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Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, relatively few instructors had used web-based conferencing for teaching and learning. With the shift in the spring of 2020, many instructors suddenly found themselves teaching online courses, and many others found themselves teaching onsite with some students using videoconferencing to attend remotely. Having used videoconferencing for both fully online and mixed-format courses ourselves, we have found several ways to use videoconferencing tools, such as Zoom, to promote student engagement and inclusive teaching. Our approaches are flexible enough to accommodate small and large classes and a variety of educational levels and disciplines.

1. Greet each student by name as they enter the Zoom space.

2. Begin with an activity.

3. Break up any lectures with short questions or polls (this applies to other modes of teaching too, but it is critical to online engagement).

4. Have a strategy for calling on students and explain it to students; if you change your process mid-course, explain that too.

5. Have a strategy for students to ask questions of you or their classmates.

6. Be intentional about the size of any breakout rooms.

7. Provide a specific task, a time frame for the task, and a plan for reporting out to the larger group whenever you use breakout rooms.

8. Embrace pauses.

9. Select “record” at the start of the session if you plan to record.

How teachers and students use videoconferencing software for teaching and learning will likely drive future technological improvements. In the meantime, educators can apply creative adaptations to use current technology in ways that promote student engagement even in the absence of a physical classroom.

More information on using Zoom in your teaching:

Click here to download a handout version of these tips

Linda M. Boland, PhD, is a professor of biology and director of the Teaching and Scholarship Hub at the University of Richmond in Virginia. During the pandemic, she has helped prepare faculty for teaching using videoconferencing technology, which she also used in her own fall term teaching.

Claire Howell Major, PhD, is a professor of higher education administration at the University of Alabama. Her work focuses on teaching and learning, and she has published several books and articles with this focus, including Teaching Online: A Guide to Theory, Research, and Practice.