Breakout Rooms in Zoom

Posted January 29th, 2021 at 11:24 pm.

Zoom “breakout rooms” allow you to split a meeting into smaller groups:

  • The host or a co-host sets up the breakout rooms, either randomly assigning participants to rooms, manually assigning them, or letting them choose rooms, and clicks Open All Rooms.
  • When participants join the breakout rooms, they can talk and chat with others in that room and share video and screens if allowed to in the main meeting. The host and co-hosts can remain in the main session or visit breakout rooms.
  • The host or a co-host clicks Close All Rooms to return everyone to the main meeting.

Prefer video? Watch Zoom’s How to Use Breakout Rooms.


Set Up Your Breakout Rooms

The host or a co-host can start and must finish setting up breakout rooms after the meeting starts and participants have joined. This does not necessarily disrupt the meeting; participants cannot see or join breakout rooms until Open All Rooms is clicked.

Optional Pre-Assignments

If you plan to assign people to specific breakout groups and you know in advance who will be attending, you can pre-assign rooms before the meeting starts. Pre-assigned participants will appear in the correct breakout rooms when the host or a co-host clicks on Breakout Rooms during the meeting, if they have logged into the Zoom accounts associated with their pre-registration. The host or a co-host will still need to manually assign people who haven’t logged in, logged into a different Zoom account, or don’t have a pre-assignment. Pre-assignments also apply to all instances of a recurring meeting; if you want to pre-assign people to different groups each meeting, create them as separate non-recurring meetings instead.

The person scheduling the meeting must make pre-assignments and can only do this in the Zoom web portal:

  1. Go to http://brynmawr-edu.zoom.us, choose Sign in with SSO, and log in with your Bryn Mawr username and password.
  2. Click Schedule a New Meeting OR click the Meetings tab, find your meeting and click Edit to open the Meeting Settings page.
  3. Under Meeting Options, check Breakout Room pre-assign, then click Edit, then follow the appropriate steps for your case below.

Situation A: ALL meeting participants have Bryn Mawr Zoom accounts. In this case you can use the buttons in the window to configure your rooms.

  1. Click on the + by Rooms to add rooms (note: you can’t change room names here, but you can during the meeting).
  2. Search for a participant and click Add to place them in a room.
  3. Click Save.

Breakout Room Assignment Window

Note: If you can’t find someone, they don’t have a BMC Zoom account. Use the Import from CSV option to pre-register them or wait until after the meeting starts to assign them to a room.

Situation B: Some participants don’t have BMC accounts (for example, those from Haverford or Swarthmore, which have their own institutional Zoom licenses). Use the Import from CSV option instead.

  1. Click Import from CSV at the bottom of the Breakout Rooms window.
  2. Download Zoom’s sample CSV file from the top of the Import Rooms and Participants with CSV window.
  3. Open it in spreadsheet program (such as Excel).
  4. Add the email address* of each participant and the room you are assigning them to the appropriate columns, as shown in this template. Zoom will automatically a room for each item listed in the room name column.
  5. Save your file, making sure to keep it in a .csv file format.
  6. Upload the file to the box in the Zoom’s Import Rooms and Participants with CSV window.
  7. Click Save.

*For best results, ask participants for the e-mail address associated with their Zoom accounts (if they have one) and remind them to use that account to join the meeting. Don’t worry if some don’t or don’t have Zoom accounts, however; a host or the co-host will need to manually assign them to a breakout room during the meeting, but they will still be able to participate fully.

During the Meeting

Once the meeting has started and participants have joined (or at least started joining) the host or a co-host needs to:

    1. Click Breakout Rooms.
    2. If you haven’t made pre-assignments:
      1. Select the number of rooms you want and how to assign participants to them:
        • Automatically: Zoom splits participants randomly and evenly across rooms.
        • Manually: You assign participants to specific rooms.
        • Let participants choose room
      2. Click Create Breakout Rooms.
    3. The Breakout Rooms window lists available rooms and — if you chose automatic assignments or made pre-assignments — the  participants assigned to them. From this window, you can:
        • Rename rooms: Hover over the Room name and clicking Rename.

      Screenshot Zoom breakout rooms window before rooms are opened

      • Change the number of rooms: Click Add a Room and Delete Room buttons.
      • Add participants: Click Assign (empty rooms) or the number of participants and check the box next to their names.
      • Reassign participants: Hover over a name and click Move to specify where to place them or Exchange to specify whom to swap places with.

Screen shot showing Move to and Exchange options

    • Recreate: reset to pre-assignments (if available) go back to the Create Breakout Rooms window.
    • Options: Adjust breakout room settings
      • Allow participants to choose room. Check if you want participants to be able to choose their own breakout rooms.
      • Allow participants to return to the main session at any time: Uncheck to prevent participants from returning to the main meeting if they exit a breakout room before you have closed them.
      • Automatically move all assigned participants into breakout rooms:Check to send participants who already have room assignments to their breakout rooms automatically when you click Open All Rooms.
      • Auto close breakout rooms after () minutes:Check to automatically close the breakout rooms after the specified time elapses. (If you check “Notify me …” the host and co-host will get an alert before this happens.)
      • Countdown after closing breakout rooms: Give participants a grace period to wrap up breakout conversations. Click Close All Rooms to display and start the timer; when it reaches zero, participants who are still in their breakout rooms will be sent back to the main meeting.

Start, Manage, and Close Breakout Rooms

Each breakout room is a mini-clone of the main Zoom meeting. Participants have the same permissions in the breakout rooms as they do in the main meeting. Exception: all participants can chat and mute/unmute themselves while in the breakout rooms. There is no way to change this.

  • If you want participants to have different screen- or video-sharing abilities while in breakout rooms, click Security and change the settings in the main meeting immediately before you open the breakout rooms.
  • Zoom cloud recordings capture only the main meeting room. If you need to record one or more breakout rooms, you will need to enable local recording for the meeting and ask someone in those breakout rooms to make a local recording.
  • If you need to share documents with breakout room participants, you can:
    • Post the in the main meeting chat and ask participants to download them before opening the breakout rooms
    • Arrange for one person (a participant or co-host) in each breakout room to have the documents and be responsible of posting them to or sharing their screen to display them within that room.

As soon as the host or a co-host clicks Open All Rooms:

  • If participants are allowed to choose rooms, they can click Breakout Rooms, view the list of rooms, and click Join to enter one.*
  • Participants with a room assignment will be invited to Join (or be sent into the room automatically if that setting is enabled).
  • Participants without a room assignment will remain in the main meeting space.

*Participants who can’t select their own rooms are probably using an older version of Zoom. The host or a co-host can manually can assign them to a room instead, and they can upgrade Zoom later to have this option in future meetings. 

While breakout rooms are in session:

  • The host or a co-host can continue to make room assignments.
  • The host and co-hosts can use Join/Leave buttons in the Breakout Rooms window to visit rooms.

  • Zoom chats will be breakout-room specific:
    • Participants (including hosts and co-hosts) who are in a breakout room will only be able to chat with others in that room.
    • Participants (including hosts and co-hosts) who are not in a breakout room will only be able to chat with others in the main meeting area.
  • The host or a co-host can click Broadcast Message to all in the Breakout Rooms window to message all meeting participants. To message a specific room, they need to Join that breakout room.
  • Participants in breakout rooms can click the ? (Ask for Help) button in their meeting control bar to request that the host join their breakout group. (Only the host sees these requests.)
  • The host or a co-host can click Close All Rooms in the Breakout Rooms window to end the breakout sessions.
Filed under: Zoom by Jenny Spohrer

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