Participating in Zoom Breakout Rooms for Students


Zoom hosts can create breakout rooms in Zoom meetings to facilitate group work and participant engagement. There are several scenarios hosts can choose for enabling breakout rooms: preassign participants before the meeting starts, manually or automatically assign participants during the meeting or allow participants to self-select a room.  

In this knowledge article the terms host and instructor, as well as participant and student, are used interchangeably. 

Instructor-managed breakout room options

As a student, you have little control over the breakout room you are placed in when host manually or automatically creates a breakout room, or when you are preassigned to a breakout room during a class Zoom session. 

When the instructor indicates you are being invited a breakout room in Zoom, you will get an invitation pop-up in the center of the screen. Click on the Join button to enter the room to which you have been assigned. Your main screen will disappear while you are waiting to be placed in the breakout room. After a brief delay, you will join a subset of other participants in the breakout room.  

Self-select breakout room option

The option to let participants choose is meant to enable participants/students to enter a breakout room that has been created, but to which they have not been assigned by the instructor.

The let participants choose breakout room option is only available with version 5.3 or later of the Zoom desktop client (available from the Zoom download center) or mobile app (see Mobile app for details). Zoom is adding new features to its tool all the time, so it is critical to update the Zoom software frequently. See Student Guide to Using Zoom for details.

When the option to let participants choose is enabled you can click on the Breakout Room icon on the meeting room toolbar and view the available room names. The room names and number of participants who have joined will be visible to you. Trace over the number to reveal a Join link. Click on the Join link to enter the room of your choosing.

You can freely enter and leave self-select breakout rooms and choose another breakout room without the assistance of a host.
NOTE: If you have not logged in to Zoom before joining the meeting and you have not joined via the desktop or mobile app, you will not be able to self-select a room. However, the host will still be able to manually assign you to a room.

Student options in a breakout room

Breakout room participants have full access to audio, video, chat and screen sharing options. Your video and audio will be on, by default.

Icons for managing these tools are on the Zoom room toolbar at the bottom of the screen.  You will also see an icon to Ask for Help from the meeting host or co-host. The Record button may be visible, but it is up to the host to determine if the deliberations in the breakout room can actually be recorded by participants. The most powerful option for members of the breakout room is the ability to choose Share Screen to share your desktop, a specific window (containing a browser tab, PowerPoint presentation, etc.), or a whiteboard. You can annotate on a whiteboard; however, the results of that activity will not be saved nor can they be shared into the main room.

Hosts and co-hosts can enter breakout rooms to join participants. The host has the ability to broadcast messages to all breakout rooms and alert participants when it is time to leave the breakout room and return to the main room. For timed breakout sessions, participants will get a one minute warning that the breakout session is ending. Participants can either return to the main room on their own and wait until Zoom brings them back automatically. Students can Leave Room at any time, whether they have been prompted to return to the main room or not.

When you click on the Leave Room button, you will have the option to Leave Breakout Room to return to the main room or to Leave the Meeting all together.