Collaboration is key

Breakout rooms are an awkward yet necessary evil in today’s hybrid-learning reality.

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Photo courtesy of Sophia Sandhu

Sometimes a black screen is all you’re going to get.

Sophia Sandhu, Copy Editor

I think I can speak for all of us when I say that breakout rooms are one of the most awkward things students have to endure nowadays. The prolonged silences, the black screens, the uncomfortable audio breaks all contribute to this unfavorable atmosphere. Even though they seem to be counterproductive, breakout rooms allow students to collaborate and connect with each other, a necessary part of the learning process. But there should be some middle ground. 

“For some classes, I prefer to work with friends because it motivates me, but for other classes, it is more efficient and beneficial for me to work independently,” proposed senior Kathryn Heinemeier. 

This all goes back to the independent/interactive learning argument. Some students work better with others, and some are simply better off solo. Not all students are comfortable speaking to others about their thoughts and opinions on certain topics. On the other hand, it is also essential for students to break out of their comfort zone because the more you try speaking out, the more comfortable you will become. It’s not always as easy as it seems, but taking advantage of breakout rooms will help boost some of our more introverted peers’ confidence. 

Some of you may be asking, What is the point of breakout rooms in the first place? Why is it necessary for us to talk to other kids about what we are learning? English teacher Amanda Carlisle has some experienced insight into these popular queries. 

“I use breakout rooms to better stimulate the classroom environment. Because I teach English, there are many opportunities for reflection and discussion, and breakout rooms allow for this to happen in a small group setting,” elaborated Carlisle. 

Carlisle finds that breakout rooms provide a helpful alternative to the intimate work time students had when they pushed their desks together in class. Peer collaboration has always been a part of our learning environment, but it is just more pronounced this year. Research has proven the importance of collaboration and how students are better able to learn and create when they teach and reflect with others; our teachers are just trying their best to make do of what they have to keep this tradition going.

“There is a lot of trust that goes into having students engage in breakout rooms. At the end of the day, teaching hybrid has really limited the types and number of teaching strategies that we as instructors have at our disposal,” mentioned Carlisle. 

So, while breakout rooms are an important (and necessary) part of our online-school experience, they can still be updated to allow maximum effectiveness despite the fears some students may have. 

“I try to engage most times, but it’s so difficult to get everyone on the same page. It would be fun to collaborate more with friends instead of being randomly assigned to a group,” revealed Heinemeier.

It seems that the randomization of groups is to blame for the awkwardness at play. Some students, like Heinemeier, genuinely try to collaborate with their classmates but find it hard to make connections about a serious topic when you have no relationship with your groupmates or if you are with new people each time. It can be hard to build friendships, especially at a time like this, and forcing breakout rooms on students can be a nightmare. However, teachers are well aware of our struggles as students.

“I think trying to identify who likes to work with whom and organizing the breakout rooms in such a manner can work,” brainstormed Carlisle.

Teachers are trying their best to make things easy and effective for students. They understand that breakout rooms are not the ideal situation, but they also understand that they are all they have to keep the collaboration alive so that our education doesn’t falter.