Engaging Students through Zoom

In some ways, a remote class session can seem like one long educational video to students. While multiple studies have shown that video, specifically, can serve as a highly effective educational tool (Brame 2016), using video is not inherently effective. Studies have shown that attention to educational video can drop to 50% after 9-12 minutes of instruction (Guo et al. 2014). Consequently, how can you ensure your online class results in effective teaching and learning?

To promote learning, we encourage you to consider how you might leverage the following menu of Zoom tools. When introduced and structured well, each tool has the potential to engage students in questions and/or activities, to provide clarity for learning, and to highlight the relevance of course content to student experience, especially in a new and unchartered context.

We encourage you to focus on the intended learning goals for your students as you consider which Zoom strategy to employ. What knowledge do you hope students will attain? What skills will students learn? What viewpoints will students develop? Prioritize approaches that will help your students practice and achieve the learning you intend.

As you select Zoom teaching tools, also keep in mind that not all Zoom features are accessible to all students based on their learning needs and abilities. Please consult our Zoom Considerations for Teaching Students with Disabilities page or contact the Poorvu Center for further assistance.

FAS Task Force: Recommendations on engagement (Click Here)

Zoom Chat

Chat is built into the bottom navigation bar of all Yale Zoom meetings, making it easy to leverage for both planned and spontaneous activities. You might consider using chat to:

  • Pose discussion questions and review an array of student responses
  • Solicit questions from students (if available, you might ask a teaching fellow to monitor the chat window and field questions for large classes)
  • Ask for feedback on course content or more broadly about the online learning experience, at the start, during the middle, or at the end of class
  • Provide an alternative for short in-class writing reflections (e.g. the one minute paper).

When using chat, be sure to give your students enough time to think and type (virtual wait time), just as you might pause for a moment in person to allow students time to process. It is good practice to read aloud questions and sample responses from the chat, especially for students who are only joining by audio due to technological or learning needs. Instructors can save chats manually or automatically to share with students.

Zoom Nonverbal Feedback

The Nonverbal Feedback feature provides opportunities for quick in-the-moment feedback from your students. Nonverbal feedback includes a variety of icons students display next to their names in the Participants tab, including yes or no, thumbs up or down, go slower or faster, or need a break. Nonverbal Feedback is not turned on by default in Yale Zoom accounts. You can follow instructions to turn it on in your Zoom settings.

You might consider using nonverbal feedback to:

  • Quickly (and perhaps spontaneously) collect answers to a yes/no question related to course content or to make a group decision
  • Generate responses to clarify potential confusion (e.g. asking your students, “Would you like me to try explaining that differently?”)
  • Check in with students as individuals in the online context, and ask how they are feeling/doing on a given day (e.g. thumbs up/thumbs down feature).

When using nonverbal feedback, you can scan through student names in the Participants tab to view individual responses or watch number tallies for each response grow in real time, which is especially helpful for large classes. Note that participant responses will not be saved as part of Zoom recordings.

Zoom Polling

The Polling feature provides the flexibility to create both planned and spontaneous questions for your students. Polling is an especially useful tool for engaging students in large classes where it is difficult or nearly impossible to hear from all student voices verbally or in the chat window. You might consider using polling to:

  • Pose a question that will assess students’ prior knowledge or experience to inform your teaching
  • Present a question or problem to be solved, with immediate feedback on how many students have arrived at the correct answer and if additional explanation may be needed
  • Provide an opportunity for feedback from students on how the class is going or to make a group decision.

When using polling, note that only the host of a Zoom meeting can make polls. The host will need to ensure polling is enabled in their account so that the “Polls” button appears in the bottom navigation bar. The poll will not be included in the meeting recording, so it is good practice to read aloud the poll question and results for your students, especially if they are joining by audio only. Hosts can create polls during a Zoom meeting or prepare them in advance.

Zoom Screen Share

As the name suggests, screen share gives instructors the opportunity to share their screen with their students using the green “Share” button in the bottom navigation bar. You might use screen share to:

  • Share content from your computer screen or a specific program with your students (e.g. Powerpoint)
  • Allow a co-instructor or teaching fellow to share content when leading a portion of class
  • Provide an opportunity for students or others to share their work with the class.

When using screen share, the default security setting only allows Zoom hosts and co-hosts to share their screens. By clicking the up arrow next to the “Share” button, hosts can adjust settings so that all participants can share their screens. Content displayed via screen share is automatically included in meeting recordings.

Zoom Whiteboard

The Whiteboard feature appears as an option after clicking the “Share” button on the bottom Zoom navigation bar. Users will have access to a toolbar with options to draw in various colors or create text boxes. You might consider using the whiteboard to:

  • Draw out a diagram or concept for your students in the moment
  • Collaboratively brainstorm with your students using text or drawings (most effective for small to mid-size classes).

If you are hoping to annotate presentation slides, you might use the annotation tools within Zoom or use annotation tools directly within programs like PowerPoint.

Zoom Breakout Rooms

Breakout rooms provide an opportunity to divide participants into smaller Zoom rooms. Individual breakout rooms include the same video, audio and chat modes of communication as a typical Zoom room. Students can be divided into breakout rooms of your chosen size randomly or by assignment. You might consider using breakout rooms to:

  • Divide students into smaller discussion groups, potentially facilitated by a teaching fellow if applicable
  • Spur conversation when large group discussion is quiet, by giving students a chance to process a question or problem with peers first
  • Provide a synchronous workspace during class for collaborative problems and projects.

When using breakout rooms, be sure to give a clearly defined task and timeline. Zoom includes the ability to message participants in breakout rooms with reminders and notices as needed. When recording to the cloud, Zoom always records the main room. When recording locally, Zoom records whatever room the recorder is in.