The Power of Breakout Rooms

Published on November 5th, 2020

One of the most uncomfortable parts of being in a large Zoom call or class session is the part where you just sit and hear someone lecturing or talking at you; it’s even more uncomfortable and boring than in person. It’s also a waste of time, as this information can likely be conveyed through other mediums, especially if there’s little to no discussion during the lecture.

To avoid the fatigue of having your participants endlessly sitting there, consider using breakout rooms multiple times throughout your session. You can use breakout rooms to…

  • (a) randomly pair individuals for a brief activity, or
  • (b) have a team work on an exercise together.

For randomly pairing individuals, consider adapting the tried and tested pedagogical technique of think, pair, share. Have participants individually respond to a prompt or begin an exercise, then pair them in breakout rooms with a partner to discuss, then bring them back into the main room to share with the larger group.

If the activity in the breakout room requires a number of steps, or you’re having teams work on an exercise, consider creating a breakout session guide. I usually create a Google Doc that has sections for each of the activities. Each section includes an estimated time to complete, the “why” and objective for the activity, the steps to follow, and an example. You should be as explicit as possible, erring on the side of overly explaining.

When teams are in breakout rooms, make sure to have yourself and anyone else on the teaching team float from one room to the next. Sometimes the participants will realize you’ve entered the room, sometimes they won’t; it’s up to you whether you want to immediately announce your arrival or listen in to what they’re saying first. 🙂

Breakout rooms are one of the many features Zoom implemented to adapt our virtual world. From startup to industry leader, tune-into Lilie’s fireside chat with Zoom’s CEO & Founder, Eric Yuan, Nov 10 @4 PM CST, on how his innovation is shaping how we interact and learn in ways we- and he! – never had anticipated.

Back to Blog