Tips for using Zoom breakout rooms

Breakout rooms support student-to-student engagement activities including small group discussions, group project work, and problem solving sessions. Keep these tips in mind as you design and set up your breakout sessions.

  1. Keep your Zoom app up to date, and remind students to do the same. Learn to update your Zoom. 
  2. Use the Zoom app (not the web browser). If possible, all participants should join Zoom by signing in to your desktop zoom account on a computer, not a phone or tablet. Participants joining via their phones have reported occasional difficulties connecting to breakout rooms.
  3. Decide on setup for Zoom breakout rooms for your class session (learn to manage breakout rooms). The different types of breakout rooms are: 
    • Randomly assigned breakout rooms (different students work together every time): 
      1. Select the breakout room icon and enter the number of rooms you would like to have
      2. Each time you reopen the breakout rooms, participants will be randomly assigned to a new room,
      3. You can have up to 50 breakout rooms with up to 200 people in each room.
    • Persistent breakout rooms (the same students work together every time): 
      1. Assign students the same breakout room each class by pre-assigning breakout rooms (learn how via this article).
    • Student-selected rooms (students move themselves in and out of rooms at will)
      1. As the host, you must enable this functionality in order for students to move themselves around. Everybody will need to join via the Zoom app and have Zoom updated to at least version 5.3.0.
      2. Students can elect to move to new rooms at any time (learn more via this article).
      3. Suggestion: create an extra room or two beyond what you expect to need. Students can use these rooms when they need space to start new conversations.
  4. Recording in Zoom breakout rooms takes a few extra steps
    • If you are recording to the cloud, Zoom will not record any breakout rooms. If you, as the host of the meeting, are recording locally (on your computer), Zoom will record whatever room you are in (not other rooms). 
    • If you want a recording from each breakout room, the host can assign a participant in each breakout room to record locally (to their computer) and then share the recording with you via UVA Box, Collab Media Gallery, etc. The host will need to grant permission individually via the Participants icon in order for participants to be able to record.
  5. Design for student accountability and engagement in breakout rooms.
    • A meeting host can move from one breakout room to another. However, this tends to be a slow process, and has the potential to disrupt ongoing student discussions. Consider instead creating a collaborative tracking system like this one to encourage accountability.
    • Be specific in the purpose of breakout rooms. Consider assigning roles (convener, note taker, devil’s advocate, reporter etc.) to students prior to opening the breakout rooms, to keep everyone on task. Hold brief “share-out” sessions when you close breakout rooms, with a representative of each group sharing the outcomes of their discussion with the whole class.

Need some help? Zoom’s Help Center is the most up-to-date resource available for learning about zoom features. Contact A&S Learning Design and Technology ( to discuss  using breakout rooms for your course activities.

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