Configuring and Managing Breakout Rooms in Zoom

Table of contents

Breakout rooms in Zoom

Breakout rooms allow you to split your Zoom meeting into separate session for up to 200 total participants. You can create up to 50 breakout rooms in your meeting. As the meeting host, you can choose to split the participants of the meeting into these separate sessions automatically or manually, and can switch between sessions at any time.

Breakout room participants have full audio, video and screen share capabilities. Participants can exit a breakout room at any time. An instructor can invite participants to leave, but cannot force them to leave. There are two ways to configure breakout rooms:


Assign within a meeting (on the fly)

You must be the meeting host to create breakout rooms in Zoom.

  1. During a meeting, click the Breakout Room icon on the Zoom navigation bar.
  2. In the Breakout Room pop-up window, set how many rooms you need and whether participants will be assigned automatically or manually.
  3. Click the Create Rooms button.

    Create Breakout Rooms window from within meeting.

  4. The rooms palette opens. If you had automatically assigned participants to breakout rooms, they will be distributed randomly. You can change room participation by dragging participants between rooms. Or, you can manually assign participants into breakout room groups by clicking the Assign button.
  5. Hover over a default room name to change its name or delete the room.
  6. The Options button at the bottom of the rooms palette presents additional settings for the breakout rooms, including timing and configuration.

    Breakout rooms options popup

  7. Click Open All Rooms when you are ready to begin a breakout room session.

Some features to note:


Self-selecting breakout rooms

In the self-selecting breakout room option, students can view and join the breakout rooms of their choosing. They will be able to enter and leave breakout rooms freely, without the assistance of the host. This configuration in that host and participants can only access self-selecting breakout rooms when logged in to the Zoom desktop client or mobile app.

NOTE: Participants who are not joined via the desktop or mobile app will not be able to self-select a breakout room. The host will need to facilitate moving these participants manually.

Set up the self-selecting breakout rooms

Self-selecting breakout rooms are only an option with the desktop client or mobile app. It is critical to update the Zoom software you are using.

  1. Open your desktop client. At the upper right, click on your account picture.
  2. From the drop-down list, select the Check for Updates option.
  3. If new updates are available, they will be listed. You can download and install them from here.

    User settings panel with 'Check for Updates' option highlighted

Create the breakout rooms

Breakout room configuration is done inside of a meeting. Only the host can access the breakout room feature.

  1. Start your Zoom meeting from the desktop client.
  2. Click the Breakout Rooms icon in your meeting control. A pop-up box allows you to designate the number of breakout rooms to create.
  3. You have 3 options for breakout room configuration:
    • Assign automatically.
    • Assign manually.
    • Let participants choose room.
  4. Select the Let participants choose room.

    Create Breakout Room panel. 'Let particpicants choose room' option selected

  5. A pop-up window lists the breakout rooms to which the participants can be assigned. Click the Move to link to move a student into a room or move to rooms automatically in Options.
  6. Click on the Options button to select specific actions within the breakout room. Allow participants to choose room is the default. Open All Rooms when ready.

    Break room options

  7. Initially, participants are placed in a Breakout room either automatically or manually. At the bottom of the screen on the menu bar, click the breakout room icon to move to another room by clicking Choose Breakout Room. All students can completely move out of a breakout room, leaving it empty.

    Breakout Rooms button and the 'Choose Breakout Room' menu option


Pre-assign participants to breakout rooms  

NOTE: All participants must have configured a licensed Zoom account before they can be assigned to a breakout room. They should be directed to sign in at if they have not set up their UMD licensed account. Only licensed account holders can be preassigned to Zoom breakout rooms. This includes UMD students who otherwise do not need licensed accounts to participants in instructor meetings scheduled in ELMS-Canvas course spaces.

Meetings scheduled through the Zoom web portal

  1. Login to the UMD Zoom portal. Click Sign In.
  2. Click Meetings in the navigation bar.
  3. Click Schedule a New Meeting.
  4. In the Meeting Options, select Breakout Rooms Pre-Assign. There are two ways to create the breakout rooms. Use the participant email list for both options.
    • Import a CSV file, using the template provided. 
    • Manually create rooms and enroll participants by adding their email addresses. (Enter an address, press return. Then, enter the next address.)
  5. Continue selecting options for the Meeting. Click Save.
  6. Distribution. Review the meeting settings and invite attendees by copying the URL or invitation and post it in an email.


Zoom meetings scheduled through an ELMS-Canvas course

You can also edit an ELMS-Canvas Zoom meeting that you create to add pre-assigned breakout rooms.

  1. Schedule the meeting in your ELMS-Canvas course. Then, log in to the UMD Zoom portal.
  2. Click Sign In. Click Meetings in the navigation bar. Navigate to the meeting you scheduled in ELMS-Canvas and click on its Title.
  3. Click Edit. Select the Breakout Rooms Pre-Assign option.
  4. Upload the breakout room assignments, as above. Participant emails must match the students' university email addresses ( as favorited in their Canvas Settings.
    NOTE: Students who have favorited their in Canvas Settings will receive an access error for the breakout room.
  5. Click Save when you are done. Students will access the scheduled meeting and their breakout rooms through the ELMS-Canvas course space.


Other considerations


Related information

NOTE: Certain student, faculty and staff information and privacy are protected by federal, state and other laws. Be sure you are meeting legal standards when using UMD audiovisual recording systems. To learn more about how to protect yourself and other UMD community members, see Protect Student Privacy and Personally-Identifiable Information in UMD Audiovisual Recording Systems.