Zoom, by far the best web conferencing tool, has been around for quite a while and it is widely used for business, teaching and training purposes. Personally, I am a big fan of Zoom as it is quite user-friendly and functional. In this post, I will offer several tips for not only teaching over Zoom but also for creating social learning opportunities for whoever your audience is. Whether you are a K-12 teacher, a university professor or a corporate trainer delivering online sessions, you will find something for yourself.

First, a little bit of Zoom 101

 All you need to do to use Zoom is to go to www.zoom.us, download the software and register for a free account. Mobile app is also available. You just need to schedule a meeting on your dashboard or instantly start a meeting. It gives you a personal meeting ID which you can share with the meeting participants. All they need to do is to click this meeting link before they join your session.

Zoom allows you to:

  • turn on your camera and audio
  • share your screen
  • message participants using the Chat space
  • create break-out rooms for smaller groups to work in separate rooms
  • start polls
  • share a whiteboard that you and other participants (if allowed) can annotate on
  • enable the waiting room for the participants
  • record your sessions
  • change your background virtually

Making Learning More Social and Interactive

It is sometimes easy to go with “delivery” or “lecturing”. It is almost our first reflexive “teacher” behaviour when we want people to learn something: To pour everything we know into someone else’s brain. Then, we would feel content because we would believe we have shared everything we know, but this does not always guarantee that people learn. I like to use the term “pedagogical distance” here to explain that it is not the physical distance that creates the lack of learning but the pedagogical distance or the lack of social learning and presence – whether it is online or offline – that hinders people from learning effectively.

Especially in a virtual room where you do not necessarily see and feel the other person, you may want to maximise “the social presence” in the room. When you know your tools it becomes easier.

One way of achieving this is to turn on the cameras and audio. No doubt it has a direct impact on closing the pedagogical distance when used appropriately. However, it may not always be practical especially if you are teaching large classes. Here are your alternative ways:

Zoom’s Chat

It is sometimes overlooked or underestimated but the chat function is one of the greatest ways of creating interactivity between people. Here are some ideas:

  • Use the chat for check-in or ice-breaking. E.g “Share in the chat one word describing your day and explain with one sentence why”. Start with yourself,  and read out loud what they are writing simultaneously.
  • Especially if you are delivering information over a number of slides, use the chat every 10 or 15 minutes for small questions to maintain your participants’ attention.

Zoom’s Break-Out Rooms

It is my favourite function of Zoom. You can create break-out rooms and manually or randomly assign a group students to these separate rooms where they can talk via their microphones and can collaborate using the chat or the whiteboard. This is great for discussion, peer-to-peer support as well as breaking up the lecturing time and making more space for engagement and active learning. You can use the break-out rooms for your participants to:

  • solve problems together on the whiteboard
  • work on their group projects
  • have discussions on a topic
  • role-play or practice interviews
  • present to each other

Zoom + Padlet

Padlet, a collaborative online bulletin board, can be a great complimentary to Zoom when you want people to brainstorm or organise their ideas as a group. Like Zoom, you just create your board and share the link with other participants without being registered. The participants can double-click anywhere on the board and post their notes with their names as well as attaching images or links to them.

Some ideas for Padlet:

  • Brainstorm on a topic individually or as a group
  • Gather their feedback on a topic or reflections on the session
  • Ask them to create a mind map
  • Collect their prior knowledge about the topic of discussion before you start delivering the lecture
  • Ask them to take notes while listening to the teacher. Great for collective knowledge-building

Zoom + Google Docs

Google Docs, one of the applications in the Google Drive, is an online collaborative document to which anyone with the link can contribute with text, images or links. One way to use Google Docs during Zoom sessions is to use it to replace your slide deck. You can design your doc in such a way that it includes all the information (with visuals) you want to deliver, all the supplementary links and the spaces where all learners can contribute with their ideas. At the end of the session, what you will have is one beautiful document where everyone has their input and built knowledge together.

Zoom + Wooclap

Wooclap is an interactive platform used for collecting immediate answers to your questions. You create your questions in 15 different formats like multiple choice, numerical, value, open-ended, word cloud, poll etc. Then, you launch your question by sharing your screen and invite other people to connect to the URL via their smartphones. It is also possible to connect to it via QR code. Once they answer your question, all the answers are displayed on the screen real-time. It creates great opportunities for engagement and interactivity. Wooclap can be great for:

  • sparking discussions
  • getting quick feedback from learners
  • letting shy participants express themselves more comfortably
  • summarising learning as an exit ticket

Do you have further ideas? How do you make your online classes more interactive and engaging? Share in the comments.

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