The Office of Faculty Development

Zoom Breakout Rooms

Zoom breakout rooms are a dynamic tool to facilitate student interaction and promote community building in online learning. Breakout rooms can be used for study sessions, student group work, and as a discussion space, among other uses. Students can be assigned to predetermined breakout rooms, they can choose their preferred room (for example, if different topics are assigned to different rooms), or can be assigned to breakout rooms randomly. The most effective ways to use breakout rooms in a class is to clarify the goals of the breakout room activity and to possibly assign very specific tasks to be completed by the students. Below we offer some tips and best practices on how to manage breakout rooms and promote the creation of virtual communities.

Expand All | Collapse All


    Explore these resources for tips and research about the use of breakout rooms:

    Brown, J. (2020, November 10) EDTech. 5 Best Practices for Managing Virtual Breakout Rooms. in new window) 

    Smith, J., Schreder, K., & Porter, L. (2020). Are They Paying Attention, or Are They Shoe-Shopping? Evidence from Online Learning. International Journal of Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Higher Education, 5(1), 200–.

    Stone, E. (2020, August 18). Inside Higher Ed. How to Overcome Classroom Zoom Fatigue. in new window)

    Chandler, K. (2016). Using Breakout Rooms in Synchronous Online Tutorials. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 4(3). in new window)

    Saltz, J., & Heckman, R. (2020). Using Structured Pair Activities in a Distributed Online Breakout Room. Online Learning (Newburyport, Mass.), 24(1), 227–. in new window)


    Consider applying the following practices when utilizing Zoom breakout rooms:

    1. Limit the number of students assigned to a breakout room
    2. Set clear goals and expectations for the breakout room meeting
    3. Assign specific questions to address or tasks to complete 
    4. Assign specific roles to each student in the breakout room (note taker, presenter, etc.)
    5. Establish rules of engagement (for example: everyone should speak, everyone should contribute to the group notes, etc.) 
    6. Share a google doc or jamboard (or similar tool) so students can collaborate in the breakout room more effectively
    7. Create opportunities for peer feedback
    8. Clarify for how long students will be working in the breakout room (and therefore invite them to manage their time efficiently)
    9. Pair students in groups that will meet recurrently throughout the semester to increase engagement and facilitate the creation of a virtual community
    10. Promote personalized learning strategies by creating different predetermined rooms with different characteristics (teacher’s help room, quiet room for individual work, group workroom, study group room, etc.).






Explore How to Use Zoom’s Breakout Rooms for Collaborative Learning(opens in new window)

Explore the Zoom Help Center to Manage the Breakout Rooms(opens in new window).

Listen to this Sparks Creativity Teacher Podcast(opens in new window) on breakout rooms and community building.

Check out this Class Tech Tips Podcast(opens in new window) on breakout rooms.

Check out this tutorial for beginners(opens in new window) from Simpletivity.

Watch our own Dustin Bakkie’s video tutorial(opens in new window) on breakout rooms.

Read this How to Guide(opens in new window) from Vanderbilt University.

Read Why it’s ok to take a break from Breakout Rooms & monitoring(opens in new window)