Setting up breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams
Article by Toni Mallin, learning management platform expert
Are you, like many organisations, looking at how you can replace your previously ‘in person’ training with an on-line service?
The technology we have available in platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams video conferencing makes the delivery of content relatively easy.
And, let’s face it, video conferencing removes many of the costs and logistical headaches normally associated with getting a bunch of delegates together: There’s no hotels and travel to book, no catering, no social outings or icebreakers to orchestrate…
Recently I helped a law firm convert some ‘in-person’ course work into an ‘eLearning format’ hosted on Microsoft Teams, but I came a bit unstuck at the part where course delegates needed to split into smaller groups to work through an example case. Whilst it is possible to ‘fudge it’ using Teams channels, it isn’t ideal and takes a lot of preparation as you will see in this Microsoft article.
Microsoft Teams Breakout Rooms to the rescue!
Rolling out to a tenant near you*, this new Teams feature is designed to support exactly the scenario where you need to split out and reconvene a training session (and many other scenarios, such as team building and brainstorming) using virtual breakout rooms.
How do Teams Breakout Rooms Work?
With Teams Breakout Rooms the meeting organiser can define up to 50 separate virtual rooms, into which participants can be manually or automatically assigned from all those that are currently on the call.
A point to note here is that in the first release it’s likely you won’t be able pre-configure your breakout rooms and who’s going to go in them (assuming you’re going to manually assign delegates).
You can only do this once you’ve started your first meeting. You can of course have a rough plan as to how you’re going to split folk out in advance. For example, if you have clear-cut learning ‘tracks’ (a great example is where you might want to deep dive into ‘sales’ or ‘technical’ content in a conference), you could have all the relevant names ready to refer to.
By default, your rooms are numbered 1,2,3 etc but they can also be assigned names that are descriptive or ‘fun’, and as in ‘real life’, getting delegates to choose their ‘group name can be part of an icebreaker session.
Once the breakout rooms are started, the organiser (or tutor) can virtually leap from room to room to check in on progress and provide assistance (delegates have the ability to get their ‘tutors’ attention via private chat or specifically requesting them to join).
At the end of the allotted time (you can set a countdown timer and send a ‘5 minutes left’ message), the organiser can also close the virtual rooms and ‘pull’ everyone back into the main room.
Each virtual room can be used to share files, whiteboards, etc. and the individuals involved can connect and follow-up after the meetings, with the ability to access all resources. This includes the ability for the groups to present the outcomes of their breakout sessions to the rest of the team, when everyone is reconvened.
Will features like this in Teams ever get to replace classroom training?
In short, no. But until the time we can get back to classroom-based scenarios, we need to make it work for us. Also I predict we will see a lot more blended or ‘hybrid’ training, which combines distance course work with in-person sessions.
The good news is that there’s lots more features to come in Teams that can be used to transform how training can be delivered to your workforce.
Along with the other recently-introduced Teams features such as the ability to view meeting participants in a shared background (as though they’re in the same room), live transcriptions (including who said what) and better powers for the meeting organiser and presenters when it comes to muting delegates, Microsoft is working hard to make your virtual workforce feel better-connected and better-supported.
For more details on breakout rooms, this video is a great resource. Fast forward to minute 13:30 for information on future enhancements when it comes to managing breakout room members and inviting the different presenters that might be involved in delivering content for each ‘room’ or ‘track’.
If you are planning to deliver remote training to your workforce and would like to find out how we can help ‘boost’ the capability of Teams, with services that include converting legacy training content, tracking how well-engaged delegates are with the content you need to deliver and automated on-boarding for new starts, get in touch.
*You can track the release date of breakout rooms here.