EPD - Blackboard Ultra: How to Manage Breakout Groups
Breakout Groups is a feature of Blackboard Ultra that allows the session moderator to split web conference participants into smaller groups for collaborative work such as team discussion, brainstorming, or problem solving. This feature allows each group to have audio, display, and chat separate from the main web conference.
For a general overview of how this feature works, please see the Blackboard Help Breakout Groups webpage.
Accessing Breakout Groups
To access Breakout Groups from a live session, open the Collaborate panel by clicking on the purple tab in the bottom right corner of the Main Room.
Note: Only moderators can setup Breakout Groups.
Note: If any attendee joins the session via Anonymous dial-in only, they will not be able to join a Breakout Group. When breakout groups start, they will remain in the Main room.
At the bottom of the panel, click on the Share Content button to open the Content panel.
Once the content panel is open, click on Breakout Groups.
Setting up Breakout Groups: Group Assignment
Moderators can assign breakout groups in two ways: Random or Custom.
Random Group Assignment
By selecting this option, conference attendees will be randomly assigned to groups. Note: The random group assignment option is only available for conferences with four our more attendees. There must be a minimum of two students per breakout group.
When Random Assignment is selected; a dropdown option appears to quickly select the number of desired groups.
Note: With Randomly assign breakout groups, you have additional options:
- Include moderators in group assignment (If left unchecked, moderators will remain in the Main room when breakout groups are started.
- Allow attendees to switch groups (Allows them to manually move from group to group)
- Shuffle attendees: each time this is clicked, a new random assignment is created and the participants are reshuffled. Use with caution.
Note: Even though the participants are randomly assigned, you can still manually move them to different groups, if need be. To do this, click and drag the participants name and move them to the new group.
Custom Group Assignment
The custom assignment allows the moderator to click and drag conference attendee's name into specific groups. Note: This is a manual process and may require a bit of wait time/setup if there is a large class.
To setup custom group assignment, first manually create the desired number of groups. Always click the bottom-most plus-sign to keep the groups in numerical order.
Want Breakout Group assignments to match Canvas Teams?
The Canvas > People > Team assignments do not connect/correlate to the Breakout Groups in Ultra, so if you'd like to have students breakout into the same groups as are setup in Canvas, there is a special procedure to facilitate this setup.
1. Set group assignment to Custom assignment
2. Check the box to Allow attendees to switch groups
3. Manually add the needed number of Groups by clicking on the bottom-most plus-sign.
4. Instruct students that once the breakout groups start, they will independently and manually join the group number that corresponds to their team number in Canvas. (ie. If they are on Team 3 in Canvas, they will join Group 3 in Ultra.) Learners can access and join the groups from within the Attendees panel, below the list of attendees.
IMPORTANT: Students should be enrolled as participants if you're going to use the self-select breakout groups. Also, if the Moderator starts the Breakout Groups and returns to the manage groups page, the join group icons disappear until the Moderator selects Update. Also, students on mobile device have to be manually moved into a breakout group by a Moderator.
To join their group, students will click on the green arrow icon next to the appropriate group number.
Starting Breakout Groups
Monitoring Breakout Groups
Once all desired settings have been an applied and the moderator is ready to start Breakout Groups during a live session, click on the black "start" button at the bottom of the Breakout Groups page. This will start Breakout Groups and take you to the Attendees page where you can view current groups.
During a Breakout Group session, any participant in a moderator role is able to move between groups to monitor the discussion. This allows the moderator to access all of the group's shared content (audio, video, and chats).
Attendees can move between Breakout Groups in two ways:
1. From the Attendees panel, simply select the "Join" button to the right of each group name you would like to join.
2. From Share Content panel > Breakout Groups, click on the three dots next to your name. This opens a pull down menu with the available groups where you can select the desired group to move into. When you've made your selection, make sure to to click the Update button at the bottom of the page to make this change.
Note: This option can also be used to manually move students from a group as well. Follow the same steps as above with the student's name.
Ending a Breakout Session
To end a session, click on the stop button located on both the black ribbon titled "Breakout Groups" in the Attendees panel or next to the Breakout Groups title in the Content panel.
Note: Prior to ending a session, it is best practice to announce via the Everyone Chat that the Breakout Groups will be ending and everyone will be pulled back into the Main session, so learners are prepared for the transition.
Note: Only the people will move back into the main chat. Any content created within the Breakout Groups (ie. Group Whiteboard, Group Chats, etc.) will not be pulled back into the Main room. If students need to share something with the main group, they could post to the Everyone chat or prepare a separate PPT Slide to be uploaded in the Main room.
Note: When a breakout group session is stopped, all group assignments are lost. Each time Breakout Groups are used, the teams will need to be re-assigned.