Enable Students to Meet in Groups Using Zoom Breakout Rooms

Zoom’s Breakout Rooms feature can be used to facilitate student-to-student group discussions and group work. Instructors can switch between breakout rooms at any time to meet with or check in on the group there. 

Be sure to build in extra time in your lesson plan to allow for students to move between the main meeting and breakout rooms.

How Breakout Rooms Work

Breakout Rooms allow you to split the class into separate sessions (or video conference rooms) of any size (up to 50 different groups and up to 500 students total). 

You can form groups in three ways:

  • Randomly assign students to groups (known as “automatic” assignment in Zoom) 
  • Manually specify who will be grouped together (“Pre-assigned breakout rooms”)
  • Allow students to choose their groups (“self-select breakout rooms”)

The video on this page shows the steps for setting up and managing breakout rooms. If students must be put in specific breakout rooms, we recommend allowing extra time during your meeting and having a CA or someone else available to help assign them in Zoom.

Zoom also has a feature for pre-assigning breakout rooms. Though it offers the ability to prepare student group assignments ahead of time, the feature also has some quirks that will likely require some troubleshooting during the session. If you have a very large class or are willing to experiment with pre-assigning breakout rooms, be aware of these limitations:

  • You will need to put students into groups using their Stanford email addresses. If a student is not logged into Zoom from their Stanford account, they will show up as a guest in the meeting. Their group pre-assignment will not be recognized and you will need to manually move them into the appropriate room. To mitigate this, encourage students to log into the Zoom desktop client with their Stanford log in before joining the meeting.
  • Anyone who joins after the host of the meeting joins will not be pushed into their pre-assigned breakout room (this will likely be most or all of the students if the host logs in a bit early to get things set up). To get around this, when you’re ready to send students to breakout rooms, click “recover to pre-assigned rooms” in the breakout room dialogue box. This will put your authenticated (signed-in) students into their breakout rooms.
  • Only the meeting owner or a person and those with scheduling privileges can create group pre-assignments ahead of the meeting. If you’ve granted your FA or CA scheduling privileges, they can help you. 
  • You’ll need to login to Zoom at stanford.zoom.us (rather than the desktop application) to add pre-assigned breakout rooms to a meeting.

Set up and Moderate Breakout Rooms During Your Live Meeting

This article describes how to set up and moderate breakout rooms during your live meeting. The article includes instructions for:

  • Configuring randomly- or manually-assigned groups on-the-fly during the meeting.
  • Options you can set for how students enter and exit breakout rooms.
  • Broadcasting a text message to all breakout rooms.
  • Responding to requests for help from within the breakout rooms.