Teaching with Zoom? Here are a few tips from TLi

Thank you to our Learning Design Lead, Megan Eberhardt-Alstot, for contributing to this post.

In the time since emergency remote instruction, many instructors still find themselves teaching in Zoom. Teaching and Learning Innovations has compiled a few tips and resources to get you started, and we encourage you to meet with us if you would like a more customized consultation for your course or teaching approach.

Prepare your non-Zoom space to communicate with students.

Canvas/CI Learn can be a powerful tool for communicating some implicit aspects of your class because students can access it asynchronously between class sessions. Organized well, you can communicate with students what they need to prepare for the class session, what materials or resources they will access during class, and what engagement or follow-up actions they should take after class. 

Example of an Module organized in Canvas, full description in the text below the image.
Course Module organization example in Canvas/CI Learn

In one example, the screenshot above shows the module organization for a synchronous Zoom session, including preparation for the session, a link to a Session Agenda Google Doc, an assignment following the session, and a signpost to indicate that the elements for the week are complete. However you organize your course, keeping the structure fairly consistent can help students know what to expect and set themselves up for success.

You can even schedule your synchronous class sessions and office hours through the Canvas-Zoom integration. Students can easily join sessions by clicking on Zoom from the course menu or through the course calendar. If you use the Zoom-ShareStream integration, your cloud-recorded Zoom sessions will automatically be transferred into the course’s Sharestream collection, saving storage space and time; since it’s already integrated into Canvas, you can easily embed them in your course.

Have a session agenda that is shared with students.

When you teach with Zoom, you can paste the link to a session agenda in the Zoom chat so that students can quickly access materials or resources you wish to use during the session. The agenda can include direct links to resources they will need to participate in the session. This will shorten the delay that might happen when you paste links in the chat one by one or when students need to navigate to web spaces during the session. If you have engagement activities during the Zoom session, like breakout rooms for smaller groups, your agenda can house direct links for “Group 1,” “Group 2,” etc. The session agenda is also a great place to house directions students will need to complete their work in breakout rooms (e.g., discussion prompt, multi-step activity, etc.). This way, directions don’t disappear once students leave the main room because they will have them already. Here is a link to an example Session Agenda (some links on this document direct students to the Canvas course or other protected materials, so viewers may not have access).  

Start the class with a quick Zoom activity.

Most students are not taking classes primarily held in Zoom, so you can build the type of engagement you hope to have with them right from the start of class. For example, if you would like them to use the Zoom reactions to show their understanding during a lesson, you can begin the Zoom session with a quick game of “Would you rather?” using the Zoom reactions for choosing choice A over choice B. You can start the session with a social-emotional check-in (e.g., How are you doing today?) and invite them to paste a link to a Giphy in the chat. Then, select and share a few on-screen with the class. Opening class with some music to set the mood can also get things started on a positive note. TLi’s Learning Design Lead, Megan Eberhardt-Alstot, shares a simple Google slide deck with warm-up activities for Zoom. 

Make use of session preparation.

If you assign reading or writing in advance of the Zoom session, be sure to make use of that preparation during class. For example, you can share instructions for what students will be doing with that material (e.g., a class discussion, an application activity, etc.). Give them five minutes to review the material or their notes, and then send them to breakout rooms to discuss their initial thinking. Return to the main room for a full group debrief, and then engage in the activity or assessment you had prepared. Here is an example of a discussion protocol that uses reading preparation for class. 

Make use of the Zoom chat.

One revelation of emergency remote instruction was the participatory power of the Zoom chat. Students who were typically quiet during in-class discussions would contribute more willingly in chat text. Associate Professor of Management at CSUCI, Maria Ballesteros-Sola, wrote an excellent blog post about her use of Zoom chat and reactions for an interactive experience during the class session. 

Be aware of privacy considerations, accessibility, and CSU policies.

  • CSU Guidance on recording class sessions (KB article) – In short, if you plan to record a class session, it must be done with user permission and posted only in a password-protected space, like Canvas, for student use. Delete after the term ends. The recordings cannot be shared or reused if student names or faces are included. 
  • Ethical considerations about cameras on/off
  • CSUCI Zoom maintenance – Zoom recordings older than one-year-old will be deleted from Zoom cloud storage during annual maintenance in June of each year. You have many options for storing these recordings elsewhere so you continue to have access. 
  • Consider having a plan in place for students who experience connectivity issues and are not able to attend the synchronous session.
  • Be mindful of the ways in which students will access your Zoom session and what steps you will take to make the session inclusive and accessible. Schedule a consultation with TLi’s Accessibility and Inclusive Design Specialist, Kristi O’Neil-Gonzalez, for specialized support.

Schedule short breaks or transitions.

If your synchronous Zoom session exceeds 60 minutes, it is highly advisable to include a brief break for yourself and for your students. During a 5-10 minute break, you can encourage cameras and microphones to be muted to allow people to step away, or you can facilitate a shared break to stand and stretch, take deep breaths, or other brain breaks. If students know these breaks are coming, they may also resist the temptation to multitask or step away during the session. 

Other Resources.

These carefully-curated resources are also relevant to teaching and learning with Zoom.

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