Love It/Hate It: Zoom Breakout Rooms

By Courtesy of ABC

Love It: It’s Houseparty, Just With Learning as an Activity Option – Nicole T. Rozelman

Let’s face it, the only reason you used to roll out of bed and hustle to your 9 a.m. in the Geology Museum was to see the friend you’re taking the class with. Now that we’re all visiting students at Zoom University, large lectures are no longer a space for catching up. When the professor asks who did the reading, there’s no way for you to make eye contact with that one other person four screens over who also never even bought the book. Breakout rooms bring back that element of intimacy, if just for a few minutes of your day. Forget the discussion questions, exercise those networking muscles while exchanging conspiracy theories for what next semester will look like. Or stick with the classic “How are things where you are?” and be transported to your classmate’s quarantine hideout in Hawaii as they describe how they’ve been keeping busy with daily walks by the water.

Breakout rooms also bring much-needed excitement into our lives. Move over Datamatch, Zoom’s algorithm is the latest development connecting the “last row lecture-goers” and section kids who never would have crossed paths. At the very least, the knowledge that you’ll be face-to-face with someone can serve as motivation to look cute for your Snap streaks, all from the comfort of your sweatpants. Or if “Love Is Blind” is more your speed, leave your camera off and build that chemistry before you agree to form a study group of two.

Last but certainly not least, some of us are actually still trying to learn. With user-friendly features like the “Ask for Help” button, you can call your instructor or CA over to ask a question without the attention of the entire class and get some extra one-on-one explanation. This individualized attention is just another way we can try to make the most of the full tuition we’re paying.

Hate It: I Want to Choose My Friends, Just Let Me Go to Class in Peace – Georgia K. Steigerwald

Small group discussions are great…when you get to hang out with your friends to break up the monotony of a long lecture class. But online? With people you don’t choose? No thank you.

If the only thing getting you through your statistics class before eviction was the knowledge that your pset buddies were struggling as much as you were, then being forced into a randomized break-out room without the comfort of your friends is even more intimidating. Not to mention the awkwardness of trying to make small talk with random strangers. There are only so many cutesy one-liners about quarantine you can use, and it’s getting old real fast. And if the other members of your breakout room aren’t talking, then they’re watching you have a conversation with yourself, and no one needs to see that.

Maybe some people are missing human interaction to “spice things up,” but there are plenty of other platforms in which you can willingly choose to speak to other people. Sometimes you just want to watch a lecture in pajamas while eating a big bowl of Froot Loops in peace, but now you’re being told you need to turn your camera on and interact with other humans instead of your dog. What’s the point of online learning if you can’t exist in sweats and avoid human contact all day every day?

On the academic side, the forced participation is unacceptable. In a large online lecture you can rest assured that you won’t be cold-called and forced to admit that you have absolutely no idea what’s going on because this online thing is reallllly not working for you. But in a breakout room, your TF might call on you at any time, embarrassing you in front of strangers as you timidly reply that you need more help. You were just planning on watching the professor go over the problem so you could have some anonymous help. Breakout rooms are an intrusion into the online learning experience and are more annoying than they are helpful.

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