Video Conference Breakout Rooms

Both BlueJeans and Zoom feature breakout rooms (called breakout sessions in BlueJeans). Breakout rooms can be an excellent addition to the classroom, however, using them effectively takes a little planning and some extra know-how.


Zoom offers breakout rooms to split meeting participants in up to 50 separate rooms for group collaboration. For best results, all users need the latest Zoom app.

There are three methods for assigning participants to breakout rooms in Zoom:

  • Pre-assigned - Each person is assigned a breakout room ahead of time. This method is highly recommended. Faculty should use the directions below; staff and students should use Zoom's instructions:
  • Random - During a Zoom meeting the host can push a button and randomly distribute attendees (including co-hosts) into breakout rooms.
  • Manual - You can create breakout rooms during the meeting and manually assign students to rooms. This is difficult to do quickly, especially in meetings with larger numbers of participants.

Configuring/Managing Breakout Rooms

Only the host can create and manage breakout rooms during the meeting.  Co-hosts can move between breakout rooms once they have been moved into a breakout room by the host.

Creating Pre-Assigned Breakout Rooms in Canvas

The following directions are for faculty using Canvas. Staff and students should use Zoom's instructions to create breakout rooms:

Pre-assigning breakout rooms can make sending students to the correct rooms during a meeting quick and seamless. However, setting these up needs to be done with care, since only Zoom meeting hosts can manage breakout rooms and students must join the meeting with their Penn Zoom accounts for pre-assigned breakout rooms to work

Creating Breakout Rooms Randomly or Manually

Participant Options in Breakout Rooms


If you are recording the main meeting room in Zoom the breakout rooms are not automatically included in that recording.

Hosts can allow participants to record in breakout rooms but this must be set before breakout rooms open.  To do this click on the participant in the participant list and select Allow Record. If breakout rooms have already been opened the host can join a breakout room to begin the recording or allow a participant to record.


Once a participant joins a breakout room, chat messages will only be visible to participants in the same room (though the chat window will not indicate that chat is restricted).

Asking for Help

Participants can click the ?  button to ask a host for help.  This will invite a host to your breakout room.

Leave Breakout Room

Participants can choose to leave the breakout room and return to the main room by clicking the Leave Breakout Room button if this option is enabled by the host in setup.   Once participants are back in the main room they are able to move back to their assigned breakout room anytime by clicking the breakout rooms button.  Professors may choose to have students return to the main room to ask questions in this scenario. 

For more information, learn how to enable, manage, and participate in Zoom Breakout Rooms.

Breakout Sessions in BlueJeans

There are two ways to break students into groups using BlueJeans in Canvas. The recommended method will depend on whether the groups have already been assigned or they should be assigned randomly at the time of the exercise.

Breakout Session functionality is not available on Restricted/Authenticated meetings.

Note: Breakout sessions are not recommended for office hours. Instead, we recommend scheduling meetings with students (you can use Canvas Appointments) and create separate BlueJeans meetings.

  1. The meeting organizer, or the person who scheduled the BlueJeans meeting, can use the Breakout Rooms app within BlueJeans to create up to 20 rooms and assign students to them. 
  2. Each group can designate a meeting organizer and have them invite only their group members to the meeting. That student should follow the directions to create a video conference in Canvas, at the beginning of this document.

Note: The option exists to choose which students to move into any particular breakout room during the meeting but this option is not recommended. Students have to be assigned to rooms one by one – which is time consuming – and the assigning can't be done until all students have joined the meeting.

Method one is recommended when the groups are to be randomly assigned during class. Only the meeting organizer has access to the Breakout Session feature within BlueJeans. If you would prefer someone other than yourself be in control of creating the breakout rooms, it is best for that person to create the class meeting within Canvas. This person will also have access to the moderator controls and can mute participants, as needed. 

Recording Breakout Sessions

Each breakout session will be recorded if the original video conference had auto-record enabled (as is our recommendation) AND that recording process was not stopped and restarted manually.

Only a meeting moderator –denoted by a star in the participants list – can manually start a recording in an individual breakout session. Keep in mind the moderator can only start a recording in a breakout session they are currently in.


Please contact your Wharton Computing representative.