Awkward Zoom breakout room group - how to deal with this?

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WCML20
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Hi all.

I had a pretty bad experience in a Zoom breakout room earlier this week and am worried about these sessions in future. Before we start, I don't intend to ask for a change of group unless something serious happened (otherwise it would be really immature).

In my politics tutorial, we got assigned groups who we will basically be working with in those tutorials for the entire semester and will also do a group assignment with. The group I got put with were really awkward - there was 0 flow between the people in conversation (4 including me) there were good chunks of it where they were just staring at the screen and saying nothing. If I ever said something, there would be little response.

I get that Zoom is awkward and I get that some people are naturally quieter but this group dynamic is concerning me as if they can't introduce themselves properly, how the hell can we work together to get a decent essay done? And I'm working with them for the entire semester. I don't really like this idea either since its better to work with different people each time (IMO).

How can I get around this?
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candydiva
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Dude ime awkward tutorials are not confined to Zoom breakouts.... they happen irl as well. Same reasons with shy/awkward/reluctant students. U need to take charge and say basically wat u said above to the others and disregard their mild irritation that someone burst out coz in the group u absolutely need to deliver product. That's leadership.
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Chronoscope
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(Original post by WCML20)
Hi all.

I had a pretty bad experience in a Zoom breakout room earlier this week and am worried about these sessions in future. Before we start, I don't intend to ask for a change of group unless something serious happened (otherwise it would be really immature).

In my politics tutorial, we got assigned groups who we will basically be working with in those tutorials for the entire semester and will also do a group assignment with. The group I got put with were really awkward - there was 0 flow between the people in conversation (4 including me) there were good chunks of it where they were just staring at the screen and saying nothing. If I ever said something, there would be little response.

I get that Zoom is awkward and I get that some people are naturally quieter but this group dynamic is concerning me as if they can't introduce themselves properly, how the hell can we work together to get a decent essay done? And I'm working with them for the entire semester. I don't really like this idea either since its better to work with different people each time (IMO).

How can I get around this?
Breakout rooms are a hellish nightmare everywhere I think :five:.
An option would be to set up a group chat so you can all communicate outside that lesson - Its easier to plan things/share what you've done so far then.
If you're working together for a term trying to get to know each other may help make it less awkward (maybe send a few memes/funny videos etc).
Last edited by Chronoscope; 2 months ago
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WCML20
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(Original post by Chronoscope)
Breakout rooms are a hellish nightmare everywhere I think :five:.
An option would be to set up a group chat so you can all communicate outside that lesson - Its easier to plan things/share what you've done so far then.
If you're working together for a term trying to get to know each other may help make it less awkward (maybe send a few memes/funny videos etc).
Thanks for your advice - might be best to contact them outside of class. Not really interested in properly getting to know them (none seem like my type to be friends with), just wanting to work in a professional manner to get the work done and then part ways at the end of March.

Breakout rooms actually haven't been too bad otherwise - there is a little bit of awkwardness (purely because strangers are staring at each other into a camera) but generally people have been nice enough and the work has gotten done.
Last edited by WCML20; 2 months ago
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WCML20
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Trying to come up with a plan to turn around this group and fast. Should I spend a bit of extra time on the material and then basically take charge of the session?
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5hyl33n
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(Original post by WCML20)
Trying to come up with a plan to turn around this group and fast. Should I spend a bit of extra time on the material and then basically take charge of the session?
The only problem with that is you may end up being the one doing ALL the work and they will just be sitting there copying it down.
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WCML20
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(Original post by 5hyl33n)
The only problem with that is you may end up being the one doing ALL the work and they will just be sitting there copying it down.
That is true though it would be better than nothing. Might also try and get them involved in the discussion.

If I still get very little back from them though, I’ll be quite worried.
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PhoenixFortune
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(Original post by WCML20)
That is true though it would be better than nothing. Might also try and get them involved in the discussion.

If I still get very little back from them though, I’ll be quite worried.
Can you take charge by assigning topics or tasks to each member so you don't end up doing everything?
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mike23mike
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(Original post by WCML20)
Hi all.

I had a pretty bad experience in a Zoom breakout room earlier this week and am worried about these sessions in future. Before we start, I don't intend to ask for a change of group unless something serious happened (otherwise it would be really immature).

In my politics tutorial, we got assigned groups who we will basically be working with in those tutorials for the entire semester and will also do a group assignment with. The group I got put with were really awkward - there was 0 flow between the people in conversation (4 including me) there were good chunks of it where they were just staring at the screen and saying nothing. If I ever said something, there would be little response.

I get that Zoom is awkward and I get that some people are naturally quieter but this group dynamic is concerning me as if they can't introduce themselves properly, how the hell can we work together to get a decent essay done? And I'm working with them for the entire semester. I don't really like this idea either since its better to work with different people each time (IMO).

How can I get around this?
You should raise with the lecturer for him/her to resolve. Throwing people together for a term is not fair without the tutor doing some icebreaker exercises and popping into the breakout rooms to check of the groups
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Anonymous #1
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I've had it - thankfully not for long periods. If the task is easy to break up - allocate different questions to different people and pull it all together at the end is one way around it. Or I've resorted during one particularly excruciating one to just typing - OK no one really wants to put mics on and talk about this - would it help if I threw a whiteboard up - we could type it and then screenshot it at the end? That got the discussion at least flowing enough to answer the flipping question.

But yep it's a nightmare and if you've got it to endure for a term - I'd say something to the lecturer.
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Anonymous #2
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good idea to start chatting on WhatsApp. Some people find it easier to build up relationships and confidence that way. Zoom break out rooms can freak people out. some of them might have had people around who they didn't want listening in. Don't write them off, they will probably all have their strengths. They need a leader though, looks like it is you! In the real world seminars and workplaces can also be just like this . You basically all need to make it work!
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candydiva
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(Original post by mike23mike)
You should raise with the lecturer for him/her to resolve. Throwing people together for a term is not fair without the tutor doing some icebreaker exercises and popping into the breakout rooms to check of the groups
Sorry I don't agree with this pov... irl we have to introduce ourselves to new professional partners and team members and work collaboratively for a period without management handholding. Or we're not competent to serve as company ambassadors or responsible mature workers. If ppl can't do this on Zoom wat hope is there for them irl post-pandemic after they have to do it in person?

Sure the instructor should clarify the terms, timing and output of the Zoom sessions but rlly... icebreakers for each group!? Even the practicality is questionable if there are lots of Zoom breakouts it's too time consuming but still it doesn't help u.

I'm a girl and I have plenty of balls to speak up intro myself and ask others the same...then get to the concept we work on. Yeah I have Zoom breakouts too and did xactly this last week.
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WCML20
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Done my preparations - got the class tomorrow, will report back and take it from there.

This could go one of several ways, hopefully the outcome is good as it is a subject I enjoy and I want to have a good semester without bad experiences with peers.
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Neccipp
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People just need to relax and not take it so seriously... In this day and age everyone is always worried about what people will think of them. Just relax, and if the others are not doing anything, ask to move
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WCML20
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OK - done the session today and took full charge. Did the majority of the speaking. It's a group of 4 including me. One of the others did contribute a bit. She answered some questions and raised a few of her own points so I at least have something to work with there.

The two others though - I don't really know what to do. One doesn't have English as her first language so may have been a bit confused by what I was saying so I'll cut some slack but the other just gave nothing back at all. One word answers, mumbling, fidgeting. Given that this is a group topic, I really need all members to be engaged.

We had to cover several different questions - I read out the questions and gave my opinion first before opening it up to the others. I left 20 seconds between questions in hope that one of them would pick up the next question themselves and talk about it but they didn't and it was a 20 second awkward silence before I had to interject yet again. They must think I'm full of myself and love the sound of my own voice (neither of which is true) but is this a good idea or am I doing this wrong?

Overall a mixed experience so far - I think there is some potential but I need more engagement on their behalf.
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5hyl33n
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(Original post by WCML20)
OK - done the session today and took full charge. Did the majority of the speaking. It's a group of 4 including me. One of the others did contribute a bit. She answered some questions and raised a few of her own points so I at least have something to work with there.

The two others though - I don't really know what to do. One doesn't have English as her first language so may have been a bit confused by what I was saying so I'll cut some slack but the other just gave nothing back at all. One word answers, mumbling, fidgeting. Given that this is a group topic, I really need all members to be engaged.

We had to cover several different questions - I read out the questions and gave my opinion first before opening it up to the others. I left 20 seconds between questions in hope that one of them would pick up the next question themselves and talk about it but they didn't and it was a 20 second awkward silence before I had to interject yet again. They must think I'm full of myself and love the sound of my own voice (neither of which is true) but is this a good idea or am I doing this wrong?

Overall a mixed experience so far - I think there is some potential but I need more engagement on their behalf.
I don’t see anything wrong in what you are doing. Perhaps ask them if they have anything to add. If they don’t respond or say no every time, then I suggest being a bit fierce. You can’t be the one doing all the work. Although, the situation does sound a bit better than last time.
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pancakesbob7
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That sounds really hard. I always get put in breakout rooms in lessons, randomly every time. I keep my mic on even if everyone else is muted so other's are more inclined to do the same, and when I don't get a response it makes me feel really isolated. I tend to speak at the start and if there's no response I get over it. The first few times it was really hard to let go of the embarassment, but worked out in the long run.

To get started you could type a message into the chat - I've tried this and usually get ignored but hey ho, it's not the end of the world. This is 1/100000000th of your whole life and my favourite saying is "It's better to do and regret rather than not do and regret"(obviously not applicable in every situation). I'd rather speak and get embarrased instead of getting hung up afterwards on what it could've been like if I spoke.

Good luck!
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xxx0xxxo
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(Original post by WCML20)
OK - done the session today and took full charge. Did the majority of the speaking. It's a group of 4 including me. One of the others did contribute a bit. She answered some questions and raised a few of her own points so I at least have something to work with there.

The two others though - I don't really know what to do. One doesn't have English as her first language so may have been a bit confused by what I was saying so I'll cut some slack but the other just gave nothing back at all. One word answers, mumbling, fidgeting. Given that this is a group topic, I really need all members to be engaged.

We had to cover several different questions - I read out the questions and gave my opinion first before opening it up to the others. I left 20 seconds between questions in hope that one of them would pick up the next question themselves and talk about it but they didn't and it was a 20 second awkward silence before I had to interject yet again. They must think I'm full of myself and love the sound of my own voice (neither of which is true) but is this a good idea or am I doing this wrong?

Overall a mixed experience so far - I think there is some potential but I need more engagement on their behalf.
After sessions you should do a summary of the points discussed and what you all agreed to do next, i.e. individual deadlines and share that afterwards. Clears things up in case people with ESL didn't fully understand, and also puts a bit of pressure on everyone to get their bit done. Email that summary out or in the whatsapp group
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pancakesbob7
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(Original post by WCML20)
OK - done the session today and took full charge. Did the majority of the speaking. It's a group of 4 including me. One of the others did contribute a bit. She answered some questions and raised a few of her own points so I at least have something to work with there.

The two others though - I don't really know what to do. One doesn't have English as her first language so may have been a bit confused by what I was saying so I'll cut some slack but the other just gave nothing back at all. One word answers, mumbling, fidgeting. Given that this is a group topic, I really need all members to be engaged.

We had to cover several different questions - I read out the questions and gave my opinion first before opening it up to the others. I left 20 seconds between questions in hope that one of them would pick up the next question themselves and talk about it but they didn't and it was a 20 second awkward silence before I had to interject yet again. They must think I'm full of myself and love the sound of my own voice (neither of which is true) but is this a good idea or am I doing this wrong?

Overall a mixed experience so far - I think there is some potential but I need more engagement on their behalf.
No imo you're not doing anything wrong - actually you seem to be doing the right thing. If no one else is contributing then it's right to take charge and get things going. This demonstrates good leadership skills, good job It might make it better to contact each person separately about the essay and maybe even small talk so they're more comfortable with talking to you (presumably you guys don't know each other well). Building up the relationships outside the calls is pretty much as important as getting the work done.
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candydiva
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(Original post by WCML20)
OK - done the session today and took full charge. Did the majority of the speaking. It's a group of 4 including me. One of the others did contribute a bit. She answered some questions and raised a few of her own points so I at least have something to work with there.

The two others though - I don't really know what to do. One doesn't have English as her first language so may have been a bit confused by what I was saying so I'll cut some slack but the other just gave nothing back at all. One word answers, mumbling, fidgeting. Given that this is a group topic, I really need all members to be engaged.

We had to cover several different questions - I read out the questions and gave my opinion first before opening it up to the others. I left 20 seconds between questions in hope that one of them would pick up the next question themselves and talk about it but they didn't and it was a 20 second awkward silence before I had to interject yet again. They must think I'm full of myself and love the sound of my own voice (neither of which is true) but is this a good idea or am I doing this wrong?

Overall a mixed experience so far - I think there is some potential but I need more engagement on their behalf.
Heyy that doesn't sound bad at all. U have to do it!

It rlly doesn't matter wat they think of u coz the shared outcome is the group work deliverable. Not their approval friendship IG salutes or watever. The 20 second awkward silences are totally xpectable here.

"Engagement" is a great and shiny principle in higher education... but it doesn't happen by itself in spite of lots of kumbaya from students... someone like u needs balls to spark it and prod it and accept they will be viewed as full of themselves or love their own voice etc.

U found that stressful.... can u imagine being an instructor where u have to encourage the engagement every class, every day? Master is a prof and teaches sits like this all the time. Immature students think this is easy and that the prob rests on the instructor.... but as u see, not rlly.. imagine having to do xactly wat u just did with ten or more breakout groups in one class, all of whom have reticent members who can't or won't speak up. And then for multiple classes, same day... rinse and repeat tomorrow etc.

Britain is kinda like Japan in this cultural way... u know the nail that sticks up etc. Makes for tuff sledding in group sits where ppl don't know each other but have to communicate seriously to get a job done like Zoom breakouts.
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