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Zoom Breakout Rooms | How to make groups in Zoom

    One of Zoom’s greatest features is the option of breakout rooms, which is a huge advantage when teaching online, but what is a breakout room? How does it work, and how can teachers use breakout rooms with online classes?  

    Having installed Zoom, participants/ students can easily follow a few steps to join the meeting/classroom and then, per instruction, be assigned to a breakout room by the meeting host/teacher for a specified time, before rejoining the main meeting/ classroom again.

    What is a breakout room?

    Breakout rooms is a function where participants can be placed into smaller groups.

    Zoom Breakout rooms was first available only on Zoom’s platform, enabling the host and co-host of a meeting to let participants enter smaller group meetings of up to a hundred for the pro-version. For online teaching, this means that the teacher can let students do specific tasks in smaller groups, similar to a real classroom.

    How to log in on Zoom | Zoom Settings

    Steps to follow in Zoom’s settings to use the breakout rooms: First you go to Zoom US and open an account to sign in. It’s very simple and you can put a photo there of yourself. Then go to settings because at first to set up breakout rooms. In Meeting settings scroll and click on “In Meeting (Advanced)”, then enable Breakout Room in order to start the meeting with video on.  

    Starting Zoom | Invite student to Zoom meeting

    Next, open Zoom and invite students for the class by copying the URL and sending it via social media or email. In some cultures, formal correspondence may have been the preferred option for older teaching staff, but today social media is a much faster and the reliable way to communicate with students, using apps such as WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat (China), and Kakao Talk (South Korea). For the video, I have invited professor Ben to help me to demonstrate the use of breakout rooms.

     Why Zoom is great for online teaching

    Breakout rooms are fantastic for online teaching, because it simulates a classroom and enables the teacher to function in real-time whether it’s online or physically in the classroom. The ability to model that behavior through the digital medium is really important for both educators and students. The less speaking time the teacher has, the better for the students. It is therefore advised that teachers often put their students into groups and in so doing get them to practice speaking as much as possible.

    Zoom Breakout Room Tutorial

    Step one, click on breakout rooms and assign rooms 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, as many as you need for the class.

    The following options are possible in breakout rooms (hover the curses on the selected student or click on the required action):

    Move to: Select a room to move the student to. Exchange: Select and swap students in different rooms.

    Add/ delete/ recreate rooms: Rooms can be added, deleted, or recreated. Open all rooms: This starts the rooms.

    How to assign students to breakout rooms

    In this demonstration, I’ve created three rooms. Participants can either be pre-assigned to various break-out rooms, or it can be done during class, depending on the number of students. The students can otherwise choose what room they wish to join, or Zoom can automatically split the students evenly into the rooms when the teacher/ host opens all rooms.

    To assign students to rooms, select ‘Assign’ next to each room and select the students you want to assign to that room. This is repeated for each room. Once the students have been assigned (either manually or automatically), the number of students in the room will show in place of the ‘Assign’ button.

    Video demonstration using breakout rooms

    When the host/ teacher clicks ‘open’, all the students are sent to their assigned rooms. Ben’s been invited to go to breakout room 2, as can be seen on the host’s screen.  The hosts thus have control of the participants/ students going inside their respective rooms. The teacher can join each of the rooms to quickly chat with each group. For example, when class started, the students were told: “Tell the group three things about yourself.” The teacher can then go into each group and can give them a separate list of questions or a project to do, or join each room just to see what they’re up to.

    Meeting Ben for a demonstration on using breakout rooms for class.

    In the video demonstration, I joined the room where Ben was and shared my screen to with the breakout rooms and check if the students are following the instruction/ task. For example, “Okay, so I want you to talk about these three things with your partner…”

    I then said, “Okay guys, I’ll see you later. I’m going to join another group now, continue with your conversation,” and moved to the second breakout room where there was nobody.

    After giving the students enough time, I can send them a message and tell them: “Okay everyone, finish up.” Then eventually I can say, “Close rooms!” They then have 60 seconds to finish up their conversation before they are automatically returned to the classroom/ main session.

    A HINT: Make one more room than what is needed, just in case you want to move the students around, so you don’t have to go back and restart the breakout room process again.

    Assessment of using Zoom’s breakout rooms:

    This was Professor Ben’s assessment for teaching online with Zoom: “Any teacher using Zoom should be using breakout rooms, absolutely no doubt. Breakout rooms can be used in so many different ways, it’s really only your imagination that limits teachers on how they use them. To be quite honest, this is exactly what I use small group conversations for. I pair groups and give the students 10 to 15 minutes to wrestle with some issues that might be springing out of the textbook, because I’m focusing on problem-based learning.

    “There are so many possibilities. Imagination is the limit in terms of how we can use it exactly. I think the more teachers are going to use this, the more we will realize what we are capable of achieving with breakout rooms. I would suggest telling the students always to have a notepad or a book with them so that they can make notes while they’re in their meetings because once they’re done with the breakout room, they must give feedback.”


    Zoom’s breakout room function is ideal for teaching larger classes online. The teacher can assign students to different groups to optimize participation in discussions, problem-solving, completing a given task, or strategizing when playing a class game. Etacude will make videos on activities for breakout rooms and for general teaching.  

    Other platforms are also creating breakout rooms: Microsoft’s Teams app now also has breakout rooms. Go to ‘settings,’ and ensure that ‘turn on new meeting experience’ is selected. This facility is only available on desktop versions.

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