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  3. Microsoft Teams – Breakout Rooms

Microsoft Teams – Breakout Rooms

Breakout Rooms enable Meeting Organizers to separate participants of a meeting into several meetings. Organizers may randomly or manually assign participants, and can move freely between these Breakout Rooms to check-in on ongoing subgroup discussions. Also, Organizers have the opportunity to pre-enroll participants into breakout rooms before a meeting begins.

This popular feature is effective for classes and teams of all sizes, enabling more rapid creation of small groups for dealing with specific tasks or having subgroup discussions.

Requirements for Joining or Hosting Breakout Rooms

Both Organizer and Participant devices must meet these requirements

Meeting Organizers with devices that do not meet these requirements may not see the option to start a breakout room. Likewise, participants with devices that do not meet the requirements may have issues being assigned to breakout rooms.

For access to Breakout Rooms and some other Microsoft 365 and Teams features, please ensure your device meets the following requirements

  1. Updated and supported Operating System (OS)
    1. Apple only officially supports the three most recent versions of macOS. Please ensure you are running macOS 10.15 Catalina, 11 Big Sur, or 12 Monterey. Click here for details and upgrade information.
    2. Windows users should ensure they are running Windows 10 or Windows 8.1 and are fully updated.
    3. Android and iOS users can be placed into Breakout Rooms but cannot create or manage Breakout Rooms. Please ensure your device is fully updated.
  2. Updated Teams Desktop Client
    1. Client updates are periodically pushed to your device. You can manually check for updates by clicking your profile picture in the top right corner and clicking Check for updates.

Should you use Teams Channels rather than Teams Breakout Rooms for Small Groups?

Breakout Rooms can be pre-enrolled or organized on-the-fly (with manually or automatically generated groupings) and work well for discussions. If your team or class doesn’t often break into small groups, it’s probably the right choice to use Breakout Rooms.

However, for teams that more regularly work in subgroups, or who will consistently collaborate or share documents or files with members of their subgroups, creating small group channels may be the right solution.

You can host a Breakout Room in a Channel Meeting

While most people use either Channel Meetings or Breakout rooms, some teams may choose to use these small group solutions in tandem. For example, if you are teaching a large class with a number of TAs, you may want to first send students to a Channel with their TA, have the TA start a meeting, then have the TA break that subset of students into even smaller breakout rooms that the TA pops in and out of.

Comparison Chart: Channel Meetings & Breakout Rooms
Channel Meetings for Small Groups Breakout Rooms
Channel Pros: Breakout Room Pros:
Can be used for consistent collaboration (regardless of being in the meeting) and file sharing among groups across class sessions.

Stores collaborative documents within the Channel.

Provides a place for students in groups to post to whether they’re in a channel meeting or not.

Can be created before a class session.

Flexible: Includes options for randomly or manually assigning students into a group, on-the-fly. Manual assignment is not fast; consider only doing this when the whole group is 15 or smaller.

Easy for students to navigate between the breakout room and the main meeting room, if you select the option to allow students to go back and forth.

For a class session, groups remain stable until they are “recreated” (which will shuffle people into new rooms).

Can be created before a class meeting.

Channel Cons: Breakout Room Cons:
Students can get lost navigating between meetings.

Requires clear communication about which student is starting the meeting.

Requires good communication to bring students back into the main meeting; the meeting organizer can’t “end all Channel meetings and bring everyone back.”

For randomly created rooms, only the students who are in the meeting at the time the rooms are created are placed into a breakout room; if a student joins late, they are just waiting in the main class meeting for the meeting organizer to assign them to a breakout room.

If using random assignment, you need to manually re-assign TAs to breakout rooms; they won’t be automatically distributed across rooms.

Mobile devices are unreliably functional.

Breakout Rooms for Participants

Participant Capabilities

Participants are not able to manage any Breakout Room settings or options – only the Meeting Organizer can change these settings.

When joined to a Breakout Room, participants will automatically be granted the Presenter role in that Breakout Room. The Presenter role has some additional capabilities over the default Attendee role.

Typically, this includes the following:

  • Access to Meeting chat
    • When your Breakout Room is closed or you are unassigned, you will no longer be able to post in the room’s meeting chat. You can still view messages and content up until the point when you were removed or the room was closed.
  • The ability to start a recording.
  • The ability to view the participants list.
    • You will not be able to invite others to the Breakout Room
  • The ability to share content, such as your screen or a specific app.

External Participants cannot start a recording and are unable to view or edit meeting notes

Entering and Exiting a Breakout Room

When you are automatically moved into or out of a Breakout Room, you will see the messages below before being automatically moved to the breakout room.

Breakout Rooms Opened

Breakout Room Closed

Join Breakout Room prompt

Depending on how the Meeting Organizer set up the meeting, you may not be automatically moved to your Breakout Room, and instead will see the following.

If you accidentally close this window, or you click Later, the Meeting Organizer can manually ask you to rejoin the meeting, or you can join the Breakout Room if you see it in your list of chats.

Swap Between the Breakout Room and Main Meeting

Meeting organizers can configure their Breakout Rooms to enable participants to freely swap between the Breakout Room and main meeting.

If this option has been enabled and the Breakout Rooms have been opened, you will see the option to Join the Breakout room or Return to the main meeting.

Join room


Breakout Rooms for Meeting Organizers

Creating a Breakout Room

Requirements for Creating a Breakout Room:

  • Only the Meeting Organizer or designated Presenters can create and manage Breakout Rooms.
    • Classroom-style Breakout Rooms should plan ahead if they intend to have TAs manage their Breakout Rooms
  • The Meeting Organizer must be using the Teams Desktop Client
  1. Click the Breakout rooms button ( )from the top-right menu bar.
  2. Select how many rooms you need, choose whether to automatically or manually assign participants to rooms, then click Create Rooms. You can add more rooms and re-assign participants to rooms later.
  3. At this point, you have successfully created your Breakout Rooms and should see them displayed in the sidebar.

Configure your Breakout Rooms, then Open them and get started!

You can assign or re-assign participants to a Breakout Room, rename these rooms, add additional rooms, or delete unneeded rooms. Then, when your Breakout Rooms are configured as you’d like, Open them to get started.

Opening your Breakout Rooms

By default, participants will be moved to their assigned room when you Open those rooms.

To change this, select the Gear icon under Assign participants, and uncheck Automatically move people into opened rooms.

  1. Click the Breakout rooms button () from the top-right menu bar.
  2. You can open all rooms by clicking Open. Alternatively, open a specific room by hovering your mouse over the room you wish to open, clicking the 3-dot menu and selecting Open room.

Closing your Breakout Rooms

  1. Click the Breakout rooms button () from the top-right menu bar.
  2. You can close all rooms by clicking Close. Alternatively, close a specific room by hovering your mouse over the room you wish to close, clicking the 3-dot menu and selecting Close room.

Managing Room Assignments

  1. Click the Breakout rooms button () from the top-right menu bar.
  2. Expand the Assign participants section (or, if re-assigning a participant, expand their current Breakout Room), check the box(es) next to the participant(s) you wish to reassign, then click Assign and make your selection.

Note: Room assignments persist throughout recurring Teams meetings.

Renaming a Room

  1. Click the Breakout rooms button () from the top-right menu bar.
  2. Hover your mouse over the room you wish to rename, then click the 3-dot menu, and select Rename.
  3. Enter the new name, then click Rename room.

Adding an Additional Room

  1. Click the Breakout rooms button () from the top-right menu bar.
  2. Click +. This will create a new room with a default name. See these instructions for renaming the new room.

Recreating Rooms

If you want to start over with your Break Out room, you can use the Recreate Rooms feature. This can be useful if there was an issue automatically assigning a large number of participants to groups.

Recreating Rooms will Delete All of your Existing Rooms

You will be given the option to recreate your Breakout Rooms, but participants manually assigned to rooms and custom room names will need to be redone.

It is not possible to undo room deletion.

  1. Select the recreate rooms icon from the menu.
  2. Confirm you want to delete all of your existing Breakout Rooms.
  3. Use the instructions above on Creating a Breakout Room.

Deleting a Room

Deleting a Breakout Room removes the selected room from the rooms list, but does not delete the chat and any associated recordings or chat created in that chatroom. Deleted Breakout Rooms cannot be returned to the rooms list.

Only Empty Rooms can be deleted.

    1. Click the Breakout rooms button () from the top-right menu bar.
    2. Hover your mouse over the empty, to-be-deleted room, then click the 3-dot menu and select Delete.
    3. Click Delete to confirm deletion.

Delete all rooms

If you wish to delete all rooms and start over, select the trash can icon. This will delete all rooms and re-start the breakout rooms creation process.

Advanced Options for Meeting Organizers

Assign Presenters to manage rooms

Meeting organizers can designate presenters to manage breakout rooms. This offers presenters the ability to take a more active role in managing the rooms.

  1. Click the Breakout rooms button () from the top-right menu bar.
  2. Under Assign participants, click the Gear icon.
  3. Select Assign presenter to manage rooms. After turning it on, be sure to select the presenters you wish to have manage the rooms.

Create Breakout Rooms before a Meeting

Meeting Organizers can create Breakout Rooms prior to a meeting. This offers Organizers the convenience of having the rooms prepared in advance.

    1. Within the Teams desktop application, head over to the Calendar tab.

    1. Find your meeting and double click it.
    2. From the top menu, select Breakout Rooms.

    1. From the Breakout Rooms tab, select Create rooms to begin the breakout rooms creation process.

    1. Enter how many rooms you need.

    1. After the rooms have been created, select Assign participants. Participants can be automatically or manually assigned to rooms.

Need to edit Breakout Rooms settings before your meeting?

Under the Breakout rooms tab, the Gear icon in the right hand corner will allow you to edit Breakout rooms settings prior to your meeting time. These settings are the same as you would get during the meeting.

Making an Announcement

Announcements allow Meeting Organizers to broadcast a message to each Breakout Room. This has several uses, including posting a reminder of the discussion topic or informing participants that you will be closing the Breakout Rooms.

  1. Click the Breakout rooms button () from the top-right menu bar.
  2. Click the Announcement icon from the menu.
  3. Enter in your desired message, then click Send.

The announcement will be posted in the Meeting chat of each Breakout Room.

Joining Open Rooms

Meeting Organizers can join individual open Breakout Rooms on the fly as needed. It is not possible to join all meetings simultaneously, though you can access the individual Meeting Chats for each room.

Be aware that participants will not be notified that you have joined their room, so it may be helpful to post a chat when you join.

  1. Click the Breakout rooms button () from the menu bar.
  2. Hover your mouse over the room you wish to join, then click the 3-dot () menu and select Join room.
  3. To return to the main meeting, you can leave the Breakout Room and click Resume.

Enable timed Breakout Rooms

To enable participants to go into Breakout Rooms for a designated amount of time, select the Gear icon from the menu and check Set a time limit.  Then select the time you want for the rooms.

Countdown Timer and Time Remaining Warning

In timed breakout rooms, there is a count down timer in the upper left corner of the room. This tells participants how much time remains. When a room is reaching the end of its allotted time, a warning banner will appear to notify participants that time is nearly up.

Allow Participants to go between their Breakout Room and the Main Meeting

By default, participants will be moved to their assigned room when you Open those rooms.

While some meeting organizers may opt to mimic this behavior by simply Closing a Breakout Room, enabling your participants to freely move between their Breakout Room and the main meeting preserves their ongoing access to the meeting chats, files, and other content specific to that Breakout Room.

Normally, when a Breakout Room is closed, all participants are removed from the Breakout room, and will have read-only access to the content in that room available up until they were removed.

To enable participants to freely swap between their Breakout Room and the main meeting, select the Gear icon from the menu, and check Let people return to the main meeting.

Recording in Breakout Rooms

Breakout Room recordings function similarly to normal meeting recordings. Breakout Room recordings are automatically uploaded to Microsoft OneDrive. You can find these recordings in their respective meeting chats.

A Breakout Room recording can be started by anyone assigned to that Breakout Room, as all participants are given the Presenter role when they are joined to a room.

The main meeting still follows normal restrictions – only the Meeting Organizer and Presenters may start a recording (participants have the normal Attendee role in the main meeting by default).

Manually Add Participants to a Breakout Room

If a participant isn’t automatically added to their assigned Breakout Room, you can manually prompt them to join. This may be necessary in cases where the Meeting Organizer chose not to automatically move people into open rooms, or if the participant joined the main meeting after the meeting organizer had already opened rooms.

  1. Click the Breakout rooms button () from the menu bar.
  2. Select Assign Participants and assign the participant to the desired breakout room.
  3. The selected participant will receive a message asking them to join their assigned Breakout Room.

Updated on May 26, 2022

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