Zoom: Assigning Student Roles in Breakout Rooms

A guide to assigning student roles in Zoom Breakout Rooms

It can be difficult to engage students when teaching over Zoom. Utilizing breakout rooms is an effective way to make larger classes feel more like a community. They can also give students who are reluctant to talk on microphone in the main room a chance to communicate with classmates.

Assigning students roles in breakout rooms can help break the ice and ensure that everyone participates. Below are some of the roles instructors use when breaking into small groups in class. We encourage you to share these role descriptions with your students. Students can claim roles once they are in their breakout rooms. Feel free to encourage them to try roles they have not taken in class before. This ensures that everyone gets a chance to do each role. 

Note: It is helpful if instructors copy and paste discussion questions into the chat or post them to Canvas before opening breakout rooms, so students can easily refer back to them. We also recommend enabling participant screensharing before sending students into breakout rooms as this allows them to use the whiteboard feature in Zoom.

Breakout Room Roles and Role Descriptions
Role Description
Manager or Facilitator This person makes sure the group stays on task, reminds everyone of the topics or questions they are meant to be discussing, and includes every group member in the conversation.
Recorder This is the person who takes notes during the group discussion and records the names of the members of their group. If you require students to post their notes from the group work to a forum, this person could also be in charge of that.
Spokesperson or Presenter This person shares what their group discussed with the entire class. It’s a good idea for them to get the notes from the recorder and to make sure they know what points the group would like them to share with everyone. 
Reflector or Strategy Analyst This is a less common role, but this person may be helpful when a group needs to come to a consensus on something. The reflector/strategy analyst can help guide the group to a final consensus and can also help the facilitator if the group dynamics are unbalanced (i.e. notices someone is being left out, talked over, etc.)
Challenger This person asks helpful questions during the discussion. 
Timekeeper This person makes sure each person gets the same amount of speaking time.

Washington University has helpful documentation that influenced the Help Desk’s definitions of these roles.

KeywordsAssign*, Student*, Role*, "Breakout Room", Zoom   Doc ID128914
OwneriSchool U.GroupSchool of Information Sciences
Created2023-06-08 17:54:36Updated2024-05-23 15:11:13
SitesUniversity of Illinois School of Information Sciences
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