Staff guide: How to use Zoom breakout rooms

Breakout rooms allow you to split your Zoom meeting into up to 50 separate rooms. You can choose to split your students into these separate rooms automatically or manually, or you can allow participants to select and enter breakout sessions as they please. A ‘meeting host’ can switch between sessions at any time.



  • Breakout rooms can not currently be managed on mobile devices (e.g., phones or tablets). Use the Zoom desktop app.
  • You can allow students to move to any breakout room freely using the 'Let Participants choose room' option. But please note that the host and participants will need to be on version 5.3.0 or later of the Zoom app.
  • The amount of breakout rooms you can have depends on the number of participants in the session. Full details can be found here Managing Breakout Rooms.
    • Examples:
      • If the meeting has a total of 350 participants, the maximum number of breakout rooms that can be created is 30 - so around 12 participants in each breakout room.
      • If the host wants to have 50 breakout rooms, the maximum amount of participants in the entire meeting needs to be below 200.
  • When joining a meeting with pre-assignments, participants need to be signed in to their Zoom account for pre-assignments to be applied.
  • Participants will not be pre-assigned if they join from the web client.


What do students have in a breakout room?

Breakout room participants have full audio, video, and screen share capabilities.


Managing Breakout rooms in the live session

1. Start a meeting. 

2. Click Breakout Rooms. 

Breakout Room button

3. Select the number of rooms you would like to create, and how you would like to assign your participants to those rooms. 

New Breakout Room Snip

Assign automatically: Let Zoom split your participants up evenly into each of the rooms.

Manually: Choose which participants you would like in each room.

Let Participants choose room: Allow students to move to any room freely. (Please note that the host and participants will need to be on version 5.3.0 or later of the Zoom app).


4. Click  Create. 

Your rooms will be created, but will not start automatically. You can manage the rooms prior to starting them by following the instructions below. 

Breakout Rooms settings


Options for Breakout Rooms

1. After creating the breakout rooms, click Options to view additional breakout rooms options. 

Breakout Room Options

2. Check any options that you would like to use for your breakout rooms. 

  • Allow participants to choose room: Participants can select and enter rooms on their own once rooms are launched.
  • Allow participants to return to the main session at any time: If this option is checked, the participants can move back to the main session from their meeting controls. If this is disabled, they need to wait for the host to end the breakout rooms.
  • Automatically move all assigned participants into breakout rooms: Checking this option will move all participants into the breakout rooms automatically. If this option is unchecked, the participants will need to click Join to be added to the breakout room.
  • Breakout rooms close automatically after () minutes: If this option is checked, the breakout rooms will automatically end after the configured time.
    • Notify me when the time is up: If this option is checked, the host will be notified when the breakout room time is up.
  • Set Countdown timer: If this option is checked, the participants will be given a countdown of how much time they have left before being returned to the main room.

3. Follow the steps below to assign participants to rooms or click Open All Rooms to start the breakout rooms. 

Assigning participants to rooms

1. To assign participants to your rooms, select Assign next to the room you wish to assign participants to and select participants you want to assign to that room. Repeat this for each room. 

breakout rooms assign participants

2. Once a participant has been assigned (manually or automatically), the number of participants will show in place of the Assign button. 


breakout rooms assigned participants

After manually or automatically assigning participants to rooms, you can rearrange the participants. Participants who are not assigned to breakout sessions will remain in the main meeting when the rooms are started. 

  • Move to (participant): Select a room to move the participant to. 

breakout rooms move participants


  • Exchange (participant): Select a participant in another room to swap the selected participant with. 

breakout rooms exchange participants


  • Delete Room: Delete the selected room.
  • Recreate: 
    • Recreate all Rooms: Deletes existing breakout rooms and allows the host to create new ones.
    • Recover to pre-assigned rooms: Recreate the breakout rooms with the pre-assigned arrangement.
  • Add a Room: Add another breakout room.
  • Open All Rooms: Start the rooms. All assigned participants will be moved to their respective rooms after confirming the prompt to join the breakout room. If allowing participants to choose their own room, they can open the list of rooms and choose which to join. The host will be left in the main meeting until manually joining one of the rooms. The participants (and the host when manually joining a room) will see the following message shown when joining the breakout room.

breakout room joining breakout rooms


Managing Breakout Rooms in progress

Once the breakout rooms have been started, the assigned participants will be asked to join the Breakout Session.  The host will stay in the main meeting until joining a session manually. If a participant has not joined the session yet, it will be noted by (not joined) next to their name.


breakout room in progress

  • Join: Join the breakout room.
  • Leave: Leave the room and return to the main meeting (only shows when in a breakout room).
  • Close All Rooms: Stops all rooms after a 60 second countdown, shown to the host and participants, and returns all participants back to the main meeting.

Responding to requests for help

Participants in breakout rooms can request that the meeting host join their meeting by clicking Ask for Help. 

You will be prompted to join the room where the request originated from. Click Join Breakout Room to join the room.


breakout room ask for help join room


Broadcasting a message to all breakout rooms

The host can broadcast a message to all breakout rooms to share information with all participants.

1. Click Breakout Rooms in the meeting controls.

breakout rooms icon

2. Click Broadcast a message to all, enter your message and click Broadcast.

broadcast a message to all


3. The message will now appear for all participants in breakout rooms.

breakout-room boardcast message example


Further Resources