Updated on 04/05/2020
During the coronavirus pandemic happening around the world recently, shelter-in-place orders around the nation have been placed. Many schools have closed, and people are now working from home. Many people and organizations, especially schools, have moved to online learning through different meeting platforms. In particular, the Zoom platform has been a popular choice for many educational institutions to continue online learning. This post is dedicated to giving a quick summary of Zoom and its powerful features to facilitate meetings and online learning. Personally, I am currently using Zoom for college and also for teaching at my youth group.
I highly recommend to download the App version of Zoom instead of using the Website browser version of Zoom because the App version lets you do additional things such as video recording / change your webcam background image, etc.
- Video conferencing with microphone and text chat capability
- You can join meetings using your computer, mobile device, iPad, etc. Because of the multiple devices that you can enter Zoom meetings with, this makes meetings very accessible to everyone.
- You can set up passwords for your meetings to prevent uninvited guests from entering. (*Highly recommended)
- Screen Share –
- Able to capture individual windows, or your entire desktop screen.
- Video recording – MP4 format
- Free plan can only save to local desktop (cannot save to the Zoom Cloud)
- Paid plan can save to both desktop and the Zoom Cloud
- Max # of Participants –
- Free plan – Up to 100 participants
- Paid plan – Up to 300 or 500 (depends on your plan)
- Meeting time limits –
- Free plan – 40 minutes
- Paid plan – Unlimited
For more information about the features that Zoom has and for a comparison between the free plan and the paid plans, please see the link below.
NOTE – If you are a student or in the workforce that uses Zoom, then it is very likely that you have the paid plan.
Above is an example of what a typical meeting layout looks like on Zoom. The bottom contains your options, such as invitations, seeing the participants, screen sharing, text chat, video recording, breakout rooms, and reactions from the participants (clap / thumbs up). The bottom left contains your microphone / speakers options and the settings for your webcam. The top right contains the participants and the bottom right contains the text chat.
Screen sharing will occupy the entire screen. From my classes and from teaching at my youth group, the students have generally been able to see the presenter’s screen without any problems regarding the quality.
The sound and video quality depends upon your internet connection and the other person’s internet connection. Generally, I have found that both sound and video qualities are decent ~ good. Sometimes some sounds or video screen sharing presentation slides may freeze up, but that’s just the common problem with any type of video conferencing platform that we just need to live with. Also, the screen share is a bit laggy so trying to screen share videos on Youtube etc. will display some constant lagging. This is a common problem we have to live with for any screen sharing feature.
The meeting host has many options on how to set up the meeting settings, such as setting a meeting password (highly recommended), allowing only certain people to be unmuted / turn on webcams / screenshare, remote control (allows you to control the shared content, such as moving through the Powerpoint presentation), etc.
One of the most common problems with Zoom and with any other video conferencing platform is that people sometimes forget to mute themselves, which captures unnecessary audio and can be disruptive to the lesson. The meeting host can kindly ask everyone to mute themselves manually, or the meeting host can set up the meeting settings to automatically mute everyone that enters the room.
As of April 2, 2020, the attendee attention tracker feature has been removed. (This basically lets the meeting host know who is AFK-ing and not “present” during the meeting / lecture.) I have seen that many people found this feature to be rather concerning, especially students. But now it’s gone. See the following link below on the official announcement.
So what if I only have the free plan but I need more than 40 minutes for my meeting?
- Have someone else who has the paid plan create the meeting room for you so that you will have the benefit of the unlimited meeting time limit. (*Highly recommended, especially during the coronavirus situation, many people should have a paid plan provided by their school or work).
- Create 2 separate meeting rooms and have everyone move to the 2nd room after 40 minutes. (*Not recommended due to the inconvenience)
Group Discussions – Breakout Rooms
One of the amazing things that Zoom does a great job at is making smaller group discussions possible and easy to do, especially when you’re teaching a class of a typical class size – 20+ people. This can be done through the Breakout Rooms feature.
Breakout rooms are basically “private” rooms within the overall meeting room in which the host manually or automatically places the participants in smaller groups where they can have their small group discussions through voice chat or text chat. Once the smaller group discussions in the breakout rooms are complete, everyone can exit the breakout room and be returned to the overall meeting room to continue the overall meeting. The meeting host can enter each individual room to check up on the smaller groups to see if they have any questions etc.
If your in-person class involves a lot of group discussions, then Zoom makes it possible for you to continue these group discussions.
For more information about the breakout rooms feature and how to set these up, please see the following YouTube link for a tutorial.
Something I really like about Zoom is that it supports video recording (to the Zoom Cloud and to your local desktop). If you have the paid plan, then you can save to the Zoom Cloud, you would just need to navigate around the Zoom website to view the recordings and then copy and paste the link to share to the class so they can view the recording on their own time. People will also be able to download the file of the recordings to their computers as well. If you save to your local desktop (free & paid plan), then you will need to upload the video somewhere (Youtube, Google Drive, etc.) to share it with others.
I think video recording lessons and lectures is very beneficial to everyone, people can reference back to the recording to review course material to clarify anything they missed, and the presenters themselves can review the recording to see what they can improve upon for the next time (such as “Am I stuttering too much?”, “How’s my sound quality?”, etc.)
Supplementing Lesson Content Through Screen Sharing
Screen sharing is pretty self explanatory. Share a particular window, or share your entire desktop.
From a teaching perspective, we have recently supplemented the lesson content by screen sharing other websites such as Menti and Quizizz. The meeting host would display the access codes to enter the customized Menti and Quizizz information to the participants to access.
The meeting host can screen share to show what the host’s display looks like, which would display all the participants’ answers to the questions on Menti / Quizizz and the participants’ live progression through the quiz. After the participants complete the quizzes, the meeting host can continue the lesson and review the quiz answers, etc.
Menti and Quizizz are very interactive and engaging to the participants, and I personally think these websites really add to the quality of the lesson content through the Zoom screen sharing feature. See below for links to Menti and Quizizz.