Zoom for online teaching

The University of Sussex has now acquired an institutional licence for Zoom, making it available for all staff and students at Sussex. For staff using Zoom for teaching there are online guides and links to support webinars on the Teaching Online Learning Anywhere site. 

What is Zoom and how can it be used for teaching?

Zoom is a video conferencing tool which can be used to run online meetings where you can share video, audio and/or your screen with others. When used in a teaching context you can also allow students to type questions, run polls and split students into smaller groups for group discussions. 

While it is not possible to meet in person Zoom can be useful for discussion or presentation based sessions with groups of students, one-to-one meetings, tutorials and/or office hours or recording content with guest speakers.

Zoom sessions can now be as long as you want, but are limited to 300 participants. Before using Zoom in your teaching there are some important things to consider:

  • Students who do not have access to high-speed internet may have problems participating in Zoom sessions.
  • Ensure the session is being delivered in a quiet space with good lighting, a well positioned webcam and a good quality headset or microphone.
  • Any collaborative documents/tools to be used during the session should be prepared and tested in advance.
  • Introduce yourself at the start of each session, test your audio and check students are able to hear you before commencing.
  • Provide clear guidance on how students may participate, for example by asking questions using the text chat facility.
  • Regular pauses should be incorporated into the delivery to allow time to respond to student comments or questions.

Is Zoom always the best choice?

Zoom provides you with a tool for synchronous teaching, however you can run asynchronous sessions too. Canvas Discussions, pre-recorded content using Panopto or collaborative documents would be good options and would be less reliant on students having fast internet connections and all being available at the same time. As many students will have other calls on their time, or may be in other time zones this is important to consider.

If you plan to facilitate real-time seminars online (irrespective of the tool used) students should be informed in advance that participation assumes consent to the sharing and recording of participant input. 

Where can I learn how to use Zoom for teaching?

There is detailed guidance on using Zoom (videos and PDFs) on the Teaching Online Learning Anywhere site. TEL are also running webinars to introduce you to teaching online with Zoom. University of Sussex staff can register for a session via the Training Opportunities link on the Teaching Online Learning Anywhere site. Zoom also provide a range of useful video tutorials

How can I make my Zoom sessions more interactive?

If you are using Zoom for a seminar-like session you don’t want it to be a one-way teacher-centred session. If you only want to present to students, then making a Panopto recording will be a better option.

Within Zoom you can use Polls to add interactivity and increase engagement. These could be used to gather student opinions or gauge understanding of concepts with multiple choice / multiple response questions. Although you can create a poll ‘on the fly’ during a Zoom meeting you will probably want to set them up in advance. You can do this within any meeting scheduled via Canvas by importing a CSV (a template is provided).

You can also use Breakout rooms to get students working together in small groups just as you might in a face-to-face session. You can manually assign groups or Zoom can automatically make groups for you. As a teacher you can ‘visit’ the breakout rooms and students can ‘invite’ you if they want to ask for help. You may want to refer students to the Zoom guidance on Participating in breakout rooms to help them use this functionality.

Accessibility

Wherever and however teaching is taking place you need to ensure that materials and activities are accessible. If you have particular students who you know have accessibility needs then it is always a good idea to speak to them about what is needed to allow them to participate. 

As well as the accessibility features built into Zoom you can assign someone to make live captions if needed and/or you can upload a recording of a Zoom meeting to Panopto and generate the automatic captions.

Where can I get help with teaching online?

There are lots of great resources for University of Sussex staff on the Teaching Online Learning Anywhere site. 

Members of the Technology Enhanced Learning team are working remotely but will be happy to respond to queries and help you find the best options for you and your students. You can contact the team via tel@sussex.ac.uk

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