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Learning Technology Team

NILE & Other Technology Guides

Information for Staff

Breakout groups

Moderators can split attendees into groups and send them into their own virtual rooms for discussion. When breakout groups are started, all of the attendees are able to use all the features in a breakout group regardless of their role in the main room. All members of a breakout group can:

  • Post chat messages
  • Share audio (microphone)
  • Share video (webcam)
  • Share a whiteboard and write on it
  • Share their screen or an application window
  • Use the polling feature

When a moderator ends the breakout groups session, all attendees return to their previous roles and are subject to the participant permissions set in the session. See the earlier part of this guide, 'Managing the session' for more details about controlling participant permissions in the main room.

Splitting attendees into groups

There are two general methods of group assignment; random assignment and custom assignment. Both of these are useful in different circumstances. Groups cannot be set up in advance of the session. If your students need to be in the same groups over a number of sessions, please see the section of this guide 'Recommendations for regular use of groups in Collaborate'.

Navigate to the Share content section of the Collaborate panel, represented as an arrow icon.

Share content is the third item in the collaborate panel menu

Select the Breakout Groups option located under the heading 'Interact'.

The breakout groups option is the last item in the share panel.

Random assignment

When Random assignment is chosen in the first pop-up menu, participants are allocated evenly across the number of groups you specify. Collaborate will suggest a number of groups automatically. Change the number of groups using the drop-down based on the group sizes you would like, e.g. choose 7 groups in a session with 70 participants for groups of 10.

It is possible to include moderators in the group allocation with the checkbox. Doing so will again spread the moderators evenly throughout the groups.

All moderators can switch groups. You can also allow participants to switch groups by checking the box.

The shuffle option provides a quick way to jumble participants until you are happy with the random assignment.

Random assignment is selected by default in the popup menu under the heading assign groups.

The participants are shown in the groups they will be allocated.

Groups are listed with numbered headings.

It is possible to manually move individual participants to a different group by dragging and dropping the student name from the group list.

Once you are happy with the breakout group assignment, click the Start button at the bottom of the panel.

When dragging a participant name, the group headings become drop boxes.

Custom assignment

With the Custom assignment option selected in the first pop-up menu, all participants remain in the main room until you allocate each individual to a particular group. While this can be useful for small cohorts, it can become time-consuming in sessions with a large number of participants. Please consider random assignment for large cohorts, or see the later section of this guide for an alternative recommendation on working with the same breakout groups in multiple sessions.

All moderators can switch groups. You can also allow participants to switch groups by checking the box.

Custom assignment is the second option in the popup menu under the heading Assign Groups.

Collaborate will provide you with a number of groups based on the number of participants in the session. Use the plus signs to add more groups.

The option is labelled Create a new group.

Drag and drop a student name from the main room to assign them to a particular group.

Group headings become dropboxes when dragging an attendee name

Alternatively, use the contextual menu next to a student name to assign a group. This method can prove quicker where there are a larger number of participants.

The contextual menu next to an attendee name provides a keyboard accessible method of assigning groups.

Click the Start button at the bottom of the panel to begin the breakout session.

Start breakout groups

Once the Start button is pressed, all users will be moved to the relevant group. A message will be displayed onscreen while the move is in progress, telling each participant which group they will be joining.

Moving between groups

All moderators can move between groups by default. Participants can also move between groups if it has been enabled by the moderator when starting the breakout groups. See the section 'Splitting attendees into groups' for details on the location of this option.

Go to the Attendees panel which is represented by an icon of two silhouettes.

The attendees panel is the second item in the collaborate panel menu

The attendees list is split into the groups chosen when starting the breakout groups.

Each group name has an icon next to it with an arrow and a door symbol. Select the icon to enter that group. 

The link is labeled Join: and the the group name, usually group numbers.

To move again, select the icon next to another group, or return to the main room in the same way.

The link is labelled Join: Main Room.

Sharing resources with groups

As a moderator, you can share files with groups from the main room while breakout groups are in progress. You can share one file to all groups, or distribute different files between select groups.

Ensure you are in the main room and go to the Share Content section of the Collaborate panel in the bottom right of the screen.

The share content section is the third item in the collaborate panel menu.

Select Share Files and navigate to the list of files in the main room or upload one now.

Select the menu next to the file you wish to share and choose Share with groups.

The menu next to each file is labelled File Options.

Tick the checkboxes to either share the file with all groups or individual groups.

The checkbox for share with all groups is the first option.

Use the Share Now button to display those files in the selected breakout groups.

The Share Now button is after the list of groups.

Chat with breakout groups

When breakout groups are in progress, each group has its own chat channel and all participants can also see the 'Everyone' channel.

The Everyone and Group channels are separate selections

As a moderator, you can select the everyone chat to send a message to all attendees in their groups. This can be helpful to let participants know how long they have left within the breakout groups, for example.

Ending breakout groups

When the breakout session is finished, ending the breakout groups will return all attendees to the main room.

Select the stop icon from either of the following locations.

In the attendees panel at the top of the menu.

The stop icon is labelled End Breakout Groups

The Share Content menu next to the Breakout Groups item.

The stop icon is labelled End Breakout Groups

A message will be displayed to all participants stating that they are being returned to the main room. Once they rejoin the main room, all previous main room permissions for chat, audio, video, and drawing will apply.

Recommendations for regular use of breakout groups in Collaborate

At present, participants can only be allocated to breakout groups once they have joined the session. This means that creating breakout groups in advance is not possible. When working with breakout groups that need to be the same in different sessions, you may wish to consider the option which allows participants to switch groups themselves. For example, you may wish to randomly assign groups for the first session and ask students to remember which group they are in. On the following session you could allow them to get back into their groups themselves. Some instructions for participants on how to switch groups can be found here: How do attendees switch breakout groups in the virtual classroom?

The setting to allow attendees to switch groups is a tickbox when setting up breakout groups.

The checkbox is one of the last options in the form when setting up breakout groups.

It can also be accessed while breakout groups are in progress.

Go to the Share Content section of the Collaborate panel and select the Breakout Groups option.

The Share Content item is third in the collaborate panel menu.

Tick the checkbox and use the Update button to apply the change.

The checkbox is the first item in the list.

Should you require urgent assistance with NILE, please contact the LearnTech Support Helpdesk via the online contact form