Video Conference Breakout Rooms

Zoom features breakout rooms that 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

Both hosts and co-hosts can create and manage breakout rooms during the meeting.  Co-hosts can move between breakout rooms once they have been assigned to a breakout room by the host.

For complete information on the different roles in a meeting, see Zoom's article Roles in a Meeting.

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 and co-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

There may be times when you wish to create breakout rooms randomly or manually. It's a good idea to practice these options ahead of time so that you're comfortable with the process, since you'll be doing it in real time during the class/meeting. Only Zoom meeting hosts and co-hosts can manage breakout rooms.

Participant Options in Breakout Rooms

Hosts, once they are in the meeting, have a number of options they can set for participants.

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

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.