Zoom Offers More than Videoconferencing: How to Engage Students this Term


Zoom has afforded us all with the opportunity to see and speak with students, other faculty, friends, and family when we are otherwise unable to meet in person. The videoconferencing that Zoom allows is only a portion of the possibilities for engaging hyflex and synchronous teaching and learning. Ready to know more? The following strategies for using Zoom, enhancing student interaction, and increasing engagement can enhance your online presence this term.

Getting Started with Zoom

If you have never used Zoom before, you will need to set up an account and customize preferred settings. Step-by-step information is available from Zoom on how to set up your Zoom account.

Upon opening Zoom, you will begin at the home screen. The home screen includes icons for starting a new meeting as a host, joining a meeting that someone else will host, as well as settings that can be adjusted according to need.

Screenshot, Zoom login home

Video Conferencing Considerations

  • Lighting – lighting is best when it is consistent without too much brightness directly in front of you (it will cast shadows) or directly behind you (it will overshadow your appearance). “Creating and Delivering Online Presentations” includes suggestions for lighting and overall appearance as well as visual examples of effective versus ineffective or inappropriate practices.
  • Camera position – If you are going to use a particular space in the room, it is helpful to make that space the focus of the camera view. Think about whether you will use other areas of the room that are not in the immediate view of this position and consider how you could change the setup so that all useable areas are in sight at all times for students attending via Zoom.
  • Sound – quiet spaces are optimal as background noises make it difficult to hear the speaker. Additionally, participants should keep their microphones on “mute” until needing to speak to reduce background noises from their locations. Also consider that in a hybrid classroom environment, the actions of the in-person students, such as shifting through papers or eating, can be heard by and add distractors to those in the remote environment.
  • Background – Selecting “New Meeting” will open your camera view to show you what others can see of you and your space. It is recommended that you do this before starting a new session in order to check your lighting or unintentional items that could be in your background. You can also position your camera to optimize the viewing area of things such as a whiteboard or other screen that you may want remote participants to see. Additionally, from the home screen, you can select “settings” and choose a saved image or downloaded image to function as the background. Zoom has an official guide on how to change your background.

Engaging all Students, Flex and Synchronous Learning

Once your Zoom account is customized to your preferences and your environment is set there are several options beyond a video lecture to help keep everyone engaged; whether virtual, in-person, or both.

Setting Clear Expectations

Deciding how and when you would like for participants to interact in a virtual or hybrid course is just as important as when teaching solely in-person. Setting clear expectations from the start supports effective practices and will help to create a more interactive stress-free experience for all. Consider setting requirements for students to have their cameras on to facilitate better face-to-face interaction. Policies for students staying muted until it is their turn to speak and how they will signal that they need to speak, or if they should type their comments and questions first in the chat section. A dedicated section to Zoom and online expectations in your syllabus informs students when viewing materials in Canvas and reminds you to discuss these expectations in your first class meeting.

Assigning a Cohost

Teacher’s Assistants can be great assets to a blended learning environment too. TA’s can support management of lessons in many ways, including responding to chat and adding additional course resources as needs arrive throughout the session. Once signed into your Zoom account, select the “settings” icon. From “settings” under the “meetings” tab there is “co-host” option. If the status toggle present is gray, you should be able to click it to turn it blue and activate the co-host account setting. Having trouble choosing this option? There is a prerequisite for this function that your Zoom account must be an administrator account. If you are still having difficulty enabling this feature consider the Zoom help link or contact Biggio Tech for support.

Managing Participants

Screenshot, More dropdown

Managing participants allows use to set the expectation for video interaction as well as to facilitate a way for students to communicate feedback without interrupting your lesson or the speaker. For example, on the bottom toolbar of the meeting main screen, choose “participants”. There, you can communicate with any of the participants using the icons at the bottom of the window; yes, no, go slower, go faster, or an emoji when selecting “more”.

Also, under the “participants” icon, select “more” to manage interactions. This menu enables you to lock the meeting after you have started teaching, require that participants’ display names are their account names, or remove the option for participants to unmute themselves if needed for a presentation or space without disruption. Participants would still be able to communicate with the “chat” feature if enabled.


Screenshot, More dropdown

Chat can be enabled for participants to communicate with everyone in the meeting, or only select options such as the host, or no one at all if administering a quick check-in or quiz. The chat feature also allows ready sharing of files in the moment. The chat function is a great feature for questioning dialogue during lessons, such as real time questions from students in the classroom setting or virtual environment. Enabling a “Co-host” provides for an extra person to monitor conversations and questions without disrupting the lecture. The cohost can then interject when they feel appropriate to the lesson and responses can be both discussed as well as typed into the chat section thanks to their help.

Chats can also be saved, allowing for all participants to review the information at their convenience. Zoom provides guidance on saving chat dialogue.

Share Screen

Screen sharing is a great way to show participants your view or specific items that may need their attention. From the toolbar, the icon “share screen” will project onto participant computers anything that you want them to view. For example, you may choose to share your entire desktop allowing participants to see everything that you see and do on your computer, an interactive whiteboard similar to a classroom whiteboard only virtual, or specific files. The “basic”, “advanced” and “files” tabs at the top of the menu help you to choose what you would like to share.

The small carrot next to the words “share screen” will pull up an advanced menu allowing you to customize who may share their screen and how many participants may share at a time. This is a wonderful feature for collaborative presentations or allowing students to explain their thinking when sharing.

Screenshot, Share Screen dialog box



Polling can be set up ahead of time (recommended) and used for multiple course sessions. Selecting “polling” from the toolbar will open a small popup with any polls created under your Zoom account. Selecting “add a question” or “edit” will open a new tab in your internet browser allowing you to create polling questions. If you already know of some questions you would like to ask participants, you can set up polls unique to each anticipated class session. Or, create a quick poll during class—participants wouldn’t see you doing so unless you were sharing your screen.
Once the poll is created, close the tab, and go back to your Zoom session main menu. Select “polling” and choose whichever poll needed for the current session, then “launch poll”. You will be able to see how many participants chose each answer choice.

Screenshot, Zoom Polling

Breakout Rooms

Breakout rooms are the virtual version of in-person small groups. A breakout room moves participants to another Zoom space to interact with one another and then will bring them back to your main meeting session after a designated amount of time.
Screenshot, Breakout Rooms settings

Suggestions for breakout room policies and facilitation:

  • Before assigning groups to a breakout room, provide a clear task for completion and post this task in the chat
  • Avoid assigning more than one expectation for group completion per breakout session. Shorter more frequent discussions are better than a long list of work and an unspecified amount of time
  • Choose roles for students before the breakout session so that once in the group it is clear who should be completing what task. Some common roles include: a timekeeper who keeps collaboration on-task by being mindful of limits; a recordkeeper who records thinking by members of the group and helps to refer back to previous thoughts; a spokesperson who will synthesize and share out the outcome(s) of the task to whole group upon return to the main session


Be sure to select closed captioning, transcription, and record Zoom sessions so that all students can view the materials at their own pace and need level.

Automatic Zoom to Panopto

Recording Zoom sessions has many advantages for faculty and students. Students attending classes remotely in other countries, for example, can view a full class session at a later time and date as though they had attended live. Unforeseen circumstances preventing class participation do not then also prohibit students from obtaining the lesson materials and faculty unable to host a live session can post a pre-recorded lesson instead. Fully recorded class sessions are also great tools for meeting the unique ability needs of every student and for additionally study resources. For more information about how to automatically transfer Zoom recordings to Panopto, we provide a help guide.

Additional Considerations

  • Set a warm and welcoming tone –avoid language that is harsh or negative: ex: use “we” statements instead of “you” statements. State your expectations clearly but avoid threats. For example, “Late work will not be tolerated under any circumstances” might be better stated as, “Each assignment builds on the next so late work will not be accepted.”
  • Be present and engaging –always include “Feel free to contact me with any questions” along with a link to your preferred method of communication (i.e. email, phone number, or Zoom scheduler) in every announcement and email you send.
  • Establish consistency. Students drop online courses because of feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Keep this potential frustration and anxiety in mind every step of the way as you build and facilitate your course.
  • Start with an ice breaker or student introduction forum. Encourage students to upload a picture or avatar. You do the same–set the example and model what you want them to do. Ask students list their concerns and any helpful hints they have about success in previous online courses. Provide personal responses to each student’s post.
  • Redundancy is GOOD –provide important information in more than one place.

Want to Know More?

While blended and online instruction can be challenging there are many great resources available to make the experience smooth and successful for all participants. Select the following links for more tips on building greater engagement in your courses this semester.

Tips & Tricks: Teachers Educating on Zoom

Teaching Effectively During Times of Disruption

How to Overcome Classroom Zoom Fatigue

25 Ways to Make Your Zoom Meetings Awesome!

Ten easy tips for better Zoom meetings

This site is here to help you most effectively use Zoom as we all navigate the coronavirus pandemic.

Tips and Tricks for a Great Zoom Class or Meeting

Video Conferencing with Zoom: Online Course Tips & Ideas

Last modified: February 11, 2021