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Host breakout rooms in Zoom

Do you want to bring ‘active group learning’ into your remote teaching sessions? Do you aspire to make your online learning experience more ‘connected’ for your students? 

Zoom ‘breakouts’ are a fabulous facility enabling you to split webinar participants into smaller groups where they can work together. 

And they are easy to use! 

How to get started  

  • Inside a Zoom call, click ‘Breakout Rooms’ and choose the number of participants you want in each room. Zoom allocates everyone and shows you a list. 
  • Click ‘Open Rooms’, and you are done!  

Even the largest webinar groups can be broken into small interactive breakout room groups. 

As host, you can hop between breakout rooms. Great for facilitating activity!  And you can send messages to all breakout rooms at once, handy when you need to draw things to a close! 

If you run ‘table-based activities’ as part of your in-person teaching, it’s easy to see how you can translate this to a Zoom breakout room. 

And this is where Zoom breakouts come into their own. The technology is simple and transparent. Leaving you to concentrate on the activities you facilitate; not the technology you are using to support them. 

Pro teaching tips for Zoom 

Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your students with the help of breakout rooms in Zoom 

Use an icebreaker 

Start your session with a quick, say hello, ‘icebreaker’. This will encourage your students to ‘show video’ and kick your session off to a personable and lively start. 

Get Physical! 

Yes, we can all ‘geek out’ on cloud apps, but sometimes pen and paper are far more immediate!  Drawings and diagrams, created in groups, provide an excellent focus for post-breakout discussion. 

Post Zoom Breakout Sharing! Picture by Ian Upton (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Share a Screen 

Feeling more confident? Students can ‘share a screen’ in a breakout. This enables group participants to work together on a single screen to create something. Think huddling around a laptop in the physical world. It works! 

Use AnswerGarden to Capture Breakout Room Discussion 

If you have a lot of participants and lots of breakout rooms, it can be impractical (and tedious) to get feedback from everyone. Tip! Use AnswerGarden and ask everyone to share a word or two synopsising their discussion. Everyone gets included and it’s easy to see the major threads exposed by discussion. 

Playing with ‘the view’ can make all the difference to how connected a Zoom session feels. Gallery View places everyone on an equal footing and we can see everyone in the group. Hiding ‘Non-video participants’ maximises screen space for those showing their faces. Support your students with a more connected view. 

Zoom breakouts, although simple, hold a lot of power. Dig deeper, and you will find you can also predefine breakout room participants. This gives you control of who is in each room and an easy way to develop sustained group working over many sessions. 

Watch the video 

Here is an excellent video on how to use breakouts in your Zoom session. Created by Zoom staff themselves, it lasts three minutes and shows everything you need to know. 


  • Ian Upton

    Ian works for Academic Development at Coventry University. He describes himself as an Artist, Technologist and Teacher. His role is to support, facilitate and inspire, teaching staff in the creation of engaging and active student learning experiences.

Updated on December 9, 2020

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