associate saved a tremendous amount of time and stress in terms of planning and gathering resources to help them plan for the term ahead.




Extending the Benefits

For the facilitators, the data was also particularly helpful for after-workshop reviews. “As facilitators, we downloaded reports and could see how many ideas each participant contributed and what those ideas were. GroupMap is a most valuable tool for assessment…”, states Stelter. Being able to monitor and record participation levels allowed them to implement strategies to improve future engagement among participants.

The benefits of using GroupMap are still seen even after the workshop ended. According to Stelter , TFA now has a resource depository where all the participants can continue to share and discuss ideas, strategies, resources and support beyond the seven-day training: “Following the Intensive, participants continue to share and draw ideas from this page. [This is] an excellent way of fostering a sharing teacher community spirit.”

Using GroupMap also allowed both facilitators and participants to experience firsthand the platform’s powerful teaching tools and applications, such as the virtual whiteboard and brainstorming tool, many of which can be used to enhance education in the classroom. “GroupMap… has wide applications across all aspects of teacher education as well as in-school and classroom practice. GroupMap fills a definite gap in teaching and learning practice as a partner in students’ cognitive development,” concludes Stelter.


Want to Learn More?

Our award-winning online collaborative brainstorming and group decision-making platform are designed to help people think better together. Use GroupMap for your next meeting, workshop or event. With our unique tools, customizable maps, easy-to-use recording and reporting, you can be sure that you and your team succeed in achieving your event outcomes. 


Start your 14-day free trial today, or contact us with any questions. 


Government EMRC Council Uses Innovative Approach for Solutions Based Workshop

Collaborating with four local government authorities, the Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council sought public feedback to brainstorm ideas around 15 themes using innovative technology including visualisation tools and group response systems at their inaugural solutions driven workshop-Business Insights.

EMRC Chief Executive Officer Peter Schneider said that EMRC is committed to innovation and continuous improvement. “Engaging with our key stakeholders through this workshop is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate that commitment,” said Mr Schneider.


The concept of seeking public feedback into government policy is not new, but the approach meant that more voices could be heard, discussed and documented, supported by evidence from the hands of the participants who could vote and comment on other ideas.


Over 300 responses were then grouped to reveal the top 15 key issues.

A live workshop to allow networking, discussion, and debate are then being facilitated, with delegate responses being captured and revealed in real-time using GroupMap, a collaborative online brainstorming tool. Key themes include business development, technology, human resources, and government regulations. Delegates will be invited to pair up, find their topic of key interest, and then brainstorm solutions. Using a web-based application and i-pads means that delegates can circulate around the room with ease, adding value along the way.
“It’s important for everyone to have their say, and that all ideas have equal air time.” says Jeremy Lu, Co-founder of GroupMap. “Ideas are shared in turn which aims to inspire more creative and shared problem-solving.” Delegates will have the opportunity to stand side by side with local government representatives from each of the local authorities, as well as with the regional council. “Through employing the use of GroupMap, EMRC hopes to encourage greater involvement by the business community and heighten the engagement experience,” said Mr. Schneider. The results of the brainstorming workshop will be shared with Economic Development officers to drive decision thinking and for project and initiative planning.

The Business Insights Workshop is an EMRC project in conjunction with four of its member Councils, the Town of Bassendean, City of Bayswater, City of Belmont, and City of Swan. Together, the Councils will host the workshop aimed at understanding the major challenges that SME’s are currently facing in the region and collaboratively discuss how these challenges can be overcome.

How Meeting Professionals Engage their Audience – Workshop ideas.

People use online voting to find the best ideas from brainstorming

Using a digital facilitation tool can take your event from a drab, random hodgepodge of conversations that nobody remembers to an interactive, engaging real-time experience. See how this group of meeting organizers did it.

GEVMExchange, hosted by GlobalSignIn at the American Club, Singapore hosted over 100 meeting professionals and event leaders who came together to share the latest trends and to highlight some of the key issues facing event planners. Speakers and topics included:

  • Ben Glynn from Emarsys and Andy Choi from Whispir talking about marketing automation and the need for personalization of messaging.

  • SiddarthDAs sharing an inspiring story about Earth Hour and how a small team executes on events being run globally.

  • Raven Chai from UX Consulting talking about human-centric event design and principles of design.

  • Ken Hickson from SESA sharing updates on ISO standards and sustainability tips.

  • Rachel Siah from BRCKTS with her learnings of venturing into social media.

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Capturing key themes through opportunities, challenges and ideas

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As part of the conference, GroupMap captured what people thought were future opportunities, challenges and ideas. Based on what was being discussed and shared that day, the wider group could then prioritise the top issues for further discussion.

Next, delegates were given the opportunity to brainstorm and add ideas throughout the day on their mobile, tablet or laptop. The final session was an interactive breakout session for small group discussion. This was a great way to make the workshop more interactive and to make sure that topics were driven by consensus.

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Using Dot Voting to generate group consensus

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To do this, delegates were asked to digitally dot vote on the top 5 themes that they are most interested in.

Event organizers could see the audience votes in real-time and displayed this on the screen, with one of them commenting “this is like the stock exchange” as topics that were popular floated to the top and were displayed larger.

Using GroupMap as a digital facilitation tool meant the results were collated in real time and were a visual representation of what the audience most wanted in the room.

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Guest speakers were then invited to facilitate the discussion on the 4 topics in groups.

1. Social media use cases and examples of viral videos and content for meetings.

2. Automation, marketing, and outreach tools.

3. Use of event technology and sustainability concepts in event planning.

4. Audience engagement.

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Taking brainstorming online and to the edge.

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Going one step further, a map was created to ask people to take brainstorming to the edge using the concept of Edgestorming – from the book Disciplined Dreaming. This thinking style is used by Cirque du Soleil to create memorable events that are buzz-worthy and create word of mouth. The goal is to take creativity all the way to the “edge”, rather than simply sticking to the status quo.

The question was what you could do to make your event outrageously…

  • Big

  • Small

  • Loud

  • Soft

  • Expensive

  • Cheap

  • Strong

  • Fast

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GroupMap was the online brainstorming and group response tool used to gather audience insights and voting for key topics at the conference for event and meeting professionals.

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Ideas ranged from organising a surprise flash mob to lightning talks to an event harpist! Check out the GroupMap results below.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row padding=”0″][vc_column][vc_column_text]Veelmal Gungadin, CEO of GlobalSignIn said…..

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Is Group Brainstorming Really a Complete Waste of Time?

Imagine this.

You are that meeting which just seems to go on forever. People have been talking but there is no sign of a decision being made in the near future. The quiet team members have been watching the more outspoken, and at the end of it all, the manager says that should put a few things down and reconvene. As you leave, you think “That was a bloody waste of time!” Sounds familiar? You are not alone. While brainstorming remains a key part of meetings, traditional methods are fraught with dysfunction. It’s no wonder that the average office worker spends 61% of their meeting time writing emails or searching for information.

The costs of a bad meeting

With 1/3 of the 11 million meetings held every day considered unproductive by American Workers (Romano & Nunamaker), of which 5% are specifically related to brainstorming online or face to face, that equates to a staggering $1.154Bn in meeting costs. Closer to home, each meeting you hold is a factor of each person’s salary multiplied by the amount of time spent. Every time you have to “meet again” this simply doubles the cost. While electronic meeting tools and online brainstorming software exist, some still revert to manual processes like sticky notes and butchers’ paper in an attempt to create engagement. Beyond just the material costs and manual work, the time lag and the context shift form part of the hidden costs of ineffective meetings.

The good and bad of group brainstorms

Alex Osborn touted that group brainstorming produces 50% more results than individual brainstorming, grounding them in the following principles.
  • Initially, no judgement or criticism is allowed
  • Go first for quantity of ideas
  • Prioritize the most unusual or original
  • Combine and refine ideas
However, since the 1950s additional research has demonstrated that the effects of groupthink, reticence, dominance, anchoring and just the basic lack of focus impede on the effectiveness of group brainstorming. Chamorro-Premuzic, in his article “Why Group Brainstorming is a Waste of Time”, adds the issues of social loafing, social anxiety, regression to the mean and production blocking. Despite this, he states the benefit distributed expertise and improving buy-in and subsequent implementation by everyone in the team due to its democratic style. Finally, one of the key issues is the lack of decision making – or where the decision is not well evidenced or hidden in some minute resolution. Given this, we need to add to the best way to brainstorm list.

The potential of online collaboration brainstorming software

Susan Cain, the author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” wrote in the New York Times that: “The only exception to group brainstorming’s’ dismal record is electronic brainstorming, where large groups outperform individuals; and the larger the group the better. The protection of the screen mitigates many problems with group work. It’s a place where we can be alone together – and this is precisely what gives it power.” Online brainstorming can be a way to set the scene, measure engagement, democratize decision making, and allow everyone to contribute equally with results published in real-time. These tools can be integrated into online meeting tools or video conferences to create even better outcomes.

Tips for a great team brainstorming meeting

Here’s a quick mental checklist for a productive, effective team meeting – ready?
  • We are clear about the objectives and goals.
  • We have invited the right people to solve the problem.
  • We have a basic structure to follow through.
  • We have the logistics (tech, food, room etc) organised.
  • We know how the meeting will be facilitated.
  • There are relevant decision points during our meeting.
  • We have a follow-up point after the meeting.


For those using GroupMap for real-time collaborative online brainstorming, check out our infographic below on getting the best out of your sessions.[vc_row padding=”0″][vc_column][mk_padding_divider][vc_column_text align=”center”]Want more ideas to make your next meeting fun, quirky or creative? Join in and contribute to this GroupMap below or check out our infographic.

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