Group projects have no place in a pandemic

AB Boyd | Cartoonist

In a world where classes are virtual and in-person contact is extremely limited, professors should not try to force their usual syllabi to fit the mold of online education.

Zoom is a great tool for continuing education during a pandemic, but it can’t be a complete replacement for face-to-face interactions. There are situations that we come across as students that Zoom can’t quite handle.

Group projects, for starters, have no place in a pandemic. Doing group projects virtually is chaotic; between blacked-out Zoom boxes and awkward technological difficulties, it’s extremely frustrating to work with other people from behind a screen.

It’s hard enough to get through team-based assignments when you don’t have to fear in-person gatherings, but the extra stress of COVID-19 makes it all the more worrying. Some students prefer to still meet up, which causes issues for those who would rather limit their contact with students who are practicing varying levels of safety and social distancing.

For whatever reason, there seems to be an increase in the amount of group projects assigned this semester. Not only is this unnecessary extra stress on students who are already struggling to figure out how to manage virtual classes, but it also comes with an ultimatum — risk poor group communication by doing everything virtually, or risk physical health by meeting up in person to work on the task.

Zoom breakout rooms also miss the mark when it comes to providing students with a quality way to have discussions in class. Most people who have had to use these mini-classrooms are aware of the awkwardness that settles in when you are sent to a subsection of a virtual classroom.

In these rooms, you find yourself staring at either muted faces or black boxes that just show the name of the person with whom you are supposed to be conversing.

Sometimes you actually are able to talk for a little bit. Usually it is just a person or two who takes the initiative, while the rest of the group takes advantage of the Zoom features that let them hide away and be less involved in the project at hand.

At this point, everyone should understand that we are not living through a normal semester, so why are we still being assigned normal assignments?

As students, we are so on edge about health in general and are constantly being reminded about the reality of the coronavirus. With all the worry going on about our own lives and the lives of our loved ones, it is frustrating to have to deal with assigned group work on top of everything else.

Even before the pandemic, group projects were brutal for the students who ended up carrying the weight of the work. Now, it is even more difficult to keep team members accountable for doing their share of the assignment.

There are countless ways to make assignments doable while online, but despite the best of intentions and the latest virtual communication technology, group projects are not the way to go.