COVID-19 has turned the real world and the online world upside down. Not so long ago, most people had never heard about Zoom, and now we’re up to Zoom 5.3 and we can’t imagine a world without Zoom.

For the few of us who were working with it before, it was a second-tier tool, and when they released version updates, we honestly didn’t pay much attention. Lately, I not only see Zoom in my dreams, but every time they make a change or release an update, it becomes the centre of my day. Mind you, these changes are usually dull (sometimes necessary) bug fixes, technical or privacy changes, or new default configurations.

But this time is different. The Zoom 5.3 desktop brings a few new features, one of which has exciting learning and teaching potential.

Self-select break out rooms 

Breakout rooms are one of Zoom’s most popular features, but let’s face it, they also create the most headaches. The latest Zoom app brings some new functionality into this feature, that will make group activities easier to set up, and more versatile. 

Previously, the meeting host had to assign a participant to a Breakout Room. Now, when the Self-Select Breakout Rooms option is enabled by the host (and when the host and participants are on  Zoom 5.3.0 or later), participants can move freely between Breakout Rooms without needing the host’s help.


This feature creates new options for your class.  Here are two easy examples: 

Let’s say you usually split your students into the same pre-assigned working groups. In the past, you would have to either use the pre-assign function or do it manually each time. Now, saving precious time, you only need to create the rooms and each student can self-select the group they are a part of. 

Another potential use can be to create topic rooms. Maybe you have several industry partners presenting at the same. Or perhaps just several discussion topics for students to choose from. Now you can create rooms based on these topics or presenters, and students can select which one they want to participate in and move to another group when they are ready. 

Clearly, these are just two user cases for this feature. We encourage you to plan in advance for how you would like to use it. 

Multi-pin and multi-spotlight

There’s a couple of other cool features like multi-pin where participants can “pin” to nine users on your screen. Or Multi-spotlight, where host can also ‘spotlight’ up to nine participants for everyone in their meeting so participants can view more than one speaker at a once.

This is great if you’re doing an interview with a guest speaker, or if your session includes an Auslan interpreter.

Get help with Zoom 5.3

Check out our Zoom resources

Get in touch with the LX.lab

Contact the LX.lab for help with Zoom updates. If you’re thinking about using the new features or have any experience with them, leave a comment and let us know about it.

Feature image by Chris Montgomery.

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