What is a Breakout Room in Zoom Cloud Meetings?
In short, a breakout room is a virtual group within Zoom Cloud Meetings when you want to conduct group activities among students.
When you are using the Free Basic, Education, or Pro account, the total participant limit, including all breakout rooms, will be up to 100 participants per meeting.
Breakout Room = Interactive & Engaging Meeting Sessions
Are you missing on all the fun associated with teaching and training?
If yes, I can guide you on getting at least one fun aspect of classroom training back – and that is Group Activities.
Alternatively, you can watch this short 20 minutes video to know how to use Zoom Breakout Rooms for teaching & training:
How to Enable Breakout Rooms?
Let me start with an update.
Zoom regularly releases new features. To get to use the latest features, run an update check on your Zoom app.
To do so, open your Zoom app > Click on your profile picture > And then click Check for Update.
Let it install the latest update if there is one available. Or you may get a message saying “You Are Up-to-Date” if you are already using the latest version. Run an update check at least once in a week, I would say.
Also, ask your students to go through the Check for Update so that everyone can enjoy newer features and better meeting experience.
Now let us move on.
So, say you have many students, maybe 20 students in your class, and want them to research four different topics as groups. So, you split the class into four groups of 5 students each and assign them topics. You give them the time limit of say, 15 minutes to discuss the topic as a group, and later talk about it in front of the entire class of 20.
That is when you require a breakout room session in Zoom.
How to Pre-Assign Participants in Zoom Breakout Rooms?
Now, there are two ways you can go about group activity in breakout rooms.
One – is that you pre-plan everything well in advance.
Two – you take a group activity spontaneously if the situation demands.
Let me first show how to pre-plan or Pre-assign participants to breakout rooms.
Consider this – you want to teach problem-solving to the class next Monday. And the best way to teach the subject is by giving students a common problem to solve, dividing them into groups, giving them 15 minutes to plan out a solution. Then later, let them present their group’s solution with the entire class.
So, as a teacher, trainer, or instructor, you need to arrange a breakout room in advance in this specific case.
This section of the tutorial takes you through the pre-assigning and preplanning steps.
Step 1: Check if the Breakout room is enabled.
From the Zoom app, click on your profile image> Go to My Profile > Then click Settings > Click “In Meeting – Advanced”> Enable “Breakout room” and tick “Allow the host to assign participants to breakout rooms when scheduling”> Save.
Step 2: Schedule a meeting. If it is already scheduled, great move to Step 3.
For this example, I am going to schedule a meeting now.
In the Zoom app, click Schedule > Type the topic of the meeting > Set the meeting start date, time & duration.
Leave the Meeting ID to “Generate Automatically”, leave the “Password” as it is, leave the “Waiting room” enabled; I am going to leave the video as “off” for this tutorial. I will send the invite manually, so I will select “Other calendar.”
Do click this “Advanced Options” and ensure that “Enable join before host” is unchecked, “Mute participants upon entry” is checked, and it’s up to you if you want to record this meeting; for the test meeting, I will leave this unchecked. Then click Save.
“Copy to clipboard.”
Then I am going to open my email and send this meeting invite.
Step 3: Go to My Profile by clicking on the Profile button and then My Profile. Alternatively, you can open a browser on your laptop/ desktop and go to https://zoom.us/meeting
Under the Upcoming tab, you can see the meeting wherein you want to take a breakout session.
Put your mouse cursor on top of that meeting and Click Edit.
Now Scroll down to the “Meeting Options” & check “Breakout Room pre-assign.”
Then click “Create Rooms.”
A “Breakout Room Assignment” window pops up.
Click on the “+” sign next to “Rooms.”
Now, on the right, you can see “Breakout Room 1”. Click on that.
You can then rename the groups to your liking. I’ve decided to make it “Girls” vs. “Boys” just for fun for this class.
Then click “Add participants,” and I will manually type in the email addresses of participants I want in the “Girls” group.
To add the second room, Click on the “+” sign next to “Rooms.”
Now, on the left, you can see “Breakout Room 2”. Click on that. Then click on “Breakout Room 2” on the right, and I will name it as “Boys.”
Then I can add participants.
Press the Enter or Return key after typing in each participant’s email address.
Then click Save.
And then click Save again.
Now, this process of manually adding participants can be time-consuming.
So there is another way to do it, which is also a bit time-consuming. Still, this way can help if you want to take a breakout room session in the future; it can save much time for future sessions.
Let me remove the rooms that I created.
Ok, so now I have a blank Breakout Room Assignment screen.
I will click Import from CSV.
Download the template by clicking on “Download” over here.
I am going to save this template to my Desktop.
Let’s open this template.
So you can see two columns here. “Pre-assign Room Name” and “Email Address”
For room names, this time, let me put names of colors, “Red” & “Blue.”
Then I can type the email addresses.
I have 2 participants in the “Red” team and 2 in the “Blue” Team for the test meeting.
If you see this error message about “Possible Data Loss,” ignore it. Because Zoom won’t pick this list if we save it in excel file format as incorrectly suggested here.
Then close this sheet.
Just remember this sheet’s location because you can edit the group names and assignments for future breakout rooms and re-upload the same CSV file.
Back on the Zoom window, click Browse – I will go to Desktop because that’s where I have saved the file; click on it, and click Open.
You see, the Red and Blue Rooms are created with the list of participants in each group.
And then Save again.
Now let’s wait for the meeting.
How to start & manage a Breakout Room Session?
Start the meeting as normal.
Open the Zoom app, and click Start next to the scheduled meeting.
Admit all the participants as they join.
Now one crucial information, if a participant enters the class late or if a participant enters the meeting, leaves. Then, rejoins the meeting; you will have to manually assign the participant to one of the breakout rooms.
Before we open the Zoom breakout rooms, I will tell them the agenda for today’s class and will instruct them about the breakout room activity. Plus, of course, I will give the topic of group discussion. Once that’s all done,
Click Breakout Rooms
Since we want the activity for 15 minutes, click Options.
Check this box “Breakout rooms close automatically after” and put 15 minutes or the time limit you want.
Also, check “Notify me when time is up” and click “Open all Rooms.”
Participants need to click “Join” on their devices to Join the Breakout Room.
You can see a countdown timer on the Breakout Rooms window showing you how much time is left.
If you want to send a message to everyone, click “Broadcast message to all” Type your message and click “Broadcast.”
When a Breakout Room session has started, the only way you can communicate with all the groups together is through a text-based broadcast message.
To ensure no one is left without being assigned a breakout room, look on the Participants pane – there should only be one participant, and that is you.
If you want to see a group’s progress and talk to them, click “Join” next to that group.
You will then enter that room and freely talk to the group members, see their progress, give suggestions, and leave.
Click Leave room to Leave the group. Then carefully click “Leave breakout room.”
To ensure that participants can talk to each other and share screen, click “Security” check “Share Screen,” and check “Unmute themselves”
You can also shuffle participants on the go by highlighting them and clicking “Move to.”
Let’s wait for the Breakout Room session to end.
You will get a notification if you want to continue the session or close now. Click close now!
All the participants will get a 60-second countdown telling them that the “Breakout room will close in 60 seconds”.
Close this breakout room window.
If you see under participants, you will get all the students back in the main session.
You can then continue with the class and discuss the solutions they found.
How to start an instant Breakout Room in Zoom?
As I had mentioned earlier, there is another way to start Zoom Breakout Rooms without pre-planning, like getting that spontaneous thought of taking a group activity.
I will explain to you how to do that in 3 steps.
Of course, you will first explain the activity to students.
Then click Breakout Rooms.
Then add a room, you can rename the rooms if you wish.
I will quickly add two rooms, “Marvel” & “DC.”
Click Assign next to the Room name and check the participants you want to add there.
Same for the second room, the third room, so on, and so forth…
Then Click Options, Set time limit, and click Open All Rooms.
Ask participants to click Join on their screens.
Ensure every participant has this green bullet, and the only participant in the main session is you.
The rest of the features are the same. You can broadcast messages, switch between rooms as a teacher, and manually shuffle participants if need be.
Let me close all rooms and show you one more thing.
How to let participants choose which breakout room they want to join?
Before demonstrating how to allow participants to choose the breakout room of their choice, I will quickly delete all the rooms first.
Now, pay attention.
Go to Options, and check “Allow participants to choose a room.”
Uncheck “Automatically move all assigned participants into breakout rooms.”
Set time, add the required number of rooms, and click Open Breakout Rooms.
You will see that all the participants are unassigned.
Ask the participants to click Breakout Rooms on their screen and join one of the available breakout rooms.
See the rooms update on your screen.
Important: For this functionality to work, all the participants need to have the latest version of the Zoom app (Version 5.3.1 & above), so ask them to run an update check as I showed you at the start of this video.
Now, if you see, we have an imbalance in the room sizes. This problem is pretty common as the participants may prefer one group over the other.
So what I can do is move participants across to the other group to ensure balance.
I can be polite enough to let them know through chat before I take this step.
Click Move to besides the participant’s name and move them across to the group(s) with lesser headcount.
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Lastly, let me know how easy it was to use Zoom Breakout Rooms for Teaching video? On the scale of 1 to 5, 1 being exceedingly difficult and 5 being very easy.
Make sure I get feedback so that I can improve.
If you haven’t watched yet, I have made a comprehensive guide to using Zoom for teaching online. That video includes tips to secure your zoom meetings from zoom bombers and an easy way to take zoom meetings in noisy situations. Do watch that video; I am sure you will learn a lot from it; here’s the video:
Read it online here: Zoom Cloud Meeting For Teachers.
Thank you for your time, and hope to see you soon.
And by the way, a PDF copy of this Zoom Breakout Rooms tutorial is available to download, download now!