We get some odd requests here at the radio station. Sometimes people will call and just confess weird things to us. Other times they want us to break bad news to someone, or assist in a wedding proposal. In 21 years, we've never gotten any request like this one.

A couple of U of M freshmen emailed to share a problem that turned out to be a universal concern for students taking classes online. Breakout rooms DO NOT work. First, for those of you who are lucky enough to not have to use Zoom or Team Meetings, here's what they're talking about.

During Zoom calls, you have anywhere from two people to dozens of people on the call. There's usually a boss or a teacher or instructor running the meeting. And sometimes, the leader decides to split the group into 'breakout rooms,' meaning, divide everyone into smaller work groups to discuss whatever the subject is, and after 15 minutes or so, everyone rejoins the full group and discusses what each smaller group discussed. Sounds amazing, you're jelly that you're missing out on this, I know.

After the email from the two freshmen, I started inquiring on socials and IRL, asking high school and college students about breakout rooms. Not one said they worked. One college student said that she had around 10 breakout groups since the new semester began and that only one of them was productive. She said typically, the subject is talked about for less than 60 seconds, and the rest of the time is used by students to do their own thing until the instructor calls everyone back to the main meeting. Sounds like a huge waste of time to me. I mean, learning and meeting online can be tough, but we have to try and get some work done, right?

As for the original girls who emailed, they said they really wanted to tell their instructor that breakout time is a joke, but they also didn't want to be pinned as the Negative Nancys and be judged in grading. So, here I am to tell you, educators: using breakout rooms, the majority of students agree, is a waste of time.

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