Using Zoom to Teach Online

man on video conference call

Learning to use a web conferencing tool is an essential skill for today’s instructor. It will allow you to teach during an emergency, as well teach while at a conference, hold online office hours, and invite outside guests to speak to your students. Read recommendations for using Zoom to teach online.

Please contact Learning Innovation for further help or to schedule training for yourself or your department.

Benefits of Zoom

Zoom is Duke’s primary web conferencing tool and provides four important functionalities for your course.

  1. The ability to connect synchronously with your students over video (if bandwidth allows), audio, screen sharing, poll, and text chat.
  2. The ability for students to work in groups, either when you enable breakout rooms for them, or when they use their personal meeting rooms to meet with peers.
  3. The ability to create a simple “screencast” (for example, recording voice-over presentations) and share it with your students.
  4. The ability to use written annotations on a whiteboard or directly onto documents on your screen when sharing. Using a tablet [with a stylus or writing implement] to annotate will allow for advanced annotation, such as writing out mathematical formulas.

Zoom Help and Documentation

Best Practices for Teaching with Zoom

1.  Get your equipment in order

Quality audio is the most important factor in a successful web conference. Ideally, you and the other participants should use earphones (even better, with a built-in microphone) to cut down on ambient noise and reduce the possibility of audio feedback. Ask participants to mute themselves when they aren’t talking.

All participants should find a quiet, well-lit location to join the video conference. Be sure you can be seen clearly; often backlighting causes you to be in the shadows.

The internet connection should be strong, especially if video is a requirement. Faculty who use video conferencing on a regular basis may find it easier to use a large monitor to see participants and your shared screen easily.

If you are using classroom equipment to hold a video conference instead of your personal computer, you need to contact your departmental IT staff to receive technical training and to discuss the specifics of room-to-room video conferencing.

2. Prepare for things that could go wrong

Do a test run to make sure you know how to use Zoom from your computer and to test the location you’ll be using. Ask your students or guest to practice as well if they will be joining from their devices. Share your cell phone, email, or another contact method in case there are technical problems. Make sure the meeting details (time, meeting URL, call in number and timezone) are clear to participants.

3. Pause more often

Although video allows everyone to see each other, it does not convey many of the cues that make for engaging conversations. You can overcome this by allowing for more time to reflect, ask questions and absorb content.

4. Display less

Most video conferencing tools allow you to share your screen or slides. If you are sharing lecture slides, use at least an 18 point font, bullet points and visuals to emphasize your content, not distract your audience. If you have text-heavy slides, the participants will concentrate on reading them instead of hearing you.

5. Encourage discussion and interaction

Ask students to read materials and prepare questions in advance of a web conference. Consider having students talk in smaller groups online to discuss issues and report back to the whole group in a breakout room. You can also encourage discussion when not online by using Sakai forums.

In all cases, if you want to talk through your options and make a plan for what would work best for the needs of your class, don’t hesitate to contact us at Learning Innovation.

Elise Mueller, Ph.D.

Author: Elise Mueller, Ph.D.

Elise Mueller is the consultant for the language departments at Duke. Her goal is to support their teaching through sound pedagogy and educational technologies. She leads fellowships and workshops on blended teaching, student reflection, portfolios and course design. She is currently grappling with the meaning of a liberal arts education in the 21st century.