Small-group learning activities (SGLAs) are efficient and viable means of improving student learning, but they are not universally used in higher education, in part because of instructor management burden and effort. We believe that a tool-based approach to SGLAs can minimize instructor burden while still facilitating SGLA and associated student benefits. We designed the SmartGroup system, an instructional intervention which aims at being minimally burdensome to instructors. The system relies upon generalized, modular components and two novel features, group reshuffling and a grade appeals process conducted by student appeal graders. We believe this tool-based approach can effectively lead to the management of scale-free SGLAs, as it reduces reliance on instructors and increases self and peer learning opportunities. We plan to conduct empirical studies of the SmartGroup system, further research the theoretical space surrounding SGLAs, and further develop paradigm cases for various categories of SGLAs.