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Active learning is any approach to instruction in which all students are asked to engage in the learning process.

Breakout rooms offer opportunities for interaction and/or collaboration for students and their instructors. In a breakout room, groups of students can talk via their microphones and headsets and can collaborate using the whiteboard, chat and application sharing. Breakout rooms provide opportunities for peer-to-peer support, which is particularly valuable for distance learning students who rarely, if ever, meet their peers face-to-face.  Additionally, breakout rooms help break up the lecture time, giving students’ activities to keep them engaged and support learning by providing opportunities for practice, reflection, clarifying, working collaboratively on assignments or projects and can be a more comfortable setting for discussing sensitive or difficult topics. According to Boud, peer-to-peer learning has far reaching effects as it “involves a group of students taking collective responsibility for identifying their own learning needs and planning how these might be addressed. This is a vital learning-how-to-learn skill as well as providing practice for the kinds of interaction needed in the students’ careers. Learning to cooperate with others to reach mutual goals seems a necessary prerequisite for operating in a complex society.”[1]. Beside, studies show that collaboration “improved learning outcomes relative to individual work across the board”[2].

Instructional Strategies for Using Breakout rooms

It is likely that when you teach in a traditional classroom you have to provide different types of active learning activities. Similarly, the breakout room in Zoom provides opportunity for computer-based active learning activities. However, just as a classroom has its own constraints and opportunities, so does the Zoom breakout room. Here are some activities and ideas instructors can employ using the Zoom breakout room.

  • Group projects - whether ongoing or short-term breakout rooms enable collaboration and documentation for group project planning.
  • Discussion questions – Students can be broken into groups and each group can be given a different question to answer and prepare to provide brief presentation to class with their answers
  • Scenario or simulation practice –have students engage in role-plays and simulations (e.g. practice interviews, or simulating a business team-meeting environment).
  • Text or data analysis – students can use screen share or the whiteboard feature to analyze and discuss problems/scenarios
  • Text annotation/Brainstorming:  use Whiteboard or desktop sharing to have students look closely at a passage, unpack key features of the text, and annotate the excerpt with their observations.
  • Solve problems/show understanding – students can use whiteboard feature to distill key points, work out problems[3]
  • Small debate forums with conclusions/dissents being presented to entire class at end of workout session
  • Sort students by experience, jobs, backgrounds to applied problem solving in their area of expertise with requirement to report back to group
  • Provide questions for students to check their understanding/perceptions with others for multiple perspectives
  • Peer feedback on projects – small groups are great places for editing and peer presentation feedback

Best Practices for Using Zoom’s Breakout rooms

  1. Instructors need to practice so they are adept at transitions in technology use.
    1. Set-up a laptop with a student view so you are confident in what students are seeing, especially at the beginning.
    2. When changing technologies or problem-solving technical issues, have a small activity for students to be working on so they are not just sitting through dead time.
    3. Ask for help from ITACS or CED3.

  2. Plan every course/teaching action ahead of time, don’t try to do things on the fly.
    1. Write out your teaching plan step-by-step
    2. Provide students with a class agenda, usually this is done at the beginning of the session
    3. Let students know what they need to do ahead of time to prepare for class. For example if there are files they will need to work with, make them available in Sakai and instruct students to download before class.
    4. Instructions can be given ahead of time for Breakout room activities, sent as files and copied into the chat for easy student accessibility.
    5. Stay on top of time on task for student activity.
    6. Learn how to use the send files in Zoom for a just-in-case moment.
    7. Ask your peers about how they use Breakout rooms – share experiences to broaden your ideas
    8. Have a class break after Breakout room activity to give students a chance to reflect and prepare for reporting out.

  3. Get student feedback on Breakout room activities, what worked, what didn’t, how valuable were the sessions, etc. Implement changes based on that feedback.
    1. Document what worked/what didn’t/ why it didn’t work/ how would you make it better for future classes.

  4. Provide instructions/tutorials for students
    1. If they have not used Zoom tools, provide tutorials or quick tips for how to use the tools
    2. Demonstrate how to use the tools for the class before doing a Breakout session
    3. Provide instructions on how students can quickly self-organize, for example have one student assigned to managing screen-share or whiteboard, one assigned to taking notes, one facilitating the discussion, etc.

  5. Drop in on Breakout rooms to listen, answer questions, and let your presence be known.

How to Use Zoom’s Tools

Create a Poll

  1. Go to the Meetings page and schedule a meeting.
  2. At the meeting management page, scroll to the bottom to find the Poll option.
  3. Click Add to create a poll.
  4. (Optional) Check the box to make the poll anonymous,
  5. Select if you want the Poll to be single answer or multiple answer choice question.
  6. Type in the answers to your question and click Save at the bottom.
  7. To create more Polls, click Add a Question to create a new Poll

Launch a Poll

  1. Click Account Management> Account Settings.
  2. Navigate to the Pollingoption on the Meeting tab and verify that the setting is enabled.
    If the setting is disabled, click the toggle to enable it. If a verification dialog displays, choose Turn On to verify the change.
  3. (Optional) If you want to make this setting mandatory for all users in your account,
  4. Click the lock icon, and then click Lockto confirm the setting.
  5. Start the scheduled Zoom meeting
  6. Select the Polling option in the menu bar.
  7. Select the poll you would like to launch.
  8. Click Launch Poll.
  9. The participants in the meeting will now be prompted to answer the polling questions.
  10. Click End Poll, when you want to stop the Poll.

Save Zoom session

  1. Zoom recording capture all the work that’s goes during the session. You can send / receive files, save chats while in breakout room.
  2. All material will be saved to previously set, Zoom download location which can either be Cloud based or on local server.

Save student whiteboards from Breakout Rooms.

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More to follow...

Technical Support

ITACS Zoom Wiki

[1] D. Boud, R. Cohen & J. Sampson, Peer learning assessment. Assessment and 


Engineering Education, (2004), 93: 223-231.