Breakout rooms have no shortage of issues

October 29, 2020 — by Christopher Chen
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Sometimes, classwork should be done individually and not as a group.

Zoom’s breakout rooms are not my favorite places to be stuck.

Oftentimes, my teachers threaten the class that they’ll dock points if there is no active discussion when they enter breakout rooms. Usually, this is enough to force everyone into talking. But in the lulls of conversation, there’s a nervous laugh as everyone prays the teacher doesn’t come in at that moment — or hasn’t already come in.

There’s no real way to know when the teacher comes into the room. Sometimes, they come and go without saying a word. Other times, they pop in and speak, scaring pretty much everyone. Jeez, can’t you knock on the door before entering? (Evidently not, as Zoom has not thought of making this feature.)

Also, discussing problems in breakout rooms with each other goes one of two ways. Either I’m frustrated at having to wait for my classmates to complete, or I’m terrified of falling behind everyone else. Once someone asked, “What problem are you on? I’m on 17.” I was not even close, but I told him I was on 16.

To make matters worse, working collaboratively requires drawing on a whiteboard of some sort, and the one built into Zoom is pretty much an MSPaint clone — in other words, laughably bad. If I tried solving an entire problem on the Zoom whiteboard, I’d more likely end up with some modern art than I would the actual answer.

Teachers: Please stop unnecessarily sentencing us to breakout rooms. The only things we get out of that are jump scares and Zoom scribbles.