Updated method for Creating breakout rooms in MS Teams

Nick Cornwall-French, Learning Technologist

As we get more experience with using Microsoft Teams, we are updating our guidance. This updated post has recommendations for using Breakout rooms in Teams.

Having had more time using Microsoft Teams, we’ve refined our guidance on how to accomplish Breakout Rooms. Below is our updated recommendation, but you can check the next page of this post to see our original guidance for information.

Built-in breakout room functionality is scheduled to be released this Autumn, but until then there is a workaround.

Using public channels

Whether you are using public channels to schedule seminar meetings or not, they are useful for accomplishing breakout rooms. In the image below, I’ve created multiple public channels representing Seminar Groups and then subgroups within those seminar groups. These subgroups will be what I use for breakout room activities.

A screenshot of a Teams channel list, showing seminar groups and subgroups

When I’m running a seminar with Seminar Group 2, when it comes time to do a breakout room activity, I just let the students know which channel I want them to use (i.e. Seminar Group 2 – Group 1). You can either assign students ahead of time and tell them which group they are in, do it alphabetically, or you could use something like a Choice activity in Moodle to allow students to choose their own groups.

Students can simply open the right channel and click the Meet Now¬†button in the top right. You might find it useful to choose a student from each group to be a “Group Leader”, who you’ll trust to start these breakout room meetings.

A screenshot of the Teams meet button

As the channels are public, you can easily move between them and join the breakout room meetings. Just open the relevant channel, and click the Join button in the top right.

How you bring these meetings to a close is up to you. Either ask each student to return to the main meeting at a certain time, or join each channel and ask the students to come back.

Below you’ll find our old guidance, which you might still find useful.

There’s no single approach to creating breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams, and the method you choose will depend on how your team is set up and what you are most comfortable with.

However, here are a couple of examples to get you started.

Schedule meetings in Outlook

You can schedule Teams meetings from the Outlook Calendar.

A screenshot of the New Teams Meeting button in Outlook
New Teams Meeting button in Outlook

Create one Core meeting, where all participants are invited. This core meeting will be for you to introduce the session to your students, and to wrap up the session once done.

Create a meeting for each breakout group. Invite each member of that group to the meeting, and a supervisor/instructor if you have one. You might find it useful to name the group in the meeting subject, such as “Group 1”, “Group 2” etc. so the students know which group they are in.

A screenshot of the outlook calendar, showing the seperate scheduled meetings per group
Each meeting appears in the Outlook Calendar

You can set the start and end time the same for all of them if you like. Instruct students to join the Core meeting. They can open the invite to their breakout room meeting when you tell them to.

You’ll be able to move between meetings yourself by clicking the “Join Microsoft Teams meeting” link in the event in your Outlook Calendar.

A screenshot of the Join Microsoft Teams Meeting link to click to join the meeting
Click this link to join the meeting

When you want your students to reconvene in the core meeting, drop in to each group and let them know, or decide on a time you want the students to return and let them know in advance.

Use Channels

Create a channel for each group, naming the channel after the group i.e. “Group 1”, “Group 2” etc.

A screenshot of the team channel list, with the seperate channels for each team displayed
The additional channels will appear in the Team channel list

If you want each channel to be accessible to only that group, make them private channels. Just be aware that you currently can’t schedule meetings with a private channel.

Create your Core meeting in the Team “General” channel. You might want to list which students are in which group if you are using public channels (or use tags).

When it comes time for the students to break off into their groups, instruct them to go into their channel and click the “Meet Now” button. This will start a meeting with that channel.

A screenshot of the Meet Now button in a Microsoft Teams channel
Click the Meet Now button to start a meeting straight away

When it comes time to reconvene, you can go into each channel and join the meeting to let the students know, or post into the “General” channel and mention (using the @ symbol) the team to notify everyone.


Check out this webcast on the Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences blog if you want to see some of these examples in action.

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