In this post we are going to discuss how you can use a Microsoft Teams Team, to enable you to have a main meeting or lesson in Teams, where the attendees then split out into Breakout Groups or Rooms for collaboration work, and can then rejoin the main meeting at the appropriate time.

This is functionality that Microsoft is currently working on adding to Teams; however, we are going to demonstrate how it can be achieved with standard functionality, a little bit of preparation, and some participant guidance.

What is a Breakout Room?

Breakout Rooms and Breakout sessions are subgroups of the main Session, Meeting, or Lesson to enable the larger groups to be split into smaller working groups to discuss and collaborate on the given subject. 

Although of most use in training and education situations, this can also be used for project planning, requirements gathering, and other types of workshops.

Step 1:  Start with a Teams Team

So firstly to achieve this you will need a Teams Team, and your main Session or meeting should be organised from within your chosen Microsoft Teams Team, in our example we created the Microsoft Teams Tips team you can see here:

Step 2:  Create a Channel for each Breakout Room

We will need a channel in this Team for each Breakout room we need. These are created in the Standard way of creating a channel.

Give each channel a relevant name to correspond to your Breakout groups. This could be subject-related or simply numbered so that you can let your attendees know which Breakout group they need to be joining. 

At this point, you can choose to allow all the members of your main Teams team access to every channel / Breakout group, or you can choose the "Private -  Accessible only to a specific group of people with the team". It depends on how much you want to control your audience's ability to join each Breakout room and your particular use-case as to which option works best for you. Sometimes locking it down in this way can help remove the confusion of the audience knowing which Breakout meeting they are supposed to join as they will only be able to see the one they can access.

You should then have your Team with the correct number of Channels to match how many breakout groups you need; in this example, we have 3.

Step 3:  Start your Main meeting from the Team

The main meeting can be started from the General channel of the Team, in the normal way.

This could either be a scheduled call or a Meet now call. Both can be initiated by selecting the camera icon below the new conversation box:

Start the meeting, from this point onwards, even when you start going into the Breakout sessions via the Channels, do not close the meeting until the entire session is over.

If you navigate back to the Team by clicking on 'Teams' in the left-hand panel, you will see a camera icon next to the General tab and the meeting in the Conversation feed, indicating the main meeting is underway.

At this stage, you could also start the Breakout channel meetings so you are ready for the Breakout sessions to start, or you can wait until they are needed during your session. 

Step 4: Creating each Breakout Room meeting

Once you are ready to open the breakout rooms, navigate to each of the channels in turn, by clicking 'Teams' on the right hand panel, selecting your team and then selecting the chanel. Using the 'Meet Now' Option in each channels conversation feed, start a meeting for each one. Remember to keep the main meeting open as you do this (don't press the red button to close the meetings now until your whole session is over.)

Each time you open a new meeting, you will need to navigate back to the main Team and select the next channel to open the next one. 

Finally, as you navigate back to the Team you will notice that each channel now has a camera icon next to it, and that you have a list of meetings in the top left showing that some are on hold and you are in one of them.

If you now select the play button next to the "General" meeting and select the meeting preview to go full screen, you will be back in the main General meeting and are now ready to go. 

You will also notice that from this main meeting, you can see each of your other meetings on hold. You can visit each one as and when you want to, simply by clicking the triangle play button. You can drop in and out as often as you wish.

Step 5: Breakout work and back to Main Meeting

Now instruct your students or attendees to go and join the meeting in their relevant channel (allocated breakout session) in this team. To do this they can navigate to the channel via the left-hand panel by clicking 'Teams', select the Team, click on the Breakout room / Teams Channel you have allocated or instructed them to go to. Then they should be able to join the meeting by clicking 'Join' button in the conversation feed:

As the Breakout sessions and group collaboration progress in each of the Channel meeting rooms, you as the person running the session can jump between each meeting to help out and check on progress simply by clicking the triangle play button on each meeting bar in turn.

Once the Breakout sessions are complete, you can ask your attendees to leave their Breakout meetings by clicking the red hangup button in the meeting and to rejoin the main meeting in the General Channel. It's best to Instruct them all that if they lose the meeting they can easily get back to it by going to the General Channel and clicking on 'Join meeting'.

Here is a great you tube video from a well known Microsoft expert called Kevin Stratvert, demonstrating how to to do this, I hope this helps:

There we have it, Breakout rooms in a Teams Meeting using the standard functionality.

Microsoft are working on more Breakout room-specific functionality, although it is not clear yet on when that will be available.  Take a look at this user voice  - https://microsoftteams.uservoice.com/forums/555103-public/suggestions/35000044-introduce-breakout-room-functionality

Hopefully, we will soon be able to update this post with a more structured way of achieving this, in the meantime, I hope this can help you.

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  • ddraig64 says:

    This is EXTREMELY complicated. Couldn’t you follow Zoom’s template???