Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Pedagogical Considerations for Teaching with Zoom

Zoom allows you to implement many of the same teaching methods that you use in a F2F classroom. Before you jump into learning the in’s and out’s of the Zoom tool, consider what teaching methods you are already using, and then see if Zoom can help facilitate those same methods or similar ones in an online (synchronous) space. Just like a F2F classroom, Zoom allows you to switch back and forth between different types of teaching methods (e.g., lecture, small group discussion, etc.) as many times as you need during a class session.

Do you typically lecture using PowerPoint slides?

  • Use Zoom’s screen sharing functionality to present your slides to students while you narrate them. Additionally, if you are using a tablet, you can annotate your slides on the screen for students to see.
  • An important part of lecturing in any format is taking breaks to ensure that your students are following along (“conceptual checkpoints”) and/or to provide opportunities for active learning.
  • We encourage instructors to take intentional pauses during their lectures and consider asking students to do one of the following: 
    • Polling: After covering a particular concept, provide students with an opportunity for practice and feedback using the Zoom polling feature. Ask a multiple-choice question about the concept to check for student comprehension. Use student response data to inform the remainder of your lecture session.
    • Speed Up/Slow Down: Encourage students to make use of the “speed up” or “slow down” to indicate whether they are following along with lecture. Either yourself or your TA can monitor these responses and adjust accordingly.
    • Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down: Sometimes a simple “if you’re with me, select the thumbs up button” can be a good way to ensure that students are following along.

Do you typically use the whiteboard, chalkboard or document camera when facilitating full group discussion?

  • Consider creating a Google Drawing or Google Slides presentation at the start of your session for recording notes on the class discussion. 
  • In order to facilitate discussion with groups larger than 8-10 students, consider using Zoom's “raise hand” or Chat functionality. This will help to ensure that students don’t talk over each other and that everyone has equal chance to participate. 

Do you typically use small group or paired discussion?

  • Use Zoom’s breakout room feature to facilitate this type of discussion. Instructors can randomly assign students to breakout rooms or they can selectively group students together (e.g., assigned teams). Faculty members (i.e., the Zoom host) can circulate among the breakout rooms to check-in with students, and students are also able to “request help” from their instructor when needed.
  • An important part of making group work or small group discussion effective is providing students with a specific task or deliverable. There are multiple ways to do this in Zoom. 
    • In their breakout rooms, students can use the whiteboard feature to record ideas. Additionally, an instructor could provide a Google Doc (perhaps linked in the group chat box) for all groups to record ideas in. If students are attending a Zoom session via their phone, it will likely be difficult for them to contribute to a Google Doc or white board. Finally, so as to keep students on-task, the instructor can push messages to all breakout rooms at the same time (e.g., “you have 5 mins left to work on this task”). 
    • NOTE: If you are recording your Zoom class session, be aware that if you utilize the breakout room feature, these smaller group discussions may not be recorded.

Additional considerations:

  • If you have a TA, consider how you might leverage them to assist with a Zoom session. For example, if you have some students in a classroom and some students participating via Zoom, perhaps you could have the TA monitor the chat box or “raise hands” feature to notify you of questions as they arise. Your TA could take attendance for you or circulate among the breakout rooms, if need be. 
  • Consider whether it’s necessary for all students to meet at the same time (synchronous) or whether students could still accomplish the stated learning objectives through some other means. Eberly colleagues are available to help you think through this instructional design challenge. Let us know how we can help!

Helpful Tips for Using Zoom

  • If your video quality is poor, turn off your video and rely on your computer audio. You may also use your cell phone (without video) to participate in a Zoom session.
  • Ask students to “mute” themselves as a default setting to avoid distracting background noises. Have students “unmute” themselves when they want to talk.
  • Ask students to “rename” themselves using their preferred name so that everyone in the Zoom session knows how to refer to them. 
  • Use headphones (instructors and students) for all Zoom sessions.
    • If you are having trouble hearing people or being heard, conduct a “test” of your speakers and microphone by clicking on the arrow beside the “mute” button and selecting “Test Microphone and Speakers.” 
  • If you plan to use your video, ensure that the room you are in has decent lighting. 
  • Build in pauses to allow students time to ask questions, whether by raising their hand or recording their questions in the chat box. 
  • Adjust the volume in the classroom so that your students can hear you but you do not hear yourself reverberating backwards.
  • If you want to record your Zoom session, please be sure that you click the “record” option at the start of your session.