Transparency and Communication When Using Zoom in the Classroom
| by Hector Vila
Writing and Rhetoric Program professor Hector Vila describes tools he uses to manage integrating students on Zoom into his classroom environment. From using his syllabus to assistance from students in class, he creates an inclusive experience for all participants.
My students have posited that Zoom is here to stay; that is to say, we will use Zoom post-pandemic to reach students that may not be able to attend class (reasons could be many, ranging from illness to personal matters). During fall 2021 and spring 2022, I’ve had occasion to use Zoom quite a few times. Thus, I’ve developed some procedures to ensure Zoom is deployed smoothly during a class period.
I communicate to students that I need to know ahead of time who will be absent and why, and where the student may be located as this can affect transmission (I’ve had students in their college dorms lose connections). Knowing ahead of time also allows me to set up a Zoom invite/room.
To this end, during the Spring 2022 semester, as part of my “Communicating with Me” section of the syllabus, I provided a Zoom room link that is available to students throughout the semester. This eliminated the extra burden of having to remember to set up a Zoom space every time a request comes in. It’s always on the syllabus.
The first piece to communicate has to do with where students will appear during an in-class Zoom experience. I’ve asked students and without a doubt, 100% of the students in my courses opt out of having the Zoom take place on the large screen in the front of the classroom. This means that my computer is placed so that it faces the classroom, and the Zoom students appear small, as in a regular Zoom call for a meeting.
So, during any given course, I am not aware of who is on the Zoom screen as we’re working in class. But I need to know what’s happening, so I use two strategies:
(1) at the beginning of the Zoom call I make sure students can see the class, or most of it, then I ask a student or two furthest from the computer to communicate with the Zoom students so that sound can be adjusted, and I ask Zoom students whether or how much of the class they can see and adjust the computer accordingly (they never see the entire class; some smart rooms, however, exist where the Zoom can be delivered via the control system but this does require that the Zoom participants appear on the large screen);
(2) prior to class, I ask Zoom students to be in contact with another student in the class, either via email or text because if anything happens, such as a dropped call, the student in the class can alert me that a student is trying to get back into the class and is in the waiting room. You can set up the Zoom room without the Waiting Room; however, using it helps security);
(3) and since the computer is facing students (I tend to walk around a lot, focusing as much as I can on every student in the class), I ask that students in the class alert me to a Hand Raised on Zoom;
(4), finally, I also tend to face the computer at different, and critical, moments in the class, and ask the students on Zoom whether they are following what’s happening in the class and/or I ask them direct questions, similar to what I’m asking in class, to make sure Zoom students are connected to the classroom experience, and to this end, I also ask Zoom students whether they have questions or comments they may wish to ask either myself or the students in the class.
Zoom is another pedagogical tool, I think. My goal is to try to make both the Zoom and classroom experiences as fluid and dynamic as possible. These notes describe what I am currently doing.
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