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InterPro - Online Learning - Teaching Resources for Instructors - Breakout Rooms/Groups

This document outlines best practices for using breakout rooms or breakout groups.

For a general overview of breakout groups in UW Supported Web Conferencing tools see:

Tips for before starting Breakout Groups

  • Explain
    • Let users know how the Breakout Groups function/what learners will experience (from a technical perspective).
    • Review the Managing breakout rooms Zoom documentation before using breakout rooms.
  • Provide Instructions
    • Let learners know what files will be used in breakout rooms ahead of time. 
      • Zoom allows the host to share their screen to all breakout rooms (ensure your application is up to date to use this feature), but not share files directly. 
      • Files can be hosted in Canvas or Box and a link can be provided to learners directly.
  • Outline the following information for the breakout activity
    • Goal/purpose 
    • Timing
    • Roles (e.g. Facilitator, Timekeeper, Recorder, Reporter)
    • Deliverable (if applicable) and how will they share/report it?
      • verbal report
      • text post to the Chat
      • mark-up/annotation on a Whiteboard
      • share a slide/file (that they would upload from within their Breakout Group)
  • Screen Share
    • If you want to allow learners to screen share within a breakout room, the session host will need to allow all participants to screen share. 
    • To adjust screen sharing privileges see: In-meeting Security Options 
    • To prevent learners from screen sharing in the main session, this setting will need to be adjusted once the learners return from the breakout rooms.
  • Communication
    • Learners will only be able to communicate with others in their individual session. They may ask for help with the Ask for help tool.
      • Note: Before you encourage the "Ask for Help" feature, you will need to decide if your group is too large for instructors to navigate multiple simultaneous help requests. 
      • An alternate solution would be to have shorter group sessions with periodic group check-ins in the main room to make sure everyone is progressing at similar speeds in the breakout groups.
    • To communicate with all learners in all breakout rooms, you can use the broadcast message feature. See Managing breakout rooms for more information. 
  • Annotation or Whiteboard
    • If you plan to have learners use the annotate feature in Breakout Rooms, have the participant who will use Share Screen to find the best zoom for the file before any group annotation begins. The annotate feature in Zoom is a screen overlay, so the annotations will not change size as you change zoom views.

Tips for during Breakout Sessions

  • Share a set of activity slides from the Main Room to the Breakout Groups, so learners have the information they need in front of them. 
  • Encourage learners to use the Ask for Help feature to ask hosts for help during a session.
  • Move through the Breakout Rooms to check-in and see if they have any questions, like you might do in a traditional, face-to-face course.
  • Use a Broadcast message to provide lots of warnings before transitioning them back into the main room.  For example, during a 10-minute session, you might give them a 5-minute, a 1-minute, and a 30-second warning. You might also consider having the timekeeper (or another role) post a signal in the Everyone chat when their group is set to come back to the whole group, or finally, you might encourage them to move themselves back into the main room when they're done, to signal they're ready.

Active Learning Strategies 

Strategies for engaging learners during breakout sessions:





  • Breakout room participants will have the same audio, video, and screen share capabilities as allowed in the main session. If participants should be able to share their screen, the host will need to enable sharing for all participants. From the Security menu, select Allow Participants to > Share Screen
  • If the meeting is being cloud recorded, it will only record the main room, regardless of what room the meeting host is in. If local recording is being used, it will record the room the participant who is recording is in. Multiple participants can record locally.
  • Group assignments (who is in which group) are not persistent unless breakout rooms are preassigned; once the groups are ended, the group assignments dissolve
    • If you would like to have students join the similar groups across multiple group activities, a work around for this is to allow students to join rooms themselves as opposed to assigning them and pushing them to a room via Zoom controls.

Keywordsinterpro, breakout rooms, breakout groups, best practices, zoom   Doc ID106420
OwnerLearning Design and Technologies TeamGroupInterdisciplinary Professional Programs
College of Engineering
Created2020-10-06 14:46:25Updated2021-11-04 13:21:30
SitesInterdisciplinary Professional Programs
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