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What will your students be doing in your Zoom class?

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What’s Different about Teaching with Zoom?

Even if you lead an engaging Zoom session with plenty of variety, it's easier for students to get distracted and harder for them to get caught up when they start paying attention again. Do multiple real-time summaries, recapping what you have said and done so far in class. Double (at least) the number of recaps you might do in a physical classroom so people have easy ramps to re-engage.

There are more opportunities for long, awkward silences. Ask for volunteers to speak from the full group sparingly. It tends to be more effective to call on a smaller subset of the class (e.g., “could someone from Learning Team 3” or “someone whose name has an A in it”) to share an example.

Getting Setup for Class

Have backups for everything (e.g., anything being shared through Zoom like videos or slides). You can also distribute Google Drive links and let people click and view items on their own. Assume you will have tech problems. When you do, you will have a backup and when you don’t, stay calm and carry on.

Practice. For example, if you have access to multiple devices (e.g., kids' devices), set up a practice Zoom class. Log each device into your Zoom class as a student and visit each device to see what they are seeing. You can put a family member or household item in the camera frame of each device to give you a visual of what it will look like with students.

During class, login as a student on a separate device (e.g., your phone). Instead of saying "can you see my screen" a million times, just glance at your phone to confirm that they can see what you want them to see.

Open Discussions in Zoom

You may find that at least initially your students need more of a prompt to know when you expect them to jump in with a response.  And then it may take them more time to say something.  If you are asking them to raise their hands, they may be navigating from taking notes to the hand raise button.  You can also ask them to comment in Chat.  You may be surprised by how much more willing some students are to use chat than they were to speak up in class.

Tip: Ask students to generate ideas in the Chat. As they are doing so, acknowledge what you’re seeing and point out themes.

Warm Calling

Ask the entire group a question, then give them a few minutes to think about their answer.  If you ask them to put their responses in the chat, you can scan them to find students you would like to call on to elaborate, or just cold call on a random student and ask for their thoughts.  If they are confused or unable to answer, see if another student can improve on their answer before answering yourself. 

Discussion Groups + Share Out

You can use the "Breakout Rooms" tool in Zoom to create small discussion groups for in-depth conversations about a particular question you pose.  Then bring the groups back to the main session to share with the entire class what they discussed or concluded. Be very clear about how much time each group will have to speak and stick to this time (almost everything seems to take longer in the virtual space).

Consider only having students in these sessions for a short time, say 15 minutes.  After they share out, you can send them back into groups with the next discussion prompt.  Zoom will retain your breakout room structure, but you can also reset the rooms if you want to mix it up.

Tip: Because of pre-planned polling and time in breakout rooms, remote case discussions need to be structured a bit more rigidly than they would in a classroom. It’s advisable to create new teaching notes with rough times for when you will ask certain questions, how long students will spend in breakouts rooms, the amount of time each group has to talk when reporting back, and again, plan for everything to take longer than you think.

Polls in Zoom

Create a poll asking students how they view a particular issue or question and share the poll results with the group before starting your discussion. 

The easiest way to do it on the fly is to ask a Yes/No question aloud and have students click Yes or No under Manage Participants.

If you want questions that have other kinds of answers, go to the Control Panel, click Polls, and then Add a Question.  A browser window will open to allow you to create a poll in the Zoom web interface.  

If you know how you will want to use polls before the class begins, it’s easiest to set them up in advance.
  1. Click on your scheduled meeting in the Zoom web interface.  
  2. At the bottom of the page, you will see where you can create a poll by clicking Add.
Pre-plan as many polls as possible before class. But, don’t be afraid to quickly make a poll on the spot if an interesting question gets raised by a student. When setting up your poll you’ll notice that it can be anonymous. 

When you are in class and ready to give students your poll, click "Polls" in the control panel and then Launch Polling.

Tip: For case discussions, you can leave the poll open and see how answers change (encourage them to do so) on key questions - for example, should company A buy company B?

Note: Students who join through their browsers, rather than the (downloaded and installed) Zoom application, will not see polls.

Taking Attendance

You can see a report of everyone who attended your Zoom class after it has ended. Navigate to "Previous Meetings" in the Zoom tool in your course site and then click "Report". (You may have to wait a little while for it to be generated.) 
Note that if students join your meeting using a meeting link rather than through your course site, the names that appear on the report will be however they have chosen to identify themselves.  If they all join through Brightspace the names and IDs will all come from your roster.


Breakout Rooms

Breakout rooms are a great option for small group discussions and small group work. Click on the "Breakout Rooms" button in your control panel to randomize groups, manually assign people to groups, or have your students self-select (move themselves into) groups. As the instructor, you have the ability to visit groups. You can also broadcast a typed message to all the groups.  

Note: Students who join through their browsers, rather than the (downloaded and installed) Zoom application, cannot participate in breakout rooms.  A workaround is to leave browser users in the main room as a group.  Or you can tell students in advance that they must use a device on which they can install the application. 

(If the video below looks fuzzy, click on the settings cog in the bottom right of the video pane and choose 720HD. The playback quality depends on your internet connection.)

How to use Self-Selected Breakout Rooms

Zoom's self-select breakout room option enables you to create a number of empty breakout rooms and allows your students to select which breakout room they'll join.

Note: To utilize this feature you and your students will need to have updated your Zoom software and be running Zoom version 5.3.0 or later.
Click "Breakout Rooms" from your Zoom toolbar.
  1. Indicate how many rooms you want to create, and select "Let participants choose room."
  2. You'll now see a list of your empty rooms. Click the "Open All Rooms" button to enable students to choose their rooms.
  3. A list of your students will appear and you can watch as they move into their breakout rooms. 
What Happens if a Student Doesn't Join a Breakout Room?

They'll still be with you in the main session. This may occur if a student hasn't updated their Zoom software. You'll still be able to manually assign a student to a room by clicking "Assign to" and choosing a room number. 

What if Someone Goes to the Wrong Room?

You can move them into another room by clicking "Move to" next to their name and choosing the correct room. Alternatively, you can instruct students to move themselves into the correct room. 

Make a copy of our template which you can edit and share with students ahead of class so they know which breakout room to join. It also contains instructions for students on moving themselves into their breakout rooms.


Pre-assigning Breakout Rooms

It is possible to pre-assign breakout rooms, which is especially useful if you want to place students in specific groups during the Zoom meeting. Please note that this feature is unreliable and will not always work, even if you follow the instructions exactly. Click here for instructions on how to pre-assign breakout rooms. 

Recommendations for using Breakout Rooms during class:
  • Breakout rooms can be pre-assigned, but some have found that tricky.  A good alternative is to assign group numbers to students before the meeting and then choose the option to “Let participants choose room”. Students can then move themselves into the room that corresponds with their group number. 
  • Give students a concrete charge/assignment to work on or discuss and a time limit before sending them off.  Visit a room or two quickly if you want to engage them.  Then return to the class and ask someone from each room to summarize what they found. Be very clear about how much time each group will have to speak and stick to this time (almost everything seems to take longer in the virtual space).
  • Use the broadcast function in breakout rooms to remind students of the question or task. In some circumstances it can be valuable to let them discuss one question, then broadcast a logical next question a few minutes later, while keeping them in rooms.
  • Make it a point to visit as many breakout rooms as you can during class, and reference what you heard in those rooms during the debriefing. This lets students know that you’re involved and listening.
  • Sorting students into new breakout rooms at logical points during class can reenergize discussion by allowing students to interact with others -- for example, if you’re doing an exercise in the first half of class and a case in the second half, resorting the break out rooms in the middle can add interest.
  • When budgeting time for breakout rooms, include time for students to reconnect and chat with each other. Explicitly state “when you get to your breakouts, be sure to reconnect with each other and check-in before you get to work”. You think this will cost you time but it will save you time -- go slow to go fast. 


You have a few options to approximate a whiteboard.
  1. Low-tech option: Mirror your camera on Zoom and write on a whiteboard or flipchart that is visible in the video display. Click the up arrow next to the video icon in your Zoom control panel and click "Video Settings". Then check Enable HD for a clearer picture. You may need to change your video mirror settings in Zoom so that the text is legible and move the camera or laptop closer. Watch this video to learn how to mirror your video display.
  2. iPad and Stylus: If you have access to an iPad and stylus you can use blank Powerpoint slides as your whiteboard via Zoom. To use this feature you should connect your iPad to your computer with a cable. Join Zoom as you usually would from your computer. When you click "Share" select iPad via cable. You’ll be prompted to trust the device on your iPad. After that, you should be able to see what you are showing on your iPad on your computer display. Sharing your iPad will work with Apple products (e.g., Macbook to iPad) it may not work with a PC to iPad. This video shows how you can use Zoom in this way with an iPad. 
  3. Graphics Tablet: a good low-cost alternative to an iPad. Watch this video for a step-by-step walkthrough of how to whiteboard with a tablet using the Zoom Whiteboard tool or PowerPoint. The graphics tablet we’re using in this tutorial is the Wacom Intuos S Black CTL4100. We're using the small tablet, but larger sizes are also available. 
  4. Microsoft Surface (or another computer with a touch screen): If you have access to a Surface device you can join your Zoom meeting there. You can use blank Powerpoint slides as your whiteboard via Zoom or select Whiteboard after clicking Share and draw directly on the screen. 

Sharing a Video

If you are screen sharing a video in your Zoom session, follow the following process to make sure your participants can hear the audio. After clicking "Share", find "Optimize Share for Full-screen Video Clip" at the bottom of the share panel and click to enable it. Then, just start playing your video while sharing your screen. 


Virtual Backgrounds

Virtual backgrounds make it so whatever is more than 12 inches behind you cannot be seen (e.g., children, pets, and unmade beds) and offer the opportunity to do some branding, emphasize the theme of your class, and inject some humor.  (Note that they don’t work well with older processors.)

Before a meeting: Sign into the Zoom desktop client, click on your profile picture, and then Settings.  Select Virtual Background.  You will probably see a selection of pre-loaded images.  To add your own, click Add Image and browse your computer for alternatives.

After the meeting has started:  In the Control Panel, click on the caret to the right of the video icon and select "Choose a Virtual Background".  

Recommended are images with a 16:9 aspect ratio and a 1280x720 resolution, but you will be able to see how it looks as you experiment. Search for something like “Zoom backgrounds” and you will find many.  You can also use MP4 and MOV videos as backgrounds.  (If you don’t see that option, make sure your desktop client is up to date.)  

Virtual backgrounds look best when your real background is a solid color and whatever you are wearing isn’t the same color as the image you choose.