Breakout Rooms?

Hi there. I’m looking into building a webconferencing platform for online math classes and having breakout rooms is a “gotta have”.

Is this something jitsi can do now, or will be able to do in the near future? Or if there’s even just a way to “port” the audio/video/screensharing from certain users to other users, that is something that we could probably work with.

Thanks!

1 Like

What is a “breakout room”

If there are 15 participants in a room, and there needs to be a “breakout”, could 5 participants go to one new room, and 5 participants to another new room, and then, the breakout is over, they all go back to the original room?

1 Like

No - Jitsi doesn’t have this functionality. For larger groups and/or a more frontal teaching with optional breakout rooms I highly recomend using a specialized tool like OpenMeetings or BigBlueButton. While you might be able to tweak Jitsi to be used in such ways you soon start fighting the system. Just my 0.2$ …

Like @Neil_Brown said, every room can be a breakout room… You just sent the students into specific rooms and tell them to come back if they have questions or the time is over… It’s literally built in to have as many rooms as you want. It might not have a fancy ‘create breakout rooms’ button yet, but the functionality is there.

It might get a little more tricky depending on the authorization method you choose for your participants and who’s able to create new rooms.

Having said that, as a feature request - I think it would be great if there was an optional button in the UI to create ‘breakout rooms’ - How does the Breakout Rooms-feature work in Zoom, BigBlueButton or OpenMeetings?

1 Like

@Neil_Brown and @elgigi : I would need to create my own UI and I’m imagining something like this…

image

Where students would be moved (or possibly could move themselves) into their own room. So, were you saying that, when it’s breakout room time, the students would actually be put into a separate room/meeting/session, but it would appear that they’re in their own work space within the current session?

No, right now, it would appear that they were in a different room, just as if they were in a physically separate classroom.

You’re “no” is based on Jitsi’s current UI though, right?

Maybe something like this would work…

  • Have each room as an < iframe > within the main meeting room window. Each breakout room would basically be in its own session as far as Jitsi was concerned
  • If someone “moves into that room” (in my UI), they would be added to the “session” going on in that room/< iframe >.

I think this is the kind of thing @elgigi was describing. Please let me know if this kind of thing is possible.

Thanks!

1 Like

Yes.

Could my proposed workflow work though?

I didn’t think of it that way, but it could work. If you work with a JS framework you could make the iframes load/unload whenever you want to break out/come back. Let us know how it’s going.

@elgigi: Cool. If this project goes, it will probably take about a year, and I’ll likely be back here for help! :grinning: BTW, did you have another way to do it in mind?

As we probably all have spent significant time in online meetings the last few weeks, I have some comments and ideas around breakout rooms. They would seem to be useful in general, not just for classes.

I have some experience using Zoom with large groups and this is relevant here. Zoom’s breakout rooms have a lot of inconveniences.

Some thoughts and ideas of how to deal with large meetings and breakout rooms:

  • Breakout rooms should be sub-sets of a meeting, not separate meetings all together.

  • People should be able to move from one room to another.

  • There should be a way to chat to all or just the breakout room you are in.

  • There should be a way to “broadcast” to all the rooms, for example if you are the current lecturer/teacher/host and you want to say something to everyone.

  • When you are in a breakout room and there’s other breakout rooms, the video from the other rooms could be shown as thumbnails grouped together such that multiple breakout rooms are apparent and who’s in which one was clear. Could be in a tab which could be closed.

  • You should be able to click on a room (the thumbnails) and quickly and easily join it.

  • It would be nice to be able to invite a subset of participants into a breakout room to like leaning over and chatting to someone in a real room.

  • Similarly it should be possible to request someone in another breakout room to join your room.

  • There needs to be a way to corral or pull people back into the main room.

  • In a large gathering, it’s impossible for multiple people to have more than one conversation at once. For example, in a large group where one person wants to ask another person something and they are not comfortable using the text chat feature. Think of using Jitsi for a shared remote dinner party. Very common with people who can’t touch-type or are non-technical. I have this idea of wanting to select someone (or maybe multi-select a subset of participants) and then talk to them briefly which attenuates the rest of the meeting for them while focusing them momentarily on me (“push-to-over-talk”?). Very much like as if you spoke to the person sitting next to you in a room full of people. This isn’t a breakout room. This is like a quick way to have a side meeting within a meeting without leaving the meeting. You can say it’s rude but it always happens! When you have a large meeting, raising your hand to stop the meeting just to say something to someone else doesn’t work. (Discuss this on the ‘Taking somebody aside’ thread).

I’d just like to see people talk about breakout rooms and how they might work before someone goes off and implements this. I am sure there’s some great ideas here with our shared experiences!

8 Likes

I like a lot of what @mgrant just said! I wouldn’t personally need all of that, but it’s good big picture thinking and conceptualizing of use cases.

Greetings all,

I just discovered Jitsi and would be interested in this feature as well. Probably more a question for developers, but does anyone know if this might be possible to implement with the embed API; or would the full API library be needed for such functionality?

Hi @gtilflm and @mgrant , I am building a platform to enable virtual events to have virtual networking experience on top of Jitsi for their participants.

The concept is that you have a presentation happening and people can create conversations with each other to network and meet. Currently we allow participants to create conversations with others and to join other conversations that are happening, like in real life networking events. We will have also the possibility to create breakout rooms, by each participant or by the organizers probably by next week.

@gtilflm, currently we are tackling more virtual events, but we can clearly see it working for virtual classrooms where you could see each student’s group, join them, and have exactly what you said.

Feel free to contact me if you want to know more, or simply try it: https://veertly.com

I tried it, very nice work indeed some bugs on the sharing but it’s minimal.
Just one thing the networking area is intended for one to one meetings and a breakout room is for a subset of the attendent meeting not only one-to-one.
Would it be possible to add that feature?

1 Like

Interesting! I think you’re using the exact idea I had, which was to have each breakout room be “displayed” on the main page via <iframe>. So the breakout room would be technically it’s own session, but still feel part of the main room area.

Is that your structure?

During many videoconferences, I thought about a similar concept as @mgrant .

In bigger groups, a “freetime meeting” is very inconvenient, because in videoconferences, only one person can speak at the same time, where in real-world Situations, you often just talk to a small group of people while hearing the others talking in the background and seeing them in groups. After a while you look around in the room and walk over to a different group.

My thougt would be an interface, where you can drag your own video frame across the screen. By doing that, the software would automatically adjust the output volume of the others depending on the distance between your video frame and theirs. In this way, there would be no static breakout rooms. Instead, there would be dynamically created spots, where some people talk in sub-groups to each other.

Mabe, it would be not that complex to implement. You would have to tweak the user interface for dragging your video frame and auto-adjusting the volumes of the others. And you would have to synchronize the coordinates of each videoframe with the others in some way.

Possibly that feature would not be just interesting for “freetime meetings” but also for business meetings. While normally just one person speeks at the same time during a meeting, mabe some breaks for smalltalk or some thoughts about the meeting in smaller groups would create a more natural, personal athmosphere and allow for networking.

@Julius_Muller I’m not convinced drag-and-drop is the best way of selecting people to talk directly to. For me, dragging and dropping involves too many small, even micro fine motor movements to be done quickly. I’d much prefer simply clicking on or mouse down on someone’s image. But I can imagine if you create a small sub-group, you could drag thumbnails of images to such a group like a file to a folder and then say click on that “folder” like push-to-talk to that group momentarily. Or enter that “folder” and you’re essentially in a room with the larger meeting attenuated or muted.

Once you say something to another participant (or subset of participants), they too need to have this “folder” of participants created on their end.

If you have more than one of these “folders” or side-rooms active, it’s going to be really difficult to know who just asked you something in which side-room. Even more difficult to deal with if there’s chatter going on in multiple side-rooms at once.

To do this cleanly in such a way that it’s usable is not so easy in my opinion. It can’t be complicated to use or very few people will use it.

Trying to think this through a bit more. Let’s say you create a room by whatever UX necessary. It could be drag-n-drop, it could be selecting participants from a drop-down. For the moment, let’s not worry about that. You have a main meeting which people are in and you manage to create a sub room like a folder of participants.

Let’s say you enter that room/folder, either momentarily by holding down the mouse, double-clicking it, dragging your image to it…whatever, but you are somehow in this sub room. Even though others are in the room, their images could be shown as grayed out or faded in some way to indicate that you don’t currently have their attention. You could then cause some action to ask them to join you in the sub-room, either momentarily by them holding down the mouse on the room or double-clicking or dragging them selves there. When they are in the room, the outside meeting is attenuated (or could be attenuated with someone in the sub-room is talking?)

I’m starting to wonder if a pull-someone-aside feature (like push-to-over-talk) is a separate (though related) idea from better breakout rooms. A push-to-over-talk could be done as a very simple 1-to-1 way to quickly say something to one other person. Want to say it to two people? Maybe you’ll have to repeat yourself or go to the trouble of somehow multi-selecting 2 people with ctrl-click and then hold the mouse down.

I made breakout rooms for my LMS. It’s really not that hard if you have usernames and IDs anyway, and a socket.io server controlling each user’s API. The approach I took for the form was when a user is clicked, they disappear from the forms for the other break out rooms.

Then I found BigBlueButton and haven’t used Jitsi since. All my coding for breakout rooms in Jitsi was used for about a week.

If the API had the ability to set dominant speaker, I would probably make a website with all of these advanced features wrapped around the public Jitsi servers. But it doesn’t, so the moderator thing is always going to be an issue, so there’s no point. You can only solve the moderator problem with if you host Jitsi yourself.