The Breakout Method

The Breakout Method

Our Philosophy

Plato and Socrates had it right. Humans learn best from storytelling and rich, small-group discussions. Humans learned this way for centuries and it’s been proven through countless academic studies as the most effective format for every type of student.

It’s even the cornerstone of our judicial system: a small peer group of jury members is entrusted to listen to the evidence and then decide, discuss and defend their positions.

But if scenario-based learning and small group discussions are so powerful, why aren’t we using them these days and instead deferring to textbooks and scantrons that teach students to regurgitate facts?

Simply put, discussions don't scale. They logistically can’t be implemented in today’s large classrooms. And trying to create them through group homework doesn’t work: teachers have little to no visibility into the process. Some students dominate the discussion, others don’t talk at all. And the list of issues goes on.

But Breakout, using AI, has solved these problems—and more—with a brand new learning format.


Academic Advisory Board

For each of our academic fields, we appoint a board of leading professors to oversee the development of instructional materials. This includes crafting the curriculum and recruiting academic authors to work alongside our instructional designers and creative teams.

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Olav Sorensen, Ph.D.

Olav Sorensen, Ph.D.

Making the Case

Stories and small-group discussions are the most powerful combination for learning. We’ve dusted off a classic tool for using scenarios to set up discussions—the case study—and reimagined it for the modern era as a multifaceted experience.

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Instructional Design

To align with our format, all of our cases are constructed with a backwards design: we start with key learning concepts and create the learning experience around them.

Breakout’s academic authors identify the concepts along with real-world scenarios that illustrate them. Our in-house instructional design and creative storytelling team then builds engaging content that brings these scenarios to life.

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Before diving into the group experience, students independently listen to a professionally produced podcast that introduces them to the main players in the case and lays the groundwork for the learning objectives.

The 20-minute podcast is broken up into three segments, each driving to a critical decision point.

The audio storytelling format is a great match for the busy lifestyles of today’s students, who grew up listening to podcasts. However, for more visual learners, there’s also an option to read through a presentation that has the same key background information.


After they listen to or read the Pre-Work, students take a short quiz to see how well they digested the material.

In 1966, the first AI-powered chatbot, ELIZA first appeared.

Engaging Content
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Engaging Content

Next, students meet as small groups in an online Breakout Room, where they have a micro-learning experience that sets the stage for a vibrant discussion.

Together, they watch animated and dramatized reenactments of those key “cliff-hanging” moments in the case that point to the business concepts.

Today’s students grew up in the age of YouTube and prefer video and experiential learning experiences that mirror the real world.

Placed in the shoes of the protagonists faced with key decisions, they’re then prompted to decide what they would do in this situation and discuss and defend their decision with the group

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Peer-Led Discussion Groups

Students now engage in a meaningful discussion about what they’ve just experienced together. There’s no better way to develop critical-thinking skills than to practice live discussion and debate in a small group.

They’re given the opportunity to listen to each other, try out their ideas, and police their own conversations. They can access key exhibits such as financial statements to help them support their claims and challenge others’ views. They have to use their communication and collaboration skills. Shy students, who are terrified of being cold-called to speak in front of the entire class, have a chance to build their confidence. And above all, students are given the space to think and speak their minds.

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AI Assessment

As students discuss and defend their decisions, magic is happening. Our software captures a real-time transcript and runs it against a grading rubric designed to measure the desired learning outcomes of the case

Professors log onto our portal and see a dashboard with detailed data and insights. 

They now have a window into their students' preparation and commentary before they come to class, leading to deeply engaging and powerful in-class discussions. 

It’s also a more objective and fair way to assess students, and everyone saves time along the way. There’s no additional writing assignment for students (a meaningless exercise in the post ChatGPT world). And no grading papers for profs or TA’s. All of our assessment data integrate seamlessly with most major LMSs.

Quiz Scores

Quiz Scores

How students understood key concepts prior to the experience helps professors decide what they need to reinforce in the classroom. 

Poll Results

Poll Results

Professors can see how students voted during each segment, and weave that feedback into their classroom discussions.

Relevant Comments

Relevant Comments

Professors have a view of the most interesting comments made by the students—and can use that to recognize the teams or individuals who made great points and ask them to share it with the class.

The data not only helps professors with grading, but it also makes them into astonishing mind readers, as they deliver lectures that are more targeted and engaging.


Lesson Rubrics

Most importantly, professors can see how each group—and each individual student—performed against a grading rubric the case author developed to measure the learning objectives.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

All of our rubrics apply Bloom’s Taxonomy to assess the depth of the students’ understanding. 

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Generate new ideas, products, or interpretations.
Assess the value, validity, or effectiveness of claims, decisions, or points of view.
Break complex information into parts and examine their relationships.
Use acquired knowledge to solve problems, complete tasks, or apply ideas.
Grasp the meaning of information by interpreting or summarizing it.
Retain facts, terms, or concepts without deep understanding.

Always Evolving

We never stop innovating; while we developed our format for use as group homework outside class, it now can be used as a classroom exercise and also individually. And while our initial launch is in business education, we’ll soon be tackling other fields from nursing and psychology to history and lab science.