Digital Learning & Design

If you haven’t already, please follow these instructions to set up the basics of Zoom for your course. Once you have set up your Zoom sessions, you may be wondering how to interact with students during your Zoom class. Try to avoid the temptation to simply replicate in Zoom exactly what you do in class. In some cases, it’s not advisable or possible. Understand the challenges and opportunities of this mode of teaching and be prepared to make adjustments. Class interaction requires planning around several factors.

To get started, consider answers to these three questions:

  1. How many students are enrolled in the course? In the following section, we distinguish smaller, seminar-style courses from medium- and large-enrollment courses. 

  2. What are the teaching and learning activities? Some faculty plan to lecture for most of class, while others seek to engage students in socratic dialogue or active learning. Each model will require different planning and implementation strategies.

  3. What are the instructor expectations for interaction? Students may only need to ask questions of  the instructor, or they may need to converse amongst the class. Different class sizes will require different tools to meet expectations. 

Small Enrollment Courses

(under 35 students)

In small, seminar-style courses, the standard Zoom set up usually is sufficient. As long as students are muted upon entry (and unmute when they speak), class can run as a typical web-conference. 

  • In small enrollment courses, it is feasible to see all students in Zoom using the Gallery view. Learn how to switch your view here. While most modern computers can display up to forty-nine participants at once on Zoom, we do not recommend viewing that many students at once. Fifteen to twenty participants is a more manageable range.

  • If students need to speak amongst themselves during class, instructors should implement the break-out rooms feature of Zoom. This avoids having all students speaking in the same Zoom meeting. Typically, when the breakout rooms are going on, there is no lecture; rather, the instructor is visiting the individual rooms.

Medium/Large Enrollment Courses  

(above 35 students)

In medium and large enrollment courses, communication typically occurs in a teacher-to-student fashion with defined opportunities for students to ask questions. As long as students’ microphones are muted, instructors should experience little issue speaking to the class. 

  • Instructors can solicit questions from students using the Chat function in Zoom. To minimize confusion, instructors should set rules for how and when students should ask questions. Note that the instructor or TA to monitor incoming questions in the chat window.
  • For instructions using Top Hat, the discussions tool offers a powerful way to solicit questions and feedback in real time with the added ability for students to upvote other’s submissions.
  • In medium- and large-enrollment courses that employ active learning, ask students to converse amongst themselves, or engage in group work, we strongly encourage instructors to contact Digital Learning & Design to learn advanced Zoom strategies.

In any class size, we strongly discourage the use of Piazza or Canvas Discussions to facilitate real-time class interaction. Both tools do not dynamically update in real-time, and student questions will either be missed or viewed later than is relevant.

Advanced interaction strategies with Zoom include:

Set Expectations for your students

Learning to use remote technologies may be as new to your students as it is to you. 

  • Students’ schedules may be interrupted by travel or illness. You can choose to record and post class meetings. 

  • Plan for the additional time. Students may need to get comfortable and proficient with Zoom and other tools.

  • Provide students resources for learning these tools and getting help. You should not be in the position of providing technical assistance. Students can message or email [email protected] for technical assistance. 

  • Tell students exactly what you expect of them in each phase, whether it’s the lecture, break out rooms (or other group/pair work), or synchronous chat. For example, verbally queing up question-asking opportunities helps class run smoothly. 

  • In addition to Zoom, use existing communication channels (Canvas, class email, etc) to clearly and frequently communicate announcements to students.