I think we can all agree when I say that Zoom the video communications app has been a life-saver for all, especially in the education industry.
It has paved the way for communication to be constant even though we have to regard ourselves and follow stay-at-home protocols during these challenging times caused by the pandemic. And if you’re a teacher or educational personnel who’s new to using zoom for teaching purposes or for other matters as well, you probably want to master how to use it so that you’ll be able to maximize the platform and achieve your class goals.
And with that said, we’re going to talk about a particular feature called the break out a room in zoom which is incredibly helpful for teachers because it enables the host to divide their participants into the smaller group during a session.
But how do zoom breakout rooms work? Well, today we’re going over everything you need to know about break-out rooms in Zoom so that you’ll be fully prepared and be less stressed now that we’re all shifting to the online world.
And better yet, know why you should use the break-out room feature in Zoom and learn how you can use them in a variety of ways to still enrich the learning even if the classroom is still virtual for now.
What are break out rooms in Zoom?
Now, I’ve already mentioned the breakout room to be a feature that can help teachers break off the sessions’ participants into smaller groups which can be massively helpful especially if the teacher wants to divide the class into smaller groups so that they can work on different kinds of activities while also collaborating with their peers.
And to elaborate more on that, normally when you go to class, there are times when the whole class participates in the class discussion but there are also times when the teacher wants to set and create breakout sessions allowing students to further discuss and work on a certain topic on their own.
This is when students gather around with their perspective groups and start to collaborate, contribute ideas, and brainstorm about the certain topic that they’re given. The Zoom Break out room feature practically serves the same purpose but with more control on the teacher’s part in virtual terms.
Teachers would normally use break out rooms for synchronous instructions where all students are present and the teacher themselves are also in the current session.
And there are many ways a teacher can use break out room to increase student engagement and also to make all learning more effective and absorbed by the students well, and we’ll be going into more details later on in the article.
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How Do Zoom Break Out Rooms Work? Everything You Need To Know About Zoom Break Out Rooms
Zoom break out rooms sessions will only be effective depending on how good the teachers are, so it’s best to be prepared first and practice using it beforehand in order to avoid technical difficulties or other issues that might take from valuable class time.
Preparation is key to successful break out room sessions, so if you’re planning to infuse them into your online teaching strategies then read on to know everything that teachers need to know about Zoom break out rooms.
Enabling Zoom Break Out Rooms
Now that you’ve decided that you want to try out Zoom Break out rooms for your classes, your first step would be to know how to enable them in order to use them.
1.) And to do this, all you need to do is go to zoom.us, and simply sign in using your zoom account if you already have one, and if not you can sign up to create an account on the same page as well.
2.) Now after signing in or creating an account, you’ll be needing to navigate to your Zoom account settings where you will be able to configure and enable the Zoom break out room feature.
You’ll find this at the top-right corner where it also says “My Account”, and you can go ahead and click on that and you’ll be brought to a page number of options.
3.) Once you’re on your account’s setting, under the “Personal” header on the left sidebar, click on “Settings”.
4.) Now under “In Meeting (Advanced)” you should be able to see the option or toggle to enable the breakout room feature.
5.) Once you have the feature enabled, you will then be able to create a breakout room during your meetings or class sessions by clicking on the “Breakout Room” icon that you should see on the right-hand side of your toolbar.
**If you’re unable to access the option to enable breakout rooms, you will need to contact your system admin and request that they enable it.
Automatic vs. Manual Room creation
Once you have successfully enabled the breakout room feature in your zoom account, you can now create them automatically or manually. This would be a great option for teachers who have already planned how the session goes.
Teachers have the option to strategically group their students based on their academic or social needs. Automatic creations can be great for spur-of-the-moment activities, while manual creation can be great for activities already planned ahead of time.
During the automatic creation of breakout rooms, participants will be placed randomly or you can also place them in pre-assigned rooms. On the other hand, manual room creation lets you decide and create each room and place participants manually as well.
If you wish to move a participant, all you have to do is to select their name within the breakout room and assign them to the room where you want them to be.
A delete room is also made available, this will delete the breakout room but do take note that this will not automatically place other participants into other breakout rooms.
Deleting the room will have them placed back into a queue waiting for the host to place them into other breakout rooms. If you accidentally deleted a room, you also have the option to recreate them, where you can place participants automatically and manually as well.
Setting Zoom Break Out Room Options
After gauging your way with break-out rooms, you’ll see a panel where an options menu appears letting you decide how you want your breakout rooms to take place. As a teacher, this will be a big advantage for you to set your learning space more comfortable for you and your students as well.
You’ll see multiple options which are: automatically move all participants into breakout rooms, set a timer, countdown after closing breakout rooms, and allow participants to return to the main session anytime.
Automatically moving all participants into breakout rooms is an option that you can use if you have selected the “Open All Rooms” option, this will automatically transfer the participants and also let you create the rooms on the spot.
The set a timer option will let you manage when breakout room participants need to go back to the main session you currently have. It’s just like a class time timer within Zoom which is great for timed activities, brainstorming, and other tasks where you want to set a limited amount of time only.
Countdown after closing breakout rooms is an option that you can use to allow your participants to have a visual aid and see how much time they have left before they need to return to the main session. This is great to use to give them a heads up and for them to know when it’s time to wrap up.
Allow participants to return to the main session anytime this option lets students return to the main session anytime they desire without a time limit set.
Managing Breakout Rooms: 101
After having all your participants move into their perspective breakout rooms, you can use this set of features to help navigate through the breakout sessions without a hitch.
Allow participants to choose room – a new feature that Zoom has released with their recent update lets participants choose the breakout room they would like to join, this gives participants the freedom to self-select rooms without any intervention from the host.
Co-hosting a breakout room – another newest option that Zoom made possible is for the host to assign a co-host for the breakout rooms. The co-host has all the privileges and features that the host can control.
The co-host can assign, start, and end breakout rooms as well. They can also move from one room to another and even send broadcast messages as well to all members of the breakout rooms.
Visiting rooms – A great option for teachers when they want to check up on every breakout room work, teachers can jump from one room to another anytime they want to check on the students’ progress.
Broadcasting a message – also another very useful feature for teachers, this lets you broadcast messages to breakout rooms if you want to let them know a few points and reminders or if you want to know that they need to wrap up soon and come back to the main session.
Closing all rooms – If the time you set for the breakout room session has already ended, you can click “close rooms” which will then give all the participants a notification that it’s time to go back to the main class session.
Sending participants back to breakout rooms – If you need to have your students back to breakout rooms during your class session, you don’t have to create rooms all over again. This can be useful for teachers who have long hours of classes or meetings that might take a long time.
Responding to help requests – Students can click on a “Ask for help” icon which will notify the teacher that their help is needed, an invitation will be sent to the host and the host can then jump into the session as soon as they get the request.
As A Participant In A Breakout Room
Screen sharing – an option where students can share their screen in the breakout room, which is very useful if they want to collaborate and share what they are working on just like in the main session, they can also share their screen within breakout rooms.
In-meeting chat – The same goes with breakout rooms and main sessions, participants within the rooms can use a chat function if they want to communicate and share links, content, and ideas.
5 Benefits of Using Break Out Rooms For Teacher and Students
1.) Students can participate more comfortably
The best thing about Zoom is that you can have up to a hundred participants, but with that in mind, students can be reluctant to participate especially during whole-class discussions as students might not be able to unmute themselves and have the chance to share their two cents.
But that can be altered with the use of break-out rooms because they act as sub-rooms where a teacher can aim to have three to five students participate, all while ensuring that each and every one of them has their own perspective task to perform and contribute to the group.
This is a great way for a teacher to reach and know that even the quietest or reluctant students were able to participate in the class activities and that they did learn something out from it.
And also one thing that teachers will love about breakout rooms is that they can create the groups randomly or strategically. This will be a great way to make sure that students are having a diverse interaction inside the classroom which is highly beneficial for their social skills to develop.
Students can gain the opportunity to work with a different set of classmates from time to time and this also gives the teacher a chance to strategically group the students based on their academic or personal needs.
I did also get a chance to interview a group of students and all of them did agree that they were more comfortable speaking in break out rooms and they were also able to raise concerns to their teachers freely when re-entering the main session.
Additionally, breakout rooms served as a mini-break from the main session which immensely helped reduce boredom from a student’s point of view, this helped them be re-engaged in the class and this can work well especially for a long period of class.
2.) A gateway for student collaboration
It is a teacher’s goal to encourage students to collaborate and be exposed to diverse ideas that can help them unlock their full potential when the right time comes.
This is where break out rooms are used so that students can work with each other along with the teacher in small groups. With a small group of students collaborating their efforts, everyone has the chance to step up and show what they got.
We all know that students enjoy talking to their peers, and it’s also a good idea to let them think out loud and let them pour out what they have in mind regarding the discussion or topic that they have at hand, and break out rooms in Zoom makes this possible virtually.
Breakout rooms also give students a chance to connect with their classmates that otherwise will not really happen with whole group sessions.
3.) Develops student discourse
Also known as students talking-on-topic within an academic environment, the development of student discourse is important for their language acquisition, engagement rate, and ultimately their achievements in school.
Break-out rooms help increase the rate of student discourse as students can feel more comfortable and free to share their thoughts and ideas rather than sharing with a whole group discussion.
As they are still trying to build their confidence and strength to talk in a large group you can start them with small groups and they will gradually warm up and have the courage to share willingly even if there are a number of people staring and are waiting for what they have to say.
Teachers can also use various strategies to stir up students’ discourse via break out rooms, it’s always best to create a supportive environment along with the art of questioning and using student thinking to propel class discussions.
4.) Classroom management
We all know face-to-face classes are already a challenge for teachers, and shifting from the norm to virtual classes is surely a new and unknown experience to most. Especially for teachers who are shifting virtually for the first time.
Most will encounter glitches, uncooperative internet connection, and unexpected events that can hinder class discussions which is the last thing any teacher wants during this time.
But, it’s actually not all that bad. In fact, once you get the hang of it, you might not want to go back to normal classrooms anymore, we’ve already adapted, and this is the new normal, right?
Kidding aside, there are indeed benefits when it comes to online learning. And one of them is a classroom management and also a much easier roll call process that you can do via breakout rooms.
As opposed to trying to figure out if everyone is present by checking every participant one by one, you’ll be able to manage and check everyone’s attendance once they’re in break-out rooms because while everyone is busy discussing and collaborating, you’ll have the free time to check on every group and check off your attendance list as well.
You’ll save more time with this method compared to having a roll call every start or end of your class.
And there are also instances where a teacher will need to have a one on one talk with a certain student who might not be participating or is disrupting the class.
Breakout rooms make it possible for a teacher to discreetly invite the student for a quick conversation instead of calling them out in front of the whole class which can be embarrassing for them. Vice versa students can also communicate freely and tell the teacher what’s on their mind and their reason why they are acting in that certain way.
5.) Breakout rooms can help propel a student-lead online learning environment
When teachers needed to create plans for the upcoming school year that will be done virtually many knew that they might not be able to rely on their past plans as it would not really fit with online teaching, which is like the opposite pole of face-to-face instructions.
Everything was new and unfamiliar, but there will always be a silver lining. Since everything is now indeed different, teachers can also try diverse and new strategies and even experiment by letting students take the reign instead of the one-way teaching strategy that might not be as effective in online teaching as it is when in live classrooms.
Break out rooms lets teachers give students a chance to have at it and dig deeper and push harder and really challenge their intellect with the topic or task at hand. And as a teacher, your job would be their guide and instructor to help them with blocks or obstacles that they might face during the activity.
And there are still a lot of untackled strategies to try when using breakout rooms, and we’re lucky to still have the chance to pursue and educate during these challenging times and it’s up to us to make the most out of what we have.
Ever since the pandemic hit, Zoom was suddenly everywhere. Everyone was using it and everyone was thankful for it. And chances are we will still use it widely in the coming years as it’s safe and is also very easy to use.
The best tip I can give you when infusing breakout rooms into your teaching strategy is to prepare them in advance, this will save you time and effort and your class flow will go smoother as well, this way you’ll reduce using class time for troubleshooting unwanted issues.
Plan activities and tasks that you want students to work on in breakout rooms that are appropriate for online class settings. You also need to set a clear outline and objectives so that everyone is inline and will not stray from what the class goal is.
It’s also best if you can provide all the necessary tools that they can use to better their learning experience such as access to google docs, an online whiteboard, time for discussion, and questions.
I hope this article helped you get a good start on how to gauge breakout rooms in Zoom. have you tried them out yet? If you haven’t, better try them out and see how they can help improve your virtual teaching practices.
Until our next one! Have a good one!