Texas Tech University

Breakout Rooms in Zoom

The Breakout Room tool in Zoom can be a great way to have students participate in smaller group class discussions, allow students to work in groups on a project, or to solve a problem. This tool could also be beneficial when there seems to be a lot of questions or concerns about a topic or assignment. Placing students into breakout rooms allows instructors to visit each room separately, allowing for more manageable direct communication between the students and instructor. Below you will find more information and resources on the Breakout Room tool within Zoom. If you have further questions, you would like to discuss different features within the Zoom platform, or would like to practice using the breakout room tool with someone before utilizing the tool in your course, please contact Erika Brooks-Hurst at erika.d.brooks@ttu.edu.

    • For more information about Zoom Licensing available to TTU faculty, please contact IT Help Central (742-HELP) to request a license.
    • For a brief video (3:18) overview about how to use and manage Zoom Video Breakout Rooms click here.
    • For more information about how to prevent Zoombombing, please visit the TLPDC Zoombombing page here.

Getting Started with a Zoom Breakout Room

If you do not see the breakout room button within your Zoom meeting on the control toolbar (pictured here)then you will need to enable the breakout room tool in the advanced settings by visiting https://zoom.us/profile.

To enable breakout rooms, you can find written directions with screenshots here or a video with advice here. Instructions for breakout rooms are in the first 00:00:27 seconds of this video.

There are three different ways to schedule a Zoom session.

  1. Personal Meeting Room Session
  2. One-time Occurrence Session
  3. Recurring Session Here you will find different screenshots for each of the scheduling methods.

Here you will find different screenshots for each of the scheduling methods.

There are three different ways to move students into breakout rooms: 1) Automatically 2) Manually, and 3) Pre-assigning students to different rooms. Here is a video on managing breakout rooms.Each assignment method is listed below with more information.

Automatically Assigning Students to Breakout Rooms

The automatic assignment method will randomly assign students to different rooms based on the number of rooms you select. For example, if you have 30 students in your session and you want then to be in groups of 3, you can choose 10 as the number of rooms and will randomly assign 3 students to each room. This method of assigning students to breakout rooms is excellent for larger classes when it would take too much time to manually assigned each student to a room. Here you can find a video with information on the automatic assignment method at 00:00:27 lasting until 00:00:47.

Manually Assigning Students to Breakout Rooms

Manual assignment works if you have few enough students and enough time within the session to select a checkbox from a dropdown list of the students names that are participating in active session. Once students are checked for the first room, they are taken off the list for the next room, and this continues making the dropdown list shorter as you place students in the first few rooms. You could also ask students to rename themselves to speed up the process. For example, John, 1;. Ann, 1;. Lisa, 1;. Clair, 2;. Tom, 2;. Bill, 2. Then the dropdown list of the students names would be faster to select who you would like by placing all the number 1's Together and all the 2's together, etc. Here you can find a video with information on the manual assignment method at 00:00:47 lasting until 00:01:07.

Pre-Assigning Students to Breakout Rooms

At this time, we have been unable to get the pre-assigning students to breakout rooms method to work properly. We will continue to research how to use this method of assignment and will hope to be able to provide an update soon. Here are the Zoom directions for how to pre-assigning students to breakout rooms. This has the potential to be a powerful assignment method.

Teaching Strategies

It is essential to take the time to orient students to the Zoom platform and the breakout room tool. It may seem as if you are wasting time doing this step, but it will pay off in the long run by helping to eliminate the uncertainty that students may have as they start to use a new platform or tool.

We suggest that you allow students to become familiar with Zoom during your first session using this platform. Take the time during your first meeting to orient and practice with the students. Students may be using several different platforms in different ways, depending on their course load. Taking the time to explain and expose them to varying features within Zoom could help them not to become overwhelmed.

It is important to be aware that some features will appear, be listed, or not be available depending on the type of device or browser that a student has used to join a Zoom session. Here you will find examples of iPad, iPhone, web browser screenshots with some information on how to access these different features on these different devices.

It is important to communicate your expectations for students during online sessions. Below are some areas for consideration as you work to provide students with your expectations when joining a Zoom session for your course.

Netiquette (short for internet etiquette) Guidelines

Here you will find links to several great examples on this topic posted by the Center for Effective Teaching and Learning at California State University.

Audio and Video Preferences

Often it is important to ask students to mute their audio unless they are asking or answering a question. By having students mute their audio, the background noises will lessen, and it will cut down on other audio issues such as echo and feedback. You will also want to consider whether you would like for students to have their video on or off when in a session. You will want to let students know about your session preferences before the first session so that they can make any necessary adjustments or make equipment purchases such as a webcam, as well as discuss these with them in the first few session meetings. Also, you may want to review this page, Considerations for Equity and Access, as you think about your preferences for online behaviors.

Joining a Zoom Session

The Zoom App often works better and has more features than opening the session from an internet browser. If you want students to join from the Zoom App, you will want to specify this before the first session. Here will find a video and more information about the different ways someone can join a Zoom session.

Students Participating in a Breakout Room

You may want to think about what other materials students will need to access while in a session. Thinking about the number of windows or programs the students will need to open during the session is also an important consideration when planning your Zoom session. Remember, they will not be able to see the main room once they are in their breakout rooms. If you are planning to post the small group directions in the main room, you will want to have them copy them in some way before joining their breakout rooms. Also, remember that some students will be joining from their cell phones or iPads and will not be able to have multiple windows open on those devices while in a Zoom session.

Backchannel Communication

You may want to set up a backchannel as a way for students to communicate with you if they are having trouble accessing the Zoom session or if they lose connection and are having trouble getting back into the session. You will want the designated backchannel to be something other than Zoom, such as email or Skype for Business. We do not recommend texting or calling for the backchannel unless absolutely necessary.

Security & Recommended Settings

You will want to consider ahead of time whether you want to have guidelines or change settings to allow or disable your student's ability to have private chats, share their screens, or use a virtual background. These are important considerations that you will want to establish for yourself ahead of time. You will want to review your settings here https://zoom.us/profile/setting. For more information, Zoom settings and what is recommended for preventing Zoombombing visit, this page.

Practicing will help you to familiarize yourself with the Zoom platform and tool before you have students present in the session. Below are a few ways to practice before you are in a session with your students.

  • You can join a session from multiple personal devices. This is a great way to practice on your own before having a real-time session with students. Hint: Make sure you mute all mics to avoid the terrible screeching of microphone feedback. This will also allow you to see how the platform might appear differently for your students.
  • Ask a few colleagues, friends, or family members to meet with you in a Zoom meeting so that you can practice putting people in breakout rooms.
  • Have a TA or smaller group of students meet with you in Zoom.
  • Make sure that the first time you try out the breakout room feature in a session, it is for a low risk or practice discussion with students. For example, send people to a breakout room and have them talk about if they have used Zoomed before or what they are still confused about and then practice moving between rooms to let your students become comfortable with the platform.

Applying the Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT) design as you plan to use a breakout room could be helpful. Clearly stating the purpose, task, and criteria when instructing the small group work will allow your students to understand why they are in the breakout room (purpose), what they need to do (task), and when they are ready to move back into the main room (criteria). Here is a helpful TILT Template. Below are a few questions you may want to answer as you are preparing to use the breakout room tool.

  • What do you want students to do once they are in their breakout room?
  • How will they record what they have done? Or will they just be brought back to the main room to share what their room discussed?
  • How will they know they have been successful?
  • When will they rejoin the main room or leave the breakout room? Be sure to let students know if they will be leaving the session once they are finished in their breakout room or coming back to the main room.


Teaching, Learning, & Professional Development Center