Online teaching has been growing as modern education institutions shift with the technology of our time. This is extremely challenging for teachers, who are doing their very best to provide the same level of engagement and interaction as they do in the classroom.
Many educators have turned to Zoom for their audio and video-conferencing, as it is a high-quality, feature-rich tool that is great for a virtual classroom, encouraging collaboration and interaction. So this article will help you use Zoom effectively for your virtual classroom and lessons.
What is covered in this article
Before we get into strategies to use Zoom effectively for your classroom, we’ll cover how to sign in to Zoom, how to download Zoom, and how to set up a virtual classroom.
How to set up a virtual class on Zoom
Setting up a virtual classroom is as simple as scheduling a Zoom meeting and inviting your students as participants. To do this, you’ll need a Zoom account set up through your organization, and the Zoom app downloaded for your desktop computer or mobile device.
We’ll walk you through these steps so you can set up a virtual class.
Sign up for Zoom
These are simplified instructions on how to sign up for Zoom. For more detailed instructions, see our lesson on how to create a free Zoom account.
- Go to Zoom.us.
- Click Sign Up, It’s Free in the top right corner of the website. (You may be asked to provide your date of birth for verification purposes.)
- Enter your school email address, and click Sign Up.
- An account activation email will be sent to the email address you provided. Access your email inbox, open the email, and click the Activate Account button.
- This will bring you back to the Zoom app, where you will be prompted to input your first name, last name, and create a password.
- You can then invite other contacts to create a Zoom account. Enter the email address of someone you would like to invite and click the checkbox labeled “I’m Not A Robot”. Then click Invite to send out the invitations.
If you don’t want to invite others to create their own Zoom accounts now, click Skip This Step. You can always invite people to join Zoom later.
- You’re all done! Your school Zoom account has been created and you’ll be able to use the app for education.
Download the Zoom client
- Go to the Zoom Download Center.
- Find Zoom Client for Meetings in the list, and click Download to download the latest version of the Zoom app.
- Save the download file to your computer in the folder you want. Then access the “ZoomInstaller.exe” file, and open it to run the installation.
Schedule a Zoom meeting
Below are simplified instructions for how to schedule a Zoom meeting. For a more detailed and comprehensive list of instructions, see our lesson on how to schedule a Zoom meeting.
- Open the Zoom app.
- From the Home screen of the app, click Schedule.
- Use the “Schedule Meeting” screen to set the parameters for your meeting, including adding a topic, setting the date and time for the meeting, adding a password, and configuring additional meeting settings.
- Once you’ve confirmed all the details, click Schedule.
- You will then be prompted to add the meeting to your preferred calendar. Follow the instructions using your calendar app to complete this.
We’ll have detailed instructions available for how to use Zoom with Google Calendar and how to use Zoom with Calendly in the future.
- You’re all set! The meeting is scheduled and you can invite participants to the future call.
10 tips for running a virtual lesson on Zoom
Now that you know how to set up your virtual classroom, you need to know how to actually run it. While you may know the basics, the tips below will help you leverage Zoom for your virtual lessons more effectively. This way, both you and your students will get the most out of your Zoom classes.
1. First class – introduce students to Zoom and give them basic participant etiquette tips
It’s a good idea to introduce your students to Zoom the first time you use it, as well as set rules and boundaries for its proper use. Outline how you want certain features used, and general meeting etiquette to follow for a smooth meeting. You should also teach students the basics of how to use the app, including joining a meeting, accessing settings, and managing the meeting controls.
2. Mute meeting participants upon entry
When running an online lesson, you’ll want to make sure participants are muted. You can manually mute participants upon entry or you can set up your meeting so that participants will be automatically muted when they join. This will help with interruptions, and general management of who is speaking. The host is also able to mute all participants – or an individual participant – at any time during the meeting.
3. Turn off video when joining the meeting
When teaching a virtual lesson, it’s best to have the turn video off when joining the meeting setting enabled. This will ensure that when you join a call, your video is not on. You can then take time to set up and get prepared. You’ll never be caught in an awkward situation with your students, as you can test your audio and video before it’s ever displayed.
4. Set – and display – a class agenda
Have a class agenda planned out for the meeting, outlining what will be covered and so that the time-frame of the meeting can be followed. Display the meeting agenda at the beginning (or throughout) and do your best to stick to this agenda so participants know what to expect and can follow along.
5. Look into the camera while teaching
One of the major differences between educating in-person and educating online is actually connecting with your students. It’s important to try similar tactics for engaging your students, such as making eye contact and fostering participation. Position your camera so that you can look into it, or close to it when doing your online lesson. While you may need to view your own screens while presenting, positioning your camera so you can easily look up at the camera will make it easier to feel like you are engaging your students directly, and will hopefully keep them on the edge of their seats!
6. Use gallery view to monitor all students at once
(Image credit: Zoom Support)
As a teacher, you often monitor the classroom by lecturing from the front of the class and facing your students. To replicate this over Zoom as closely as you can, use the gallery view. This will display multiple screens (up to 49) at a time. The default view will only display the screen of the person talking, and gallery view is much more suited to a classroom. It lets you engage with the students, monitor them while you present, and make them feel like they are being monitored (which is sometimes just as important for maintaining order).
7. Leverage – rather than ban – Zoom features
Zoom has a lot of features, and your first instinct may be to ban or restrict these features to keep your lessons on track. Instead, you should leverage these features to enhance your Zoom lessons and try to develop a virtual classroom that can mimic your live classroom. Take advantage of chat, comments, reactions, and more. It’s best to create clear guidelines for their use to effectively drive student engagement and improve efficiency.
8. Remember and account for network lag
Unlike an in-person meeting, the conversation (audio and video) is transmitted over the online network. This stream can be interrupted and affected by network lag, or issues on any of the participants’ end. When asking questions and waiting for answers, it’s important to remember that there is a slight delay over any streamed connection, and that there can be network issues.
Give people a longer pause before interrupting them, and more time after asking a student a question than you would in person. Keeping the limitations of the technology in the back of your mind will help you run more efficient, smooth meetings, and will allow you to improve the quality of communication.
9. Learn keyboard shortcuts to save you time operating the call
You can save yourself time operating the call by using keyboard shortcuts. Review the keyboard shortcuts available and use them on your call to manage your calls more efficiently. Enable or disable the shortcuts you want in the settings, so that you don’t accidentally do something you don’t mean to.
10. Enable silence system notifications setting when screen sharing
When hosting a meeting for your students, it’s important that you mute other device notifications, as these can interrupt your meeting and distract both you and participants. With this setting enabled, system notifications will automatically be disabled when you share your screen to students.
Access your Settings, and click Share Screen to access the screen-sharing settings. Click the checkbox beside “Silence System Notifications when Sharing Desktop” to turn this setting on.
12 top Zoom features for teachers
One of the reasons Zoom is an appealing audio and video-conferencing tool for virtual classrooms is because it has a lot of great features that enhance your meetings. These are well suited for online lessons, as many are meant to improve the productivity and engagement of the meetings.
Below are some of the best Zoom features to use as a teacher for your virtual classroom:
1. Screen sharing
The screen share feature is a staple for any teacher, allowing you to share your full screen, a portion of your screen, or a specific app. A teacher can use the screen share to display a presentation, an assignment, or a program they need to use. It can also be used for brainstorming sessions, reviewing work, and much more. Ultimately, this will be one of the most used features in a virtual classroom.
Using the polling feature, the meeting host can create a poll for the meeting participants. This is a great way to encourage engagement (and see if students are truly paying attention). Pose questions throughout about the material, or use polling in discussion periods for students to reflect their opinion. Polls can be saved and assessed later as well, making it a great resource for teachers using Zoom for their virtual classroom meetings.
3. Breakout Rooms
The Breakout Rooms feature allows the meeting host to create a number of smaller virtual rooms within the main meeting room. They can assign participants to these meeting rooms and then send participants to them when they want, as well as bring participants back to the main meeting room from their breakout rooms.
The breakout rooms feature is great for a virtual classroom, as the teacher can divide their classroom into smaller groups for discussions, access and monitor each individual breakout room to contribute and check in, and then bring participants back to the main meeting for a broader discussion once done.
4. Non-verbal communication
Zoom offers a number of non-verbal ways of communicating, letting participants directly message each other during and outside of meetings. Zoom chat can be used for one-on-one and group direct messaging, and is available in the app and within each meeting. These non-verbal methods of communication add a layer of communication in-meeting, enhancing collaboration and giving students another way to engage.
Zoom Chat can also be used for group messaging, which students can use for study groups, group assignments, brainstorming or work sessions, and much more! It’s best to develop ways of leveraging – rather than banning – non-verbal communication to get more out of your virtual lessons using Zoom.
5. Virtual hand-raising
The virtual hand-raising feature lets participants raise a virtual hand in the participants window of the meeting. The meeting host can monitor the participants window and see when participants raise their hands. Participants can use this feature to indicate when they would like to speak, which helps you avoid interruptions. This feature can be used in a number of other ways as well, such as voting, letting the host know a participant has read something assigned, and even for games and entertainment. Ultimately, you can assign guidelines for how to use the virtual hand-raising feature, helping drive meeting engagement and interaction.
The whiteboard feature allows the participants to use a shared whiteboard that can be annotated on. This is a great feature for presentation and collaboration, as a teacher can use it to show concepts and for students to add to during brainstorming sessions. The host can restrict the ability to annotate, so that students can’t write on the whiteboard.
7. Record and/or annotate meetings
Zoom meetings and webinars can be recorded by the host, and then automatically annotated afterwards. This is ideal for teachers, as students that miss classes (for sick days, vacation, etc.) can watch the recordings back and read the annotations. This makes for an ideal study resource too, as you can reference the material from the class, lecture, or presentation directly.
This tool is also useful for the teacher, as they can go back and review their classes to improve their virtual lessons. Over time, you can get better at presenting online, using the available Zoom features, and providing great classes for your students.
8. Restrict participant display names
It’s important to have participant names displayed during the meeting for your virtual classroom. This is incredibly important, as you can track who is talking (and who is distracted). Make sure to restrict the participants’ ability to edit their display name, so that students can’t change their name to confuse you (or to inappropriate, silly names).
9. Disable the Waiting Room feature
The Waiting Room feature funnels attendees into a waiting room, where the host – in this case the teacher – can admit them one at a time or all at once. If you want students to join automatically, turn the waiting room feature off. This will stop you from needing to admit them each time.
Alternatively, you can use this tool to track attendance at the beginning of each class. You will still want to monitor the “Participants” window, as students can leave after joining.
10. Virtual Backgrounds
The Virtual Backgrounds feature lets meeting participants choose (or create) a virtual background, which functions much like a green screen. The background behind you will need to be one color – ideally green. This can be used by teachers or students to either hide a cluttered space or get creative and have some fun with the meeting.
However, this can get difficult to manage as a teacher. You could consider letting students use a virtual background for the last hour of a Friday, or something similar, to limit the distractions but still have fun with the feature.
11. Meeting transcription
The Audio Transcript option is available for cloud recordings, and will transcribe the meeting or webinar that you have recorded to the cloud. This will then appear as a separate .vtt text file with your meeting recordings. Transcriptions can also be embedded into the video. The transcript will be divided into sections with timestamps to make it easy for the reader to navigate. Text can be edited and corrected if needed.
This is a great feature to use as a teacher, as students can easily follow along during the meeting, review the transcript for studying purposes, and catch up when they miss a meeting. The teacher can also use this to improve their lessons in the future.
Note that you must have a Business-tier or higher subscription to Zoom Meetings in order to use this feature. See our lesson on Zoom pricing and subscriptions for further details.
12. Mute or kick meeting participants
At any time, you can mute or remove meeting participants, and even turn off their video. These controls are readily available to the meeting host, and are extremely useful to a teacher trying to manage their virtual classroom. Individually mute participants that are causing a disruption or mute all if a discussion is getting out of hand. You can even remove individual (or all) participants from the meeting.
With these tips and strategies for using Zoom at your disposal, you’ll be able to get the most out of Zoom for your virtual classroom, facilitating engaging, interesting, creative, and informative lessons that rival those in the real classroom. To perfect your skills, learn how to use Zoom, meeting controls available to you as a host, and integrations for Zoom that are designed for education.