Zoom: Breakout Rooms

This page introduces the basics of Zoom breakout rooms, including self-assigning rooms and pre-assigning rooms for hosts and participants.

This page includes:

Breakout Room Basics

For information, please visit the pre-assigning participants to breakout rooms page at Zoom Support.

To start a breakout room, find the Breakout Rooms button on the bottom control panel of your Zoom window, to the right of Live Transcript. Once you click that, a window will pop-up that allows you to select the number of rooms you want to create. You can also choose whether you want to assign students to rooms or let students join their rooms from this pop-up window. 

You can only create as many rooms as there are students in the class, so you will need to wait until students join the meeting to begin creating breakout rooms. 

  1. Select More options in Zoom. 

    Selecting the More tab in Zoom
  2. From the drop down menu, select Breakout Rooms.

    Selecting Breakout Rooms
  3. In the new window, adjust the number of breakout rooms and the method of assignment, then select Create.

    Breakout Rooms creation menu
  4. When you create your breakout rooms, you will have the option to rename each room on the next window by selecting Rename. You can also assign students to specific rooms by clicking Assign and then selecting each student, as shown in the image below.

Breakout Rooms assignment menu

Zoom breakout rooms more options

  • From here you can click the gear icon in the bottom left corner for more options when creating Breakout Rooms. You can have Zoom move students into rooms automatically, set a time limit on the Breakout Rooms, and set a countdown timer.
  • Note: Timers can only be set within breakout groups. They cannot be set outside of breakout groups.
  • If you select the option to have Breakout Rooms close automatically after a set time, the timer will be displayed at the top of everyone’s Zoom meeting.
  • The countdown timer for re-entering the main meeting will only be displayed once you’ve clicked on Close All Rooms. You can make the timer less than 60 seconds from this window, too, by clicking the arrows underneath "Countdown After Closing Breakout Room." 
  • You can click the Breakout Rooms button in the bottom panel to pull up the "Options" menu again once you’ve already started your rooms. From this window you will see which students are in breakout rooms. You can join breakout rooms by clicking the Join button by each room. You can also broadcast a message to students in every room by clicking Broadcast Message to All, typing your message, and then clicking Broadcast. You also close and end the breakout rooms from this window by clicking Close All Rooms in the bottom right.

Close all Rooms option in Zoom Breakout RoomsBroadcast message to all in break out rooms

  • If a student needs to call in using their phone for audio, they can still join a breakout room. Some students may not be able to join Zoom from their computer and need to call in on their phone. They will still show up in the participants tab as their own phone number, and you can move them to a breakout room like you would any other student.

Self-Select Breakout Rooms

For Instructors and Hosts

NOTE: Make sure that you are using the most recent version of Zoom to ensure that the information in these pages matches what you see. This documentation from Zoom explains how to check for updates. After updating, restart your computer. 

You can allow students to be able to self-select which breakout room to join. 

Important reminders: 

  • All participants need to update Zoom and then restart their machine for self-selecting breakout rooms to work. This feature requires Zoom to be on version 5.3.0 or higher.
  • Self-select breakout rooms require the desktop or mobile application, not the browser version of Zoom. 


For creating a breakout room during a meeting:

  1. Select breakout rooms option in Zoom.

  2. On the Breakout Rooms panel:
    1. Select the option Let participants choose room.

      Zoom breakout rooms option to let participants choose rooms

  3. Create breakout rooms.

  4. You can continue to rename breakout rooms.

  5. Open all breakout rooms.

The meeting host should click the Options button on the breakout room panel and select Allow participants to choose room.

Zoom breakout rooms more options

For Participants

This is what participants will see in the main meeting room when breakout rooms are opened: 

Popout from "Breakout Rooms" icon that says "Join a breakout room"

Participants can click Breakout Rooms to select and join their breakout room.

When a participant clicks the breakout room icon they will be given options to choose from. They can select a room and click Join and confirm that they would like to join that room.

Confirmation popup that says "Join This Room?" with response options of yes and no.

Once inside their chosen breakout room, participants now have the option to move between rooms by choosing a new breakout room from the menu.

Options of "Choose Breakout Room" and "Ask for Help" appear after selecting "Breakout Rooms" button again

Pre-Assigning Breakout Rooms

Important considerations:

  • This task can only be performed by the owner of the meeting.
  • Students may be accessing your Zoom session from a non-Illinois Zoom account. Those students will not be placed into their rooms automatically. You should be prepared to move some students into the rooms manually.



  1. Go to https://illinois.zoom.us/.

  2. Click Sign in.

  3. Under "Meetings" > "Upcoming", find the meeting you want to load rooms into and click the link to edit.
    Zoom dashboard showing upcoming meetings

  4. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Edit this Meeting.

  5. If this is a recurring meeting, be sure to select all, even if you only want to load rooms for a single meeting. Selecting "Only this meeting" has not worked in our testing.

  6. Scroll down near the bottom of the page. In the "Meeting Options" heading, select Breakout Room pre-assign then Import from CSV.

    Zoom meeting options area

  7. A window will pop up. From this window, download the template. Leave this screen open. You will upload your file here once it is prepared.
    the uploading interface

  8. The template looks like this:
    CSV file example

    Important considerations:
    1. You cannot change or remove the headings of the columns.
    2. You cannot add, reorder, or remove columns.
    3. Each row represents a single student. If you have 6 students in room1, you must have 6 rows with room1 in column A and the student emails in cells B2-B7.
    4. You can change the room name using the file.

  9. You can assign students by hand. If you need to get a list of student emails, you can pull the student emails from your Canvas site by going to your course site > Participants > scrolling to the bottom of the page > selecting all > and downloading as a CSV file. You can filter by group and download them a group at a time if you are replicating groups already populated in Canvas. Please note that however you create this file, you must save as CSV and not any other file type.

  10. Go back to the window in Step 7 and upload your file. 

  11. Make sure to click save at the bottom of the page.

Assigning Student Roles in 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
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.

Keywordsbreakout, "breakout rooms", Zoom, instructor, host, student, "individual rooms", pre-assign, self-assign, csv, Canvas, break*   Doc ID126674
OwneriSchool U.GroupSchool of Information Sciences
Created2023-03-17 10:19:32Updated2024-07-10 13:44:09
SitesUniversity of Illinois School of Information Sciences
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