Using Self-Select Breakout Rooms and Other Zoom Updates

by Kelli Van Wasshenova

Originally posted Oct. 9, 2020

Featured Videos

This two-part post contains general information about the recent Zoom updates as well as a complete tutorial on how to create a use the self-select breakout room with your students.

Part 1: General Updates

VIDEO: Sept./Oct. 2020 New Features Overview

Zoom has made several updates over the past few weeks that have enhanced the platform that many teachers and professors are using for their classes. To take advantage of these updates, make sure to update to the latest version of Zoom. Not sure how to do that? Check out this resource from Zoom Support on what you need to do to update.

New Feature Highlights

  • Multi-Spotlight and Multi-Pin – Focus everyone’s attention (Multi-Spotlight) or just your attention (Multi-Pin) by spotlighting or pinning up to 9 participant videos. Other participant videos will appear as thumbnails in the band at the top.
  • Custom Gallery Organization – Drag and drop participants in the gallery view into the order that makes sense for your Zoom meeting. If desired, push this order out to all meeting participants.
  • Self-Select Breakout Rooms – Create breakout rooms and name them meaningfully and then allow participants to choose their own room and move between them.

To see these in action, view the Sept./Oct. 2020 New Features Overview video.
Classroom/Lab Note: The Zoom app in classrooms and labs will be updated soon to provide access to these features on the podium and student computers. The Netnotes page will be updated when available.

Part 2: Using Self-Select Breakout Rooms in Class

VIDEO: Using Self-Selecting Breakout Rooms in Zoom

Host Instructions: Managing Self-Select Breakout Rooms

The video linked above covers all of the steps outlined below.

  1. Open the Zoom Client Application and start your Zoom meeting as you normally would for your class.
  2. Click on the Breakout Rooms icon on the bottom menu of your Zoom screen.
  3. Choose how many breakout rooms you want to create, select the option for “Let participants choose room,” and click create. Note: if you chose to setup your breakout rooms in advance, they will already be populated when you click on the Breakout Rooms.
  4. You will now see a list of all your breakout rooms. You have the ability to name the rooms, delete them, and to assign students to the rooms. You can also open the settings for breakout rooms by clicking on the wheel in the bottom right of the window. When you are ready for students to see the rooms, click “Open All Rooms.”
  5. A window will open that shows you which students have chosen which room. If you have a student who has not updated their Zoom, they will not be able to choose a breakout room, and you will need to use the Assign To action on the right to place them in a room.
  6. To join a room, hover over the number on the right and click “Join.”
  7. You can send a message to all the rooms using the “Broadcast Message to All” button.
  8. When you are finished, choose “Close All Rooms” in the bottom left.

Participant Instructions: Share these with Students

To Participate in Zoom Self-Select Breakout Booms, you must be using Zoom version 5.3.0 or higher. See this article for information on how to update to the latest version of Zoom.

  1. Once your professor has opened the breakout rooms, you can see the room options by clicking on the Breakout Rooms icon in the bottom menu of your Zoom screen.
  2. A window ill open with the names of rooms and participants who have already joined them.
  3. Join a room by hovering over the blue number link and clicking “Join.”
  4. While in a breakout room, you can click the Breakout Rooms icon to move to another breakout room or ask your professor for help.
  5. To return to the main Zoom room, choose “Leave Room” in the bottom right corner.
  6. If your professor decides to close the breakout rooms, you will see a message informing you when they will close and prompting you to “Leave Breakout Room” when you are ready to do so.

If you have any issues using Zoom, please contact the ITS Service Desk at