Zoom: Teach Online Class Sessions
Synchronous class sessions, in which everyone logs in to a web conferencing system at a pre-scheduled time, are one way to create engagement and foster community in your fully online courses. In a synchronous session, you use a web-conferencing software and invite all your students to join in at a pre-scheduled time.
The University's web conferencing software is Zoom, and you can use it to host online class sessions. Zoom can be used on laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones, and even desk phones, giving students many ways to access the class session.
In this article:
- Preparing for your synchronous meeting
- Encouraging a sense of community
- Addressing technical issues
- Setting an agenda
- Engaging students
- Writing course description and syllabus language
- Recording and privacy considerations
- Presenting accessibly
Prepare for your Zoom session
Zoom was designed to be intuitive. Still, it will work best if you make some key decisions and develop Zoom fluency before inviting students into an online meeting. Here are a few ways to prepare for your course:
Choose the best session format
Zoom offers webinars and meetings. Both formats allow you to interact with students, but they have some differences. Use the Zoom flowchart or meeting/webinar comparison chart to select the format that works best for you.
Set up your hardware
It is possible to conduct an online class session with nothing more than a screen and a microphone. Learn more about the recommended hardware for Zoom meetings, and gather any additional hardware that will make your experience great.
Install the correct software
Installing the desktop version of Zoom will give you the best results and functionality when hosting a meeting. Coach your students to install it as well.
Students who plan to join Zoom meetings from a mobile device should also download the Zoom mobile app.
Learn more about Zoom
- Get to know your host controls
- Sign up for training (30-minute sessions about meetings, webinars, and more)
- Use a self-help guide: Teach, Meet, and Learn with Zoom (basic)
- Use a self-help guide: Set Up, Support, and Present with Zoom (advanced)
- Watch more video tutorials
Schedule Zoom meetings
You can schedule Zoom meetings in a few different ways:
- From within the Zoom interface
- From within Google calendar invites
- You can provide links to the Zoom virtual meeting room in your Canvas site.
- By 2020, you’ll also be able to schedule Zoom meetings right within Canvas and directly from a video conferencing-enabled room.
Learn more about scheduling Zoom meetings
For recurring meetings, we suggest scheduling a recurring meeting calendar event, so students can use the same link to join the meeting each time.
Regardless of how you choose to schedule a meeting, remember to share the Join link! A Join link is how students will join the virtual online meeting space. Learn how to invite students to meetings.
Coach for netiquette
You may need to coach your students on basic online meeting etiquette. In sum:
- ask people to turn on their cameras
- look at the camera in order to make eye contact when they’re talking
- mute their mics when they aren’t contributing
Plan roles for students: don't host alone
You’ll have a less stressful classroom management experience if you deputize one of your students to certain aspects of managing the online space. Consider asking one TA or student to monitor the chat and one to help their peers deal with technology issues. You can also formally designate co-hosts or panelists. That way, you can focus on teaching, and you’ll give students some extra digital skills practice.
Encourage a sense of community
The sense of community presence will be enhanced when everyone shows their face via their web cam. Consider requiring students to show their face as a key part of participation, and coach students on how to toggle to the Gallery view (which emulates the “Brady Bunch” view where everyone is able to look at each other at the same time - up to 25 students at a time can be seen in Gallery view!)
Students also are more likely to pay attention (rather than zone out) if they know they’re on camera.
If you are planning on doing lots of screen-sharing or annotating, choose the video layout that works best for your learners and you.
Prepare for technical issues
The 3 most common technical issues with any web conferencing software are:
- Participants can’t see
- Participants can’t hear
- Background noise & mic feedback
Learn how to fix these issues (click Troubleshoot Audio and Troubleshoot Video under “During the event”)
A recommended best practice involves hosting a low-stakes introductory online meeting experience, whose sole purpose is to have everyone log on, troubleshoot technical issues, and get used to the Zoom interface.
Plan for a synchronous course session just as you would plan for an onground class. Here is a sample agenda for a 60-minute synchronous course session - share your agenda with students ahead of time, so they know what to expect:
|5 min||Intro: Whiteboard activity||On entry into the virtual classroom, have students think about a question and write their contribution on the whiteboard.||Launch a whiteboard at start of class so it’s the first thing students see, and add visible instructions.|
|2 min||Poll||Use the polling tool to ask a question that engages and determines personal relevance for the topic of the mini-lecture.||Set up the poll question in advance.|
|10 min||Mini-lecture||Share screen, launch PowerPoint, and deliver mini-lecture. Use Annotation features in Zoom to mark up your PowerPoint slides.||Learn about screen-sharing a PowerPoint presentation.|
Have the PowerPoint file launched already so you can get to it seamlessly.
Practice annotating slides in advance to add visual interactivity.
|2 min||Poll||Ask 1 or more questions for understanding.||Set up the poll question in advance.|
|10 min||Breakout Room Activity||Assign students into individual breakout rooms, discuss for 10 minutes, and create a collaborative Google doc (which you will then collect in the Canvas site).||Practice hosting breakout rooms, both manual and machine-assigned.|
|10 min||Debrief||Ask each group to appoint a representative to summarize the main points of their discussion. Post these in the chat field, which you then read.||Ask a TA or student to monitor the chat field for you, and bring the most relevant points to the fore. Consider assigning that person co-host privileges.|
|2 min||Chat: Muddiest Point||Ask students to contribute to chat where they are still confused.|
|5 min||Debrief||Clear up misconceptions that were unearthed in the muddiest point chat.|
|5 min||Closing||Summarize the activity of the session, set up expectations for follow-up activities, and dismiss.|
You may choose to:
Engaging Students: Whiteboard, Screen Annotation, Polling, Chat, and Breakout Sessions
No one wants to sit through a straight lecture session for 60 minutes, and in fact, such a class session design doesn’t leverage the fact that you have all your students there and present. You can use the features of Zoom to guide different types of interactive activities. These activities offer variety to break up a long class session, and they offer different means of expression, a universal design principle.
Draw on the whiteboard, or ask students to contribute to a whiteboard as a means of engaging them differently in the discussion.
Note: whiteboard activity is completely inaccessible to people who use screen readers. If you use this feature, be prepared to read aloud all the contributions so that everyone can see and /or hear them. And, you’ll need to take a screenshot of each whiteboard if you want to save it.
Zoom has basic annotation tools (text box, free form draw/pen, shapes, and highlighter) that you can use to guide students around a visual display (such as a website) or explain a concept. Access these from the Share Desktop function.
Note: screen annotations are not accessible for screen reader users. If you use this feature, be sure to use accessible presentation best practices: say exactly what you’re doing while you’re doing it, e.g., “I’m drawing a big red circle around the login button on this web page.”
Set up polls in advance and launch them at specific times during your class session, the same way you’d use clicker questions to introduce a new section of a lecture.
Chat as Backchannel
Backchanneling refers to having a synchronous conversation while something else is happening. For example, people sometimes live-tweet their reactions to a presidential debate as it is being broadcast. Using the chat tool as a backchannel can give students agency and encourage engagement by allowing more students to interact with the live activity, rather than just listening.
Some uses of backchannel:
- Emulate live-tweeting of guest lectures as a way to collect questions, which you then answer at the end of the session. Elect 1 student to monitor the chat and curate questions as they come in.
- Host a virtual fishbowl, in which a small group of students interact around solving a problem or discussing an issue. The other students react to their classmates’ contributions via the chat backchannel.
- During your lectures, encourage students to log questions as small groups and elect 1 student to bring them forward for group conversation.
- Backchannel activities can be overwhelming for some students, and are thus an accessibility concern. Therefore, it is recommended you offer this type of interaction as an option for students who thrive on this level of stimulation, but do not require it from all students.
- Backchannel can also be overwhelming for you to monitor while you’re also trying to teach. Consider deputizing a student or TA to monitor the chat if you use this feature, to make it easier for you to focus on teaching.
- You can download the full chat history at the end of class, if you want to keep this record.
You can use Zoom’s breakout rooms functionality to have students do group work. As the instructor, you can "travel" from one breakout room to the next, broadcast messages to various rooms, and end the breakout sessions when it is time to regroup.
Write your course description and syllabus language: synchronous participation required
Your course description in ECAS should make it clear that the online course includes both synchronous and asynchronous participation. (By default, most students assume that online courses are self-paced and asynchronous.)
If you plan to require synchronous meetings, your syllabus should include mention of these up front so students can plan ahead. In addition, consider mentioning:
- What students should do if they need to miss a synchronous session
- Devices and other technology considerations they’ll need for participation (webcam, headphones, adequate Internet bandwidth)
- Note: Lenovo device users will have additional steps to take in order to enable Zoom's video features
- Expectations for participation
- How many meetings are students expected to attend in order to receive course credit?
- What are your expectations for student participation through chat, annotations, and out-loud contributions?
- Where should students be when attending this class? For example, if you expect students to participate out loud frequently, then they should be in a location where speaking up periodically will not disrupt anyone else’s work.
Recording & Privacy
If you plan to record the classroom session:
- Let students know you’re going to record the session.
- If you plan to post it as a lasting resource, host only on Kaltura Mediaspace (not YouTube, where links can be shared publicly).
- Offer students the option to mute their video during the recording.
- If you or your students are in the Health Care Component (HCC - meaning, anyone with a BAA or BAA+ account), there may be some restrictions around your ability to record Zoom sessions. Learn more about recording Zoom meetings and webinars
Accessible Online Presentations
If you have someone designated to take notes (an accessibility best practice), you can enable closed captions, which allows your notetaker to transcribe what’s being said in real time.
Don’t assume that all students can see or make the same sense of your visual display as you intend. For accessibility, get in the habit of describing whatever is happening visually on the screen. If you are showing a picture of bunnies while talking about animal testing, say, “Here is a picture of bunnies, which are often used as the subject of animal testing particularly in the cosmetics industry.”
By the same token, get in the habit of being verbally explicit, especially while walking students through a screen demonstration. Because students use different devices, we recommend against using directional language in this context. It's better to say "the arrow-shaped icon that says Share; it's between Polling and Chat".
And remember that students access the Zoom interface from different kinds of devices, including mobile phones, tablets and laptops, so your verbal descriptions should account for those differences.