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Activity and Engagement in Zoom

Engaging Learners

Zoom offers an array of options to engage the learner. Like any face to face class environment the opportunity to offer differing modes of engagement is often key to a successful teaching and learning session. The ability to offer and support activity within a class, may often depend on the session design, timing, cohort, level, the physical environment to name a few. Within an online session these are equally important, here are a few possibilities to consider that the Zoom tool set offers.

Zoom Toolset

This may be used as a whole class activity or on a one to one basis. It may be a good way of posing a question to the whole class, and for all to see the ensuing responses re: a debate, point of knowledge, ideas and opinions etc. 

You can also use the chat to disseminate links (to web pages, activities, resources etc) and to directly share documents. The added benefit here is that the Chat thread may be archived and reviewed or shared at a later point.

Consider carefully the etiquette of using the chat tool - do you want / can you manage constant posts? Vs a direct invitation to respond/interact at a given point. Similarly your potential to be overwhelmed may well be replicated for the learner - be mindful of their needs also.

Note: When in the breakout groups participants can only access the chat that they received prior to entry. You can't send messages to them via the chat when in the group.

Essentially a means to ‘draw over’ or ‘highlight’ the screen, these basic tools may offer an added layer to screen sharing. One may annotate a slide, image (or any part of a shared screen e.g. documents, applications, web pages etc) with the digital pen, equally you may invite the learner to do similar.

Consider how you may use this to guide learners to: a login window, a particular graphical detail, a reference etc. Equally reflect how it may serve as an activity for the learners to highlight/identify: key components of a schematic, details on an aerial photograph, missing chemical elements etc.

Poll in Zoom: Creating and running a poll in Zoom meeting allows you to gather and share back the results of the responses from your students for single and multiple choice questions. You can create your poll in advance of the meeting. It may be useful to refer to the IT Services guide on How to Launch a Poll in Zoom. If you would like to do more advanced polling consider using Poll Everywhere. 

Poll Everywhere is the UCD preferred web-based student response tool. This comprehensive tool allows for a multitude of different question constructs to be utilised: from simple MCQs to word clouds, ranking, image notation etc.

Consider the reason ‘why’ you wish to integrate the Poll; will it support, enhance, engage, encourage, reinforce, direct, summarise etc Often they are best used when complimenting an already existing activity e.g. bringing a discussion to conclusion by sharing/ranking ideas. Or reinforcing an in-class exercise by clarifying answers on an image map.

This original ‘classic’ whiteboard is available in zoom via the share screen options and can be used as any ordinary whiteboard; to draw, write, annotate etc. for both the facilitator and learners. It recommended that you use the new whiteboard tool now available in zoom as it is more fully featured and appropriate for student collaboration, group work, brainstorming etc. The new whiteboard is located in the zoom menu. 

It provides a persistent collaborative space that can also be used outside of a virtual classroom session and can be shared with students via a shareable link before, after or during a zoom session. Its features include a digital canvas with multiple pages, where sticky notes, comments, text images can be added and has version control. 

The key benefit lies in being able to capture and archive the contents for review and sharing. One can also create ‘extra white boards’ akin to a set of slides, so materials/contributions can be revisited.  It may be useful to refer to Zoom’s Whiteboard User Guide. 

Consider how you might invite contributions from the floor by posing a question, even using alternate sides of the whiteboard to post a vote.

This simple tool, open to all participants and found on the main menu bar, offers a series of visual expressions - emoticons (the immediate menu provides such examples as: a tick or incorrect mark, a happy to sad face, slow down or speed up etc). These emoticons may be used as a means to gather a quick snapshot of progress, understanding, acknowledgement etc.

The ability for the learner to prompt you to ‘Slow down’, to suggest a ‘Break’ is required, to ‘Thank’ someone for a contribution, or ‘Raise’ a question is done in a subtle yet clear manner. It enables all participants to be able to actively contribute on their own terms and for facilitators it offers a quick visual check that matters are proceeding effectively. Consider highlighting the tool and its ability to offer quick feedback. Its ability to be universal enables all learners the opportunity to contribute equally.

Under the ‘share screen’ option in the ‘advanced’ tab, you will find the opportunity to share an alternate and additional camera (to the default laptop or desktop camera). 

This simple option enables you to utilise a phone camera (wirelessly), or a secondary camera connected to your PC as another video source. This becomes rather useful if you wish to capture written input e.g. mathematical equations whilst maintaining a video of yourself (the facilitator) speaking. One can also use the additional camera to highlight ‘live’ details e.g. from an experiment, a clinical setting or artefact. 

This video resource from San Franciso State University provides an easy setup guide. 

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Consider carefully if this added complexity is an option for you? It may work effectively if you had a fixed camera setup (i.e. a camera on a tripod to capture your writing) or even a colleague to guide the camera to a specific ‘live’ element for inclusion. As with all these options, you can also enable the learner to share their camera too, perhaps capturing ‘live’ elements from fieldwork, or remote labs.

Zoom breakout rooms provide a space for student group discussions, collaboration and active-learning activities. Breakout rooms are most effective when they are planned and managed effectively and students are given explicit instructions on how they should participate in the learning activity. Review the additional guidance on Effective use of Breakout rooms

The simplest and perhaps most useful function within Zoom is the ability to use much of the above functionality to record a session without an audience. In this way Zoom is excellent for creating asynchronous video resources that can be archived and shared later.

Consider creating micro-lectures on key concepts, or revisit materials that need further explanation, offer guidance to assessment. Perhaps record an introduction to the module and its assignments, capture plenary feedback etc. Be strategic in what you choose to record, both in terms of its duration and its longevity i.e. always look to being able to ‘reuse’ the videos (if possible).