Virtual meetings have become increasingly popular over the past 5 years, but they pose a fundamental challenge: the more participants participate, the more difficult efficient communication can be. Microsoft Teams has a shiny new addition to solve this problem; breakout rooms. This convenient feature allows users to create more meaningful online communication by letting organizers split virtual meetings into subgroups known as brainstorming rooms.
Creating breakout rooms
Breakout rooms appear in the right pane of The Teams Organizer View, where the participants’ names and groups are listed. Each Microsoft Teams meeting can contain up to 50 brainstorming rooms, with different configuration options.
Organizers can create Breakout rooms by simply clicking on an icon in a Teams meeting. After a short initial installation, you can then choose the number of groups and whether you want to manually or automatically assign participants.
Users can participate in these spaces from desktop, internet or mobile, but it’s worth noting that organizers can only create Breakout rooms through the desktop client. Those who try to participate on multiple devices will also be taken to the same Breakout rooms to avoid confusion.
More tools are available to enable smooth management of meeting participants. After installation, it’s easy to rename, delete, or create rooms, as well as re-assign team members and access additional configuration options.
Meanwhile, announcements offer a quick way to let all rooms know how long there is left in a breakout session, what topics to discuss at any given time, or when to take a break.
If a personal touch is required, organizers can jump into a room to give further instructions or see how it goes. Once they are satisfied with the progress made, a single click is enough to bring all participants back to the main meeting room.
A breakthrough success
If Breakout rooms are used properly, they can improve the remote working environment that many companies are currently in. Meetings can be made more focused and productive and remove the pressure to engage a large virtual audience. Once in Breakout rooms, participants can use other Teams features as usual; screen sharing or collaborating on documents without getting into a situation of “too many cooks”.
Breakout rooms offer clear and specific benefits for the education sector. Splitting a classroom into project groups is common, but proved practically difficult to achieve when education became virtual at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
‘Teams for Education’ allows teachers to place students in or out of rooms without intervention, allowing for a quick transition. Once brainstorming rooms are set up, teachers can jump between rooms to start a discussion, make sure students are on the right track and answer questions.
Integrations like Microsoft Whiteboard are valuable assets for both virtual working and studying. Students can create mindmap and plan ideas without the need for additional settings. With the option to automatically assign students to rooms, brainstorming is more likely to be more diverse and inclusive than if they were to choose and assign themselves to a room.
For presenters inside and outside the education sector, breakout rooms can offer a vastly improved organization of meetings. Each room has its own chat, file section, meeting notes, and whiteboard tabs. Once a meeting is over, all users can see what each group has been working on and the process they’ve used. By spending less time browsing through files and chat logs, confusion is avoided and visitors can move on faster.
Breakout rooms within Teams provide an environment in which both students and employees feel comfortable despite the shift to virtual collaboration. Although the function is still in its infancy, it should be seen as an essential tool to recover some of the productivity lost during the pandemic.