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Exploring Zoom for Synchronous Classes

Exploring Zoom for Synchronous Classes

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by Jennifer Peters and Kevin Pitts, the Teaching & Learning Centre

in the December 2020 issue


Recently, Zoom was added to the growing list of options for our online synchronous classes. This article will highlight some Zoom features to enhance our online classroom experience.

If you haven’t activated your Seneca Zoom account yet, visit ITS's support page for more information.


Set Up Breakout Rooms in Advance
Breakout rooms can be set up in advance of class and can even be set-up using a spreadsheet! Explore Zoom’s Managing Breakout Rooms help page and then explore how to pre-assign attendees to groups in Zoom. If you don’t want to set up groups in advance, you can also assign students to breakout rooms automatically once the session has started, or manually without a spreadsheet, or even let students choose what breakout room they will join.

There are some nice features for managing breakout rooms, such as setting a timer, having a countdown for students to know exactly when they are being moved back to the main room, or even allowing students to return to the main room at any time.
Screenshot of Zoom breakout rooms settings.

How to use Breakout Rooms in Zoom video


Create Polls in Advance, and Re-use in Other Classes
Polls can also be set up in advance of class; see the Polling in a Meeting support page from Zoom for more information on how to create and launch them. Note that you can also download results from your polls (more on this later in the article).

Efficiency tip: to reuse polls in future classes, save your Zoom meeting with the poll questions as a meeting template and then schedule your next class from that template. Polls are connected to the template, so you will be able to use them whenever you create a new meeting based on that template.

Troubleshooting tip: if students can’t see your polls and are using the browser version of Zoom, they may have to allow pop-ups on their browser.

How to Use (In Meeting) Polling in Zoom video


Broadcast Video Sound
A common request for classes is the ability to share video (instead of having to break for everyone to watch individually). In Zoom, you can share your computer audio to broadcast sound when showing videos (e.g., YouTube videos).

Expert tip: when choose which screen or application to share, also tick the box for “optimize for full-screen video clip” to ensure smoother play. Only use this for sharing a video and turn it off when the video ends.

Screenshot of screen sharing options in a browser.

Image from Zoom support page


You can enable live transcription in your videos and this transcription will also appear in your recorded video as closed captions. First, ensure you have enabled it in Settings:

  1. Visit http://zoom.senecacollege.ca/.
  2. Click on Settings.
  3. Click on In Meeting (Advanced) on the secondary menu.
  4. Look for Closed Captioning and ensure it is turned on.
  5. Then check the box for Enable live transcription service to show transcript on the side panel in-meeting.
    A screenshot showing the check box to click to enable live transcriptions
    You may need to restart your Zoom app and/or refresh your browser for the changes to take effect.

Then, when you are in a live Zoom meeting, click on Live Transcript and Enable Auto-Transcription:
The button to push while in a zoom meeting for live transcriptionThe button to push while in a zoom meeting for live transcription


Sharing Documents and Whiteboards
Note that you cannot load a document into Zoom for sharing (Blackboard Collaborate Ultra does allow this). Sharing content in Zoom depends on the type of content:

  • PDF or Word – share the program or load the document into a shared browser window.
  • PowerPoint – share your desktop to ensure it can be seen properly by students and you still have access to the chat.
  • Sharing a whiteboard is also found under “Share Screen.”

Screenshot of screen sharing options in Zoom.

Efficiency tip: If you are hopping back and forth between browsers and programs, it might be easiest to share your desktop, which will capture anything displayed on your computer screen.


Zoom in Learn@Seneca
Zoom is integrated into Learn@Seneca. Check out the following video to see how to add Zoom meetings to your Learn@Seneca courses. Note: you will need to configure/activate your Seneca account before setting up Zoom meetings in Learn@Seneca.

Three Ways to Add a Zoom Meeting to Your Learn@Seneca Course video

Logistical tip: you can set up an open room in your course. Just create a meeting and select NoFixedTime for recurring meetings. This will create an ongoing meeting room for you and your students (e.g., for office hours, for a meeting space for student groups, to reuse the same room for all classes, etc.).


Attendance and Poll Reports
You have access to attendance and other data through the report tool. Log into Zoom in a web browser by going to http://zoom.senecacollege.ca/ and then click on Reports in the menu. Usage will give you general attendance data, while under Meeting, you can generate poll reports:
Screenshot of Zoom cloud page with the "Reports" option highlighted.


Comparison to Other Web Conferencing Tools
Zoom has some bonus features compared to other web conferencing tools, such as the advance set up of breakout groups and polls mentioned above, and the ease of sharing video sound. Zoom is also integrated into Learn@Seneca courses, which offers seamless access for students and will show all cameras at once, provided you are using the gallery view.

For a more extensive comparison of Zoom to BigBlueButton, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, Microsoft Teams, and WebEx, please see this comparison table from the Teaching & Learning Centre. In a future issue of the Academic Newsletter, we will delve deeper into the differences between the web-conferencing tools available at Seneca from a teaching and learning perspective.


Additional Resources
Webinars from Contact North delivered by Dr. Ron Owston (see the link for additional, upcoming webinars):

Audio, Video, Sharing information from Zoom

ITS's support information




View the December 2020 issue of the Academic Newsletter.

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