Microsoft Teams just got new breakout room controls and better search

Microsoft Teams organizers can now delegate responsibility for breakout rooms to individual presenters.

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The Microsoft Teams collaboration platform will soon gain improved AI-powered text-based search and more controls for presenters when using Teams Breakout Rooms.

Microsoft has spent the last year aligning Teams to users' needs during the pandemic, and is continuing its efforts to refine key features, such as breakout rooms. This feature arrived in December and lets meeting organizers split participants into smaller focus groups for brainstorming. Zoom has a similar feature, and both companies are battling it out on new features and management controls.  

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While meeting organizers already had the ability to create and manage breakouts, Microsoft is adding a new control that allows them to delegate breakout room controls to specific presenters. These presenters become 'managers'. 

Per OnMSFT, Microsoft explained in a Microsoft 365 Admin Center message: "By taking control from Breakout rooms management panel, appointed presenters will be allowed to perform Breakout room operations as manager or meeting organizer, as well as joining Rooms as Breakout Room manager."

The feature is due to roll out globally on the desktop Teams in September, according to the Microsoft 365 roadmap.  

Presenters will be able to add and delete rooms, assign users to rooms, set meeting times, make announcements, recreate rooms and adjust various settings.

This should lighten the load for official Teams organizers, who would previously have to manage meetings that otherwise could be offloaded to presenters, who may need more freedom to organize their own meetings at short notice. It should also be handy for any large organization with a hierarchy of roles with shared responsibilities but different goals and deadlines. 

Microsoft is also working to improve search within Teams via a new search results page, which should roll out globally in November. 

"A new search experience in Teams will make finding messages, people, answers, and files faster and more intuitive," the company says on its roadmap

"A redesigned search results page provides better context and faster results, with AI-powered relevance based on the people and content you engage with most in Teams and other Microsoft 365 services."

For Microsoft 365 Education customers, Microsoft has also enabled the ability for educators to create group assignments. 

This is aimed at teachers who create group assignments among, say, four students, allowing them to mark the students as a group in one go, rather than having to mark each individual separately. This was a popular request, with 1,321 votes on the Teams user feedback pages. Updated details are available on Microsoft's support page for the feature. Teachers still have the option to grade students in a group individually. 

To support ongoing hybrid work arrangements, Microsoft earlier this month acquired eCDN provider Peer5 to strengthen live video streaming in Teams.