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Microsoft Teams – Using channels for small group meetings


Note that for most of the Fall 2020 semester, Breakout Rooms were not an option in Teams, so for small groups Channels were used instead. However, Breakout Rooms became available in December and because they function differently from Channels please start by viewing the pros and cons summarized in the comparison chart here

Team Channels vs Breakout Rooms

Channel Meetings for Small Groups
(described below)
Breakout Rooms
(described in this article)
Channel Pros: Breakout Room Pros:
Can be used for stable groups across class sessions (e.g., the same students are in the same group for multiple classes).

Stores collaborative documents within the Channel.

You can assign TAs to Channels in advance.

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 one class session, groups remain stable (e.g., the same students are in the same group, but only for that one class session) until they are “recreated” (which will shuffle people into new rooms).

Channel Cons: Breakout Room Cons:
Requires advance set-up.

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.”

Cannot be set-up in advance.

Only the meeting organizer (the person who schedules the meeting or starts an ad-hoc meeting) can create and manage the 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.

Using Teams Channels

Setting Up Channels

After creating a Team, you can add Team Channels, organized by topic, week, or by small groups. Each team can have up to 30 private channels and 200 open channels.

In general, it’s recommended to have specific purposes for each channel, as excessive or unfocused channels can create confusion for Team member and owners. For example, you may want one Channel for each lab section, or you might use channels to divvy up team members into small groups. The subgroups can then use their assigned channel to hold group meetings, share documents, and to otherwise collaborate with each other.

By default, a Team starts with a General channel that is available to all members of the Team.

Additional channels can be added as needed, and can be set as open to all members, or private and available only to a select few. Private channels are identified with the padlock  icon. You are limited to 30 private channels, and 200 open channels.

The private channel limit includes deleted channel

Deleted channels are not purged until 30 days after deletion and will count against your 30 private channel limit

Starting a Small Group Meeting in a Channel

A student can start a channel meeting by selecting their channel, then click Meet in the upper right corner.

Joining an In-Progress Channel Meeting

If a meeting has already started, other members of that Channel can join it by selecting their channel and clicking Join Now. Before joining the meeting, participants will be asked to confirm their audio and video settings.

During a meeting, participants can collaborate simultaneously on documents and files shared to channel members. Click here for instructions on collaborating with files and documents. 

Updated on September 21, 2021

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