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Attention in e-learning (part II)

Breakout rooms

“What’s your opinion on e-learning breakout room?”


By far the worst thing to come out of the new learning climate, though, is breakout rooms. These rooms, where cooperation seemingly is an absolute must to get work done, is even more ineffective that being alone. Paired with friends you know, and you'll get no work done because you'll be talking with them like you would in the class hallway. The teacher isn't there to monitor people, and if they do decide to pop in, switching tones and subject is easier than most would expect. Paired with a bunch of strangers, as most rooms are, and 90% of the time you will see faces hidden behind icons and microphones muted. No work can get done if no one communicates, and both making the first move and responding to that first person is surprisingly tough for most high schoolers, at least in my experience. Breakout rooms are almost universally hated, because it not only forces you to mainly work with strangers that you haven't had the chance to get to know, but also makes work completion completely dependent on who you end up with. As you are not forced to interact with people as you are in person, it is too easy for one weak link to shut off all their communication and make group work much harder than necessary to those willing to actually work. In either case, attention to work is either detracted or stalled to a halt. Put in layman's terms, most breakout rooms really, really, suck for learning.

Flaws in e-learning

There are so many flaws in e-learning that if I even began to type them all out, this blog post would be as long as the bible. They also share one commonality though, and it is that they all don't engage student attention and participation. As much commendable effort as teachers and school officials alike have put into making e-learning even somewhat comparable to in-person learning, they fail to address by far the most vital component of learning, and that is paying attention. It doesn't matter if the greatest teacher in the world is in charge of a class. Without attracting, or even forcing, student attention in the current environment, it is far, far too easy to simply ignore all content and learn nothing. And for the amount of tireless work that these schools have put in, that is nothing but a shame. But that doesn't mean these problems can't be fixed.

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