Using Zoom Breakout Rooms for Effective Group or Project Work

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Often we want our students to work with their pre-assigned group members for presentations, assignments, or any other group projects during the zoom meeting session. The pre-assigned breakout room option comes with some limitations, such as we cannot edit a single meeting in the recurrence meeting links. So the following two options, assigning manually and letting participants choose their team’s breakout room, can be helpful for professors to facilitate group/teamwork during their Zoom sessions with students. 

Assign Manually 

Assigning manually takes more time and effort for the host, but it requires no time and effort for students. This is a good option if students do not have familiarity with Zoom features. 

  1. Ask your students to visit the document to find their group names/numbers in the eConestoga or you may screenshare so that students can take a note of their group names.  
  2. Ask students to rename themselves in the Zoom meeting according to their group name/number. For example, a student named Amanpeet in Group 5 will rename her ZOOM name as Group 5. Make sure that all students understand what to do. 
  3. Now select the breakout option (only hosts can see this option). 
  4. Once the following dialog box pops up on your screen select ‘assign manually’. See Figure 1. 
Figure 1 Screenshot of the first breakout room window that hosts see when they create Zoom rooms, with assign manually selected. 
  1. Rename the breakout rooms (e.g., Team 1, Group 1, Team Blue).  
  2. Now manually assign students to the breakout room according to their group names. For example, all group 1s will be assigned to breakout room named as Group 1, all group 2s will be assigned to breakout room named as Group 2, and so on. See Figure 2. 
Figure 2 Screenshot of windows that hosts see when they set up breakout rooms, with breakouts re-named by the group names students have chosen. 

Let Participants Choose 

Your students can select and enter rooms according to their group numbers/ names. But, you need to use the updated version of ZOOM. It is recommended that you walk students through the process of choosing their room and describing instructions so they may join the room successfully.  

This strategy takes less time for the host, but requires action for students. It is a good option if students will be in recurring breakout rooms with the same students, and if the students have some familiarity with ZOOM features. 

Note the prerequisite version of ZOOM needed so that students may choose their rooms. 

  • Desktop client or mobile app: version 5.3.0 or higher. 
  • ChromeOS: version 5.0.0 (4241.1207) or higher 

If students do not have the version, the host will need to add them manually. 

Using Self-Selecting on ZOOM 

  1. Ask your students to visit the document to find their group names/numbers in the eConestoga or you may screenshare so that students can take a note of their group names.  
  2. Select the breakout option (only hosts can see this option). See Figure 3. 
  3. Once the following dialog box pops up on your screen, select ‘Let participants choose room’. 
Figure 3 Screenshot of the first window hosts see when creating breakout rooms, with options for joining rooms 
  1. Rename the breakout rooms (e.g., Team 1, Group 1, Team Blue). You need to allow participants to choose their own breakout rooms. See the screenshot below (figure 4).  
    • Click options. 
    • Check off the first option ‘allow participants to choose room’. 
Figure 4 Screenshot of windows hosts see when creating breakout rooms, with advanced settings 
  1. Ask the students to join the meeting. Students will see the breakout rooms option in their meeting controls (direct them to see below of the screen).  This sign will display in the meeting controls of the students once you create the breakout rooms. 
  2. See this video if you need visual instructions.  

Note: Make sure that you and your students update the ZOOM app regularly to enjoy the maximum opportunities of ZOOM features. 


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  • Published: February 2, 2021
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Nasreen Sultana

​Nasreen Sultana, PhD, has worked in post-secondary education for almost a decade. Prior to joining Conestoga College, she taught in the teacher education program at Queen's University while completing her PhD. Nasreen brings international experience and exposure to the role of the Teaching and Learning Consultant, and invites discussions and learning regarding various aspects of diversity in faculty and in students. Her areas of research include intercultural communication, assessment and classroom instruction.

1 Response

  1. Dear Nasreen:
    1) Is there an option to save and get a copy of the names of people assigned to breakout rooms, as well as times tracking to show when they entered or left rooms?
    This would be helpful in tracking performance and to be able to assist groups in the breakout rooms who are entering or exiting
    2) Is there an option to set up Breakout Rooms ahead of time, then adjust based on who actually shows up?
    3) Is there an option to the all of the student screens visible while they are in Breakout Rooms? I am only capable of seeing who is in a room from the assignment list, but you lose this visibility when when you go into one particular room. This would be helpful to see what people are doing simultaneously in all rooms, then I can choose which room to visit, or I can leave one room and visit another if I see that people are struggling or not performing as expected. Breakout Rooms are great, but once you disperse the students, you can only see one group at a time. If I were in a classroom, I would have teams meeting around tables and could easily overview and manage the whole class. I have had situations where a group is struggling to get started. I help them get up and running, but I get buried in that room. By the time I get to another room, a lot of time is lost. An example is an exercise where the students are required to setup and simultaneously document their work on a common shared document. If I had overview of all rooms at the same time, I would see very quickly if a group has not set up the document. I would then pop out of one room and intervene with that group, then could go back to another quickly. When you have 40 students in a class in 6-8 breakout rooms, you often do get enough tine to get through all of the rooms.

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