Virtual Communications

Breakout Rooms in Zoom

The Breakout Rooms function allows you to split your participants up into multiple smaller Zoom sessions. This is a useful function for facilitating discussion, as participants can be grouped into smaller groups that allow for more interaction and dialogue. As the host, you will not be sorted into one of the breakout rooms, and cannot hear what is being discussed in the Breakout Rooms. However, you can visit individual Breakout Rooms to check in on the discussions happening in a particular room. Meeting co-hosts have the same privileges to manage breakout rooms as the host (Zoom 5.4.6 and above).

To begin the Breakout Room process, click the “Breakout Rooms” icon in your Zoom menu bar.

You will then be prompted to assign students into rooms. You can do this three ways in the meeting: 

  1. You can assign students automatically and Zoom will randomly assign students into evenly-sized groups 
  2. You can manually assign students to Breakout Rooms during the Zoom session.
  3. You can allow students to self-select Breakout Rooms. They will be prompted to do this after you select “Open All Rooms”

Clicking “Create Breakout Rooms” will bring up a new window with a list of rooms. This window gives you options to rename or delete rooms, as well as to move participants to different rooms. You can also exchange participants with each other.

The “Options” button lets you set how the Breakout Rooms behave.

  • “Move all participants into breakout rooms automatically” places students immediately in their breakout rooms instead of giving them the option to join or not join their assigned room.
  • “Allow participants to return to the main session at any time” lets students leave their breakout room at any point.
  • Breakout rooms can be set to remain open for a certain number of minutes.
  • Lastly, you can include a buffer between when you close a breakout room and when students must return to the main session by setting the countdown timer. This allows students to wrap-up their conversation before returning to the main room.

Once you have finished setting up the Breakout Rooms, you can open the rooms by clicking “Open All Rooms.” If participants will be choosing their own room, this is when they will be invited to do so. 

Once the rooms are opened, you will be alone in the main room as participants join their designated Breakout Rooms. You will be able to join Breakout Rooms by hitting “Join” next to a room – this lets you facilitate the conversation in a specific Breakout Room. You can also broadcast a message to all the rooms.

You can end the Breakout Rooms process by clicking “Close All Rooms.” This brings everyone back to the main room.

If you would like to learn about recording Breakout Rooms, please see our guide on “Recording a Zoom Meeting.” If you would like to learn about how to pre-assign Breakout Rooms, see our FAQs