Many organisations, be it schools, virtual tutoring and even businesses have been switching to Zoom meetings/calls ever since the pandemic struck us. The efficiency of this online video conferencing platform has been quite remarkable. The software even facilitates the creation of virtual breakout sessions to help teachers and trainers assign group tasks to participants in a Zoom meeting.
Breakout Rooms are specifically useful for teachers conducting online classes for students. Let’s say, for example, for a group assignment or project, a teacher can create breakout rooms in Zoom and assign students in groups to each breakout room. The students will be able to collaborate on the assignment in group in the breakout room allotted to them and the teacher can surveillance the students in each breakout room. Just like a real classroom.
How to Enable Breakout Rooms
Only ‘Admin’ accounts can create and use Breakout Rooms in zoom. If you’re a teacher at a school, ask your school’s IT administration to enable Breakout Rooms feature for all teachers to use.
If you’ve admin access on your Zoom account, then go to zoom.us/profile, click on the ‘Settings’ option under the ‘Personal’ section on the left-hand side, and click on the ‘In Meeting (Advanced)’ option on the right to proceed.
The second option under the Advanced Meeting setting would be the one we’re after. Enable the ‘Breakout Room’ option by sliding the toggle bar next to it to blue.
Now, you would be able to distribute your meeting’s participants into separate groups so they can collaborate on assignments in groups.
After enabling Breakout Rooms on your account, create a Zoom meeting and invite all participants to it.
Creating Breakout Rooms in a Zoom Meeting
On the Zoom meeting window, you’d see the ‘Breakout Rooms’ option on the host control bar. Click on it to configure Breakout Rooms for the meeting in progress.
On the breakout room pop-up dialogue, you could choose the number of rooms you wish to divide the participants into. Click on the box next to ‘Assign participants into’ option and enter the number of breakout rooms you want to create.
You could divide the attendees yourself by choosing the ‘Manually’ option. Or you could keep the default ‘Automatic’ option enabled to let Zoom proportionately divide participants into separate groups based on the number of breakout rooms you chose to create. It’ll show the number of participants that will be added to each room at the bottom of the dialogue box.
Once you’re done with the specifics, click on the ‘Create Rooms’ button at the bottom of the dialogue box.
Zoom will create the breakout rooms and randomly add the equal number of participants to each room (as long as there are even number of participants in the meeting) if you selected the ‘Automatic’ option.
By default, the Breakout Rooms will be named as ‘Breakout Room 1’, ‘Breakout Room 2’, and so on. You can rename the breakout rooms by hovering the mouse cursor over the room name and selecting the ‘Rename’ option.
Move or Exchange Participants between Breakout Rooms
If the automatic arrangement by Zoom doesn’t look good to you, you can move or exchange participants between the breakout rooms by hovering over the participants’ name and selecting either the ‘Move to’ or ‘Exchange’ options.
To move a particular participant to another room, click on the ‘Move To’ button next to the person’s name (after hovering) and select the room you’d like to assign for them.
Likewise, swap a participant with someone from a different room by selecting the ‘Exchange’ option next to their name.
Configure Breakout Rooms options
To further customize breakout rooms for your meeting, click on the ‘Options’ button at the bottom of the breakout rooms dialogue.
On the Options screen, you can enable the ‘Move all participants into breakout rooms automatically’ option to automatically admit and join the participants into the assigned breakout rooms. If you don’t use this option, then the participants would have to manually join the breakout rooms after you open the rooms for access.
In the options, you could also configure the breakout rooms to automatically close after a specified time by entering the number of minutes you wish the breakout sessions to last for, and you can enable a ‘Countdown Timer’ as well for your participants to know when a breakout room is about to close.
Start the Breakout Session
Finally, start the Breakout Session by opening all breakout rooms for the participants to join and start working on the group assignment. Click on the ‘Open All Rooms’ button at the bottom.
If you did not enable the option to automatically join the participants into the breakout rooms, the participants would see the following dialogue box on their Zoom meeting screens to join the breakout room created for them.
Broadcast a Message to all Breakout Rooms
Once your breakout rooms are open, and all participants have joined their respective rooms, you could send a broadcast message to all of them by clicking on the ‘Broadcast a message to all’ button on the Breakout Rooms window.
Join a Breakout Room Yourself
At this point, as a host, you could also choose the join a breakout room to surveillance or help the participants about something. On the Breakout Rooms configuration window, click on the ‘Join’ button next to the Room you wish to join.
Closing all Breakout Rooms
Once the breakout session is complete and you wish to have all participants join the main meeting again, click on the ‘Close All Rooms’ button in red at the bottom of the Breakout Room dialogue box.
This will bring all participants back to the main Zoom meeting.
Bonus Tip: Pre-Assign Breakout Rooms in Scheduled Meetings
Since Breakout Rooms is mostly useful for teachers taking online classes, chances are that you often schedule your meetings with participants so that everyone can clear their calendars and are available to join the meeting at the scheduled time.
Thankfully, you can configure Breakout Rooms for scheduled meetings as well to pre-assign participants into Breakout Rooms so you can save yourself the time spent in configuring breakout sessions while the meeting is ongoing.
To be able to pre-assign breakout rooms in scheduled meetings, you need to enable the option for the same on zoom.us/account/setting page.
Click on the option below the ‘Breakout Room’ row, that says ‘Allow the host to assign participants to breakout rooms while scheduling’.
Once that’s done, scroll all the way up and select the ‘Meetings’ option under the ‘Personal’ section. Then, select any meeting too which you’d like to add Breakout Rooms under the ‘Upcoming Meetings’ list.
Now, choose the ‘Edit this Meeting’ option at the bottom of the chosen meeting’s page.
Note: If you don’t already have any scheduled meeting, then click on the ‘Schedule a New Meeting’ button to create a new Meeting and configure it as follows.
Stream down further on the meeting editing/creating page to find the section called ‘Meeting Options’. Tick the box next to the option that says ‘Breakout Room Pre-assign’.
Then, click on the ‘Create Rooms’ link to create and pre-assign breakout rooms to participants of the meeting.
Click the ‘+’ button next to ‘Rooms’ on the pop-up dialogue box to add a Breakout Room to the scheduled meeting.
Once a room is created, click on the ‘Add participants’ field box to type participant names and pre-assign them to the breakout room.
Repeat the same step for all breakout rooms you wish to create. Once done, click on the ‘Save’ button at the bottom right of the dialogue.
At last, save the Meeting Options for the scheduled meeting by clicking the ‘Save’ button.
Creating breakout rooms might be an elaborate process, but it sure is an efficient one. Through this, you can better manage your team calls, virtual classrooms or any type of training sessions.