What is Zoom?

How to get zoom, getting started with zoom meetings, more tips and tricks, the takeaway, what is zoom a comprehensive guide to the wildly popular video-chatting service for computers and smartphones.

Even if you don't work from home, you've probably heard of Zoom.

In light of the coronavirus crisis, the videoconferencing app has become the standard for connecting with others face-to-face virtually in both business and personal settings.

Zoom is now the video communication platform of choice for federal governments, tech startups, religious communities , and of course regular people looking to chat — and even party — with their friends and family.

Here's everything you need to know about Zoom, including how to download it and get started, along with a few tips and tricks to help you become a video-chatting pro.

Zoom is a cloud-based video communications app that allows you to set up virtual video and audio conferencing, webinars, live chats, screen-sharing, and other collaborative capabilities.

You don't need an account to attend a Zoom meeting, and the platform is compatible with Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android, meaning nearly anyone can access it.

Of course video-conferencing apps aren't new. Zoom is just one in a long line of communication tools that include Skype, Cisco Webex, and Google Meet. For example, here's a quick look at how Zoom compares to Google Meet , Google's videoconferencing platform for businesses:

In short, a big part of Zoom's appeal is simplicity. It's easy to get started, the app is lightweight, and the interface is relatively intuitive to use with popular features like Gallery View — a mode that allows you to see every person on the call at once — built right into the app.

Before we go any further, it's important to note that the platform offers four distinct pricing plans , from basic to enterprise. What's right for you depends on how you plan to use the app.

  • Zoom Basic: This is the platform's most popular pricing tier, which makes sense, considering it's free. This tier offers unlimited one-on-one meetings, but videoconferencing with more than three participants is limited to 40 minutes (you can always start another one). If you plan to use it only every once in a while to chat with friends or family, check out our general overview of Zoom's basic features .
  • Zoom Pro: The Pro plan is ideal if you work with a small team or plan to regularly conduct extended video calls. Beyond extending the group meeting length from 40 minutes to 24 hours, this tier allows hosts to create IDs for recurring meetings and the capability to store recorded meetings in the cloud, plus advanced usage reports. 
  • Zoom Business: A pricing plan to make collaboration easy for small to midsize companies, the Business tier requires at least 10 hosts. But what you get in return is company branding on all invites, dedicated customer support and more features like auto-generated transcription. 
  • Zoom Enterprise: This tier is designed for large businesses and sign-up requires a minimum of least 100 hosts. Enterprise offers plenty of perks, including unlimited cloud storage, a dedicated "customer success manager," and the capacity to host 500 people on a single call.

If you decide to change up your plan, you're not locked in forever. Here's a quick guide to help you upgrade or downgrade your Zoom account at any time .

In addition to these pricing tiers, the video-call platform also offers plans built for educators , telehealth firms , and web developers . Each comes with its own features and customer-support systems. 

Downloading Zoom

Once you've decided on a plan, it's simple to download it whether on your computer or your mobile device. The platform is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices through the App Store and Google Play Store, respectively.

If you plan on using your computer, you'll want to head over to Zoom's official website and download it. Depending on the type of computer you're using, the process will be slightly different:

  • How to download Zoom on your PC  
  • How to download Zoom on your Mac computer

You don't need an account to join Zoom meetings , but you must sign up for an account if you plan on hosting, scheduling, and managing your own calls. If you plan to use the platform often, whether for business or pleasure, we recommend downloading the app first, and then signing up for a Zoom account .

Once you've downloaded and installed Zoom, you're ready to get started. 

If you don't have an account and just want to join a Zoom meeting, you can do this a few different ways.

  • Through a Zoom Meeting link provided by the host. All you need to do is click that link, and you'll be brought to the meeting. 
  • Or you can click "Join" on Zoom's homepage, and enter the Meeting ID manually. 
  • Alternatively, if you don't have access to the mobile app or desktop, Zoom supports dial-in calling.

If you do have an account and want to schedule your first Zoom meeting , all you need to do is head to either the app, or your account page on the website, where you can click the "Schedule" option. From there, follow the prompts.

When this is set, you'll be able to invite meeting participants to join your conference call, which you can send via email, contact, or phone number. We've outlined a few different ways to send a Zoom invite , but the easiest way is to share the meeting join link, which you'll receive when you schedule or start a meeting.

Once you're up and running and depending on your plan, Zoom offers varying levels of tools to enhance your video call. Take note of these core features.

  • In-meeting chat: With this feature, you're able to send messages privately to an individual or to the group within a meeting. 
  • Recording : Every version offers the option to record your meetings, which you can start manually or automatically .
  • Screen-sharing : Whether it's for a marketing presentation or a classroom lecture, sharing your screen is an easy way to show others your work.
  • Breakout rooms : This allows you to split a single call into individual groups so participants can then have their own conversations.

If you're looking to get more out of Zoom, you may be interested in a few more settings and features. 

Beyond simple tricks like knowing how to mute yourself and others on the call , you should familiarize yourself with the platforms advanced settings:

  • Virtual backgrounds : One of the platform's more lively features , virtual background allows you to display and image or video as your background. 
  • Raise your hand: Zoom has a feature that lets you virtually "raise your hand," which notifies the meeting organizer that you have a point to make or question to ask, without disrupting the flow of the class or conference. 
  • Remote support : A helpful feature that allows you to take control of another participant's screen. 
  • Personal meeting ID : Only available for Pro accounts or higher, a personal meeting ID will make your meetings more secure, while also making it easier for your friends and colleagues to connect.
  • Waiting room : A feature that lets you control when participants join a meeting.

In addition to these additional features, the platform offers a host of add-ons and integrations aimed at professionals, from adding Zoom to your Google Calendar or Outlook account . 

If you're subscribed to the Pro pricing plan or higher, you gain access to Zoom Rooms , the company's conference room software and hardware that can turn any room into an official conference room. 

For $50 a month , you gain access to the Zoom Room software. This software connects a television or monitor with your computer, an external camera, and a microphone. Put together, you can turn nearly any room into a professional-grade conference room. If you're looking to make your business as Zoom-friendly as possible, Zoom Rooms are a worthwhile investment.

What is Zoombombing?

You might have heard of "Zoombombing" before. This refers to people who gain access to Zoom calls without being invited, and try to wreak havoc. Earlier in the year, there were a number of widely reported Zoombombing cases, which led the company to crack down on them.

Now, whenever you start a call, it'll be password-protected by default, making it exponentially harder for anyone you don't know to gain access. Most calls also have a "waiting room" function, which requires the host to approve anyone who wants access to the call.

For more information, our colleagues have extensive coverage on how Zoom is handling these sort of threats .

Zoom can be simple to use, but difficult to master. Even with these guides, take time to explore the app on your own, and discover everything it has to offer.

With time, using Zoom to meet up with your colleagues will be as natural as meeting someone in real life. And if you ever decide otherwise, you can delete your Zoom account in five simple steps . 

an essay about zoom

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an essay about zoom

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Teaching United States History

What we teach, how we teach it, and why, the pros and cons of teaching with zoom.

Is technology always student centered? How can teachers design online lessons to address students’ needs? In this blog post, I talk about the pros and cons of Zoom—a communications software that allows video conferencing—from the perspective of a student and an instructor.

Zoom facilitates communication across continents, and, in this respect, is remarkable. For the past two years, I have used Zoom to study Nahuatl with Dr. John Sullivan and Eduardo de la Cruz, Cruz, both of whom teach at the University of Utah . However, face-to-face classes at Utah are only offered in the summer. During the academic year, Eduardo and John frequently travel between the United States, Europe, and Mexico. Needless to say, learning Nahuatl in a traditional classroom setting is impossible for much of the year. With Zoom, however, I was able to take online lessons and further my Nahuatl skills even though my instructors were in faraway places. Not only did these Zoom lessons benefit me, they also benefited students all over the country. In order to accommodate for the different time zones, we chose the times that we had available and then met at a time that suited everyone. The ease with which Zoom offers video conferencing made these classes practical and enjoyable.

During the summer of 2019, I had the privilege of working as an online teaching assistant for a writing class at Duke University— Composing the Internship Experience: Digital Rhetoric and Social Media Discourse . For this course, I held weekly Zoom meetings for undergraduate students scattered throughout the country. Students held internships in places such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. To accommodate their schedules, I held two meetings each week. The morning and afternoon were dedicated to students in the eastern part of the country while evening lessons targeted students in California. Zoom allows class sizes to expand and contract seamlessly. Instructors simply create a link for each Zoom meeting through the web portal and then share it with their students. Once Zoom is installed on a computer, students simply click on the link to join their online class at the designated time. Best of all, it is free of charge.

Teaching with Zoom is greatly facilitated by certain features, which help the class to stay focused. Firstly, the chat function allows instructors to insert URLs, pictures, and documents so that the entire class can see these materials in real time. Zoom also has a screen-share option, which enables instructors to share their desktop with the entire class. In my writing class, I would use the screen share option when I wanted students to focus on a specific paragraph that I had selected for a given lesson. Since screenshare automatically projects onto the students’ laptops, students could instantly read along with me. These features helped students to stay on track, even though they were not physically in the room with me.

However, sometimes Zoom lessons can be hindered by technological difficulties. This fact is a general drawback of web-based technologies and does not, necessarily, indicate a fault of Zoom Video Communications. Bandwidth is one such issue. For Zoom to be effective, you really need a lot of it. Without sufficient bandwidth, the sound drops in and out, forcing students and instructors to ask each other to repeat themselves. In this sense, bandwidth is a potential problem for students from, or temporarily residing in, countries with less infrastructure. Tech companies like Facebook have attempted to resolve this problem by creating apps that can function on 2G networks such as Facebook Lite . To my knowledge, however, Zoom has yet to create something similar.

Moreover, instructors need to plan for the learning curve required for students to use Zoom effectively. I would caution instructors from assuming that students are automatically tech savvy just because they can use a smartphone. I experienced this issue in my online summer classes. Many of my students had not fully installed the Zoom application at the time of our first lesson. This meant that the first week of lessons took slightly longer than expected. While this did not cause any major problems, I realized that I had unwittingly fallen into the trap of thinking that Zoom would be a piece of cake for twenty-first century students. Instructors should account for this extra time in their lesson plans. Downtime is another factor that teachers need to think about when using Zoom. I found myself waiting a few minutes each week as students gradually joined the lesson. Someone in San Francisco may not enter the virtual classroom at the exact same moment as a student in New York.

Ideally, instructors should only offer Zoom lessons to extremely disciplined students. As teachers, we know that technological distractions can be a problem for students. Yet, we also know that this problem is not going away any time soon. Since instructors cannot see the screens of their students, unless they share them with the class, we have no idea what everyone is doing. Consequently, students prone to distraction are enabled. I suspect, for example, that some of my students had other webpages open during some portion of my classes. Some students even turned off their camera so that all anyone could see was a name projected onto a black square. Although this problem was later rectified, it is something that caught me off guard. If distractions could easily derail the class, instructors may want reconsider which students they teach via Zoom.

Communication between students during class is another important consideration for online instructors. I found that the interaction between students could be somewhat stilted if they did not already know each other. The age range for my online class was nineteen to twenty-one. Presumably, a virtual classroom of older students could engage in more fluid conversation with one another. I also noticed that the lack of face-to-face contact made it harder for students to stay focused throughout the course of an entire lesson. Pair work is next to impossible with Zoom because each user hears whomever is speaking instantly. There is no way for students to separate into smaller groups and talk among themselves. Therefore, Zoom lessons should be designed for a relatively small class size to increase the level of student participation in each class.

On the whole, I would say that Zoom is much more beneficial than not. It provides easy-to-use video conferencing for the average user and, by doing so, increases inclusivity for those far removed from the instructor. Assuming instructors account for the potential technological difficulties ahead of time, then teaching with Zoom can be a highly effective tool for learners around the world. However, to make Zoom lessons as student centered as possible, instructors need to account for the technological drawbacks in order to implement and devise lessons that maximize student participation. You will most likely experience some technological difficulties with online lessons. However, the flexibility that Zoom provides keeps students’ needs at the forefront.

Related posts

Teaching the zeitgeist through bernie sanders, teaching sex, power, and conquest with primary sources, 6 thoughts on “ the pros and cons of teaching with zoom ”.

Is there a limit for the number of students who cab attend the class. Thank you

Thank you for your comment. If you would like to reach a thousand or more students at the same time, you will have to pay Zoom for a license. To my knowledge, you can host up to 100 students without having to pay any fees. I hope this helps.

I do believe Zoom offers “breakout rooms” so you can send small groups of students to work separately. I plan to do that soon during dance lessons.

Zoom helps both learning and teaching process to progress regardless of disasters like Covid 19.

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Active Learning for Your Online Classroom: Five Strategies Using Zoom

Moving your class sessions to a virtual space, such as Zoom video conferencing, brings new opportunities for active learning and student engagement. This resource provides simple strategies that combine active learning principles with online tools so students can encounter and engage with information and ideas, and reflect on their learning. These strategies apply to both small and large class sizes, subject to the participant limit of your video conferencing program and license.

For ways to maintain privacy and security in your online class sessions, please refer to CTL’s Zoom Security and Privacy Resource .

On this page:

  • What is Active Learning?

Columbia Supported Online Tools for Active Learning

Active learning strategies, additional resources.

Cite this resource: Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning (2020). Active Learning for your Online Classroom: Five Strategies Using Zoom. Columbia University. Retrieved [today’s date] from https://ctl.columbia.edu/resources-and-technology/teaching-with-technology/teaching-online/active-learning/

Zoom: Annotation and Whiteboard Tools For more details on how to use these tools, please see: Using annotation tools on a shared screen or whiteboard and Sharing a whiteboard.

What is Active Learning? 

Bonwell and Eison describe active learning strategies as “instructional activities involving students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing 1 .” In Creating Significant Learning Experiences , L. Dee Fink builds upon Bonwell and Eison’s definition by describing a holistic view of active learning that includes all of the following components: Information and Ideas, Experience, and Reflective Dialogue 2 .  This framework can be a helpful tool to consider how your students…

  • e.g., by watching videos or reading PDFs in advance, or from a short presentation you give using Zoom’s Share Screen feature
  • e.g., through discussions with their peers using Zoom’s Breakout Rooms feature and documenting their conversations in collaborative Google Docs
  • e.g., by spending the last five minutes of the online class session engaging in reflective writing and sharing their thoughts through an open-ended poll on Poll Everywhere .

…to meet the student learning objective(s) for your course.

The CTL is here to help!

If you have questions or would like support in developing and implementing active learning in your online course, please reach out to the CTL at [email protected] . You can also get one-on-one support via phone or Zoom during our virtual office hours .

In this resource, we will reference the following online tools supported by Columbia University: 

  • Share Screen —share your screen, your student’s screen, or a virtual whiteboard
  • Breakout Rooms —divide the main virtual room into smaller virtual rooms
  • Polling —launch multiple choice polls
  • Nonverbal Feedback —allow students to express opinions by clicking on icons
  • Poll Everywhere —audience response system for polling
  • LionMail (Google) Docs , Sheets , Slides —collaborative documents

*Note: If you do not see any of the above Zoom features in your Zoom meeting space, you may need to enable them first.

If you have questions about teaching with any of the above tools, please reach out to the CTL at [email protected] . You can also get one-on-one support via phone or Zoom during our virtual office hours .

The active learning strategies you select should serve the course learning objectives for your students. Remember, the goal of active learning is not simply for your students to do things, but to also think about what they are doing. As you learn more about the following strategies, consider how effective each would be in promoting the learning you desire from your students.

Here are some questions to think about when selecting an active learning strategy:

  • What skill should my students be able to perform by the end of our online class session?
  • Which active learning strategy will allow my students to practice this skill?
  • When will my students encounter and engage with information and ideas? When will they reflect on what they’ve learned? (Any of these active learning components can be done before, during, or after the online class session.)

Strategy 1: Polling

Polling is a quick, easy way to check the opinions or thought processes of your students by posing a statement or question and gathering their responses in real time. Zoom’s Polling feature allows for simple multiple-choice polls, including Likert-type questions that ask your students to state their level of agreement with a statement, assessing the level of student interest on a list of topics, or binary yes/no or true/false questions. Simple polls can be used at the start, end, or at select points during an online class session to engage and assess your students.

  • Zoom’s Polling feature

Amount of pre-class preparation required

  • Instructor: Low (<15 min)
  • Student: Low (<15 min)

How to Implement

Determine your purpose for conducting a simple multiple-choice poll in your online class session by considering the following:

  • What information would you like to get from your students in real-time?
  • How will you use the poll results / information collected?

Here are some possible ways you can use polls for active learning in your online class session:

  • e.g., Which of the following career paths is your top choice at this moment?
  • e.g., Which of the following best represents your familiarity with the concept of atomic orbitals?
  • e.g., “Genetically modified foods should not be permitted for human consumption.” Agree or Disagree?
  • e.g., Which of the following factors do you think has the largest impact on the rate of DNA replication in a eukaryotic cell?
  • e.g., Which of the following topics would you like to go over as a class?
  • e.g., Which of the following activities are most helpful in helping you learn the skills required for this course?

Create the Zoom poll (see Zoom Help Center to learn how) and determine how much time your students will need to respond to it. Make sure the question title and prompt is clearly worded and not open to misinterpretation.

Prior to launching the poll, provide verbal and written instructions on how to complete the poll. Once launched, you will be able to see in real time the number of students and the percentage of the class that have responded to the poll, the time elapsed, and the results of the poll.

End the poll when the allocated time is up. You can then choose whether to show the class the results of the poll. Either way, be sure to directly address or have your students respond to the results of the poll, and relate it back to the purpose of the poll.

Alternative Tools for Polling

  • CourseWorks (Canvas) Quiz has an ungraded survey feature that can be used for polls both synchronously and asynchronously.
  • PollEverywhere can be used for more advanced polling activities such as using open-ended text questions or images. Unlike Zoom, the results from PollEverywhere can be directly transported to CourseWorks (Canvas).

Strategy 2: Think-Pair-Share

This active learning strategy involves posing a short problem, scenario, or question to your students and giving them the time and opportunity to complete the following steps:

  • Think through the problem, scenario, or question individually.
  • Pair with a partner to discuss.
  • Share their findings or takeaways with the rest of the class.

This strategy not only gives your students time to process and apply their knowledge and skills on their own first, it also gives them the opportunity to consult and collaborate with a peer. This process usually elicits more thoughtful responses while also lowering the stakes of sharing with the rest of the class.

  • Zoom’s Share Screen feature
  • Zoom’s Breakout Rooms feature
  • Think : First, pose a short problem, scenario, or question for your students to work through on their own for about 30 seconds to a minute. Read the question out loud while also displaying it on a slide that you share with your students using Zoom’s Share Screen feature. As your students are thinking through the problem, click on Zoom’s Breakout Rooms tool so you can enter the number of breakout rooms needed in order for each to contain a pair of students. Zoom conveniently displays the number of participants per room based on the number of participants present and the number of rooms you select. If you have an odd number of students, subtract one from the total number of students and divide that by two to get the number of rooms you should create; Zoom will automatically assign one of the breakout rooms with three students instead of a pair.
  • Pair : When your students are ready to pair up, let Zoom automatically assign them to the breakout rooms. Give your students about 5 minutes to introduce themselves to their partners and share their thoughts on the assigned problem. To help your students keep track of the given problem and directions, you can broadcast the problem and instructions through a message to all the breakout rooms.
  • Share : When your students are ready to share, close the breakout rooms so all your students return to the main room. Ask for volunteers to share their answers or discussion takeaways by having them use the hand-raise feature in Zoom. Unmute one volunteer at a time so they can acknowledge their partner and share their response with the entire class. Mute the volunteer who has spoken before unmuting the next one. Repeat this process until you are satisfied with the number of contributions and/or perspectives shared.

Alternative active learning strategies with similar setups

  • Note-Taking Pairs 3 : Students work in pairs to improve their individual class notes.
  • Three-Step Interview 3 : Students work in pairs and take turns interviewing each other, and report what they learn to another pair.
  • Peer Instruction 4 : Students first answer a given poll question on their own. Then, students pair up and explain their rationale. Finally, students answer the poll question again.

Strategy 3: Minute Paper

A minute paper is a short “paper” that students individually complete in a minute (or more realistically, under five minutes) in response to a given prompt. Minute papers provide students with opportunities to reflect on course content and disciplinary skills as well as their self-awareness as learners (see the CTL’s resource on metacognition to learn more). This active learning strategy simultaneously allows you to quickly check your students’ knowledge. Minute papers can be assigned at the start, during, or at the end of your online class session as you see fit.

  • Poll Everywhere

Before your online class session, write an open-ended prompt that students can respond to in less than five minutes. You can vary the prompt to target specific knowledge and skill sets or solicit big picture free responses.

Example prompts include:

  • What questions about today’s topic are you most interested in exploring?
  • What was the most important point of today’s lesson?
  • Share an experience from your everyday life that illustrates this principle.
  • What steps will you take to maximize your learning for the upcoming test?
  • Reflecting on the essay you just submitted, what would you have done differently that would improve your essay?

When your prompt is ready, use it to create an open-ended poll in Poll Everywhere (external to Zoom). Using Poll Everywhere to collect minute paper responses allows you to either display the responses as they come in or download a CSV spreadsheet containing all the responses to skim for trends and themes later.

While student responses are never displayed with student identities during the poll, you may need that information for the purpose of assigning participation grades or to respond to students individually. For this information to be recorded in the CSV spreadsheet, you will need to restrict the poll to registered participants only. Your students will then need to log in to their Columbia Poll Everywhere accounts to participate in the poll.

During your online class session, when you are ready for students to complete their minute papers, activate your open-ended poll and use Zoom’s Share Screen tool to share the Poll Everywhere window with your students. While the instructions for responding to the poll will be shown via shared screen, you should also read the instructions out loud to ensure all students receive that information. 

Give your students about five minutes to go to the displayed Poll Everywhere site and type in their responses to the minute paper prompt. Depending on your goal, you have the option of addressing select responses as they come in or compiling the results after class so you can address them at the start of the next one.

  • What’s the Problem 5 : Students categorize example problems according to the principles and strategies needed to solve them.
  • Muddiest Point 6 : Students share their responses to the prompt “What was the muddiest (most confusing) point in _____ ?”

Strategy 4: Small Group Discussions

Small group discussions are one way for your students to delve more deeply into a given problem or issue. You can pose an open-ended question or problem, or provide your students with a scenario or case study to work through. The duration is dependent on the task. Groups can then present their results or findings to the rest of the class.

  • Zoom’s Nonverbal Feedback feature (including hand raise)
  • Google Docs , Sheets , Slides (collaborative documents)
  • Instructor: Moderate (15–60 minutes)

Reflect on the learning objective that would most benefit from small group discussion. From this learning objective, develop the discussion prompt that you will assign to your students. For example:

  • Learning Objective: Analyze Figure 3 of the assigned research article.
  • Discussion Prompt: How well does the data shown in the figure support the author’s claims?

When assigning the small group discussion, be sure to include clear instructions on what your students are supposed to do. Examples include:

  • How many students will be in each group
  • How much time they have for the discussion
  • What they need to report back to the class and how much time they have to do so
  • Upholding discussion guidelines that they previously agreed to

Because your students are having these discussions completely online, it is best not to have too many students in each group; 3-4 students per group for a 10-minute small group discussion allows each student to contribute substantially to the discussion.

To help facilitate the small group discussion and ensure that all students engage, either assign or have your students volunteer for the following roles:

  • Facilitator + Timekeeper—keep the discussion focused on the assigned prompt
  • Notetaker—record the main points of the discussion on a collaborative document like Google Docs or Slides
  • Challenger—push the group to view the problem or issue from different perspectives
  • Reporter—report the main takeaways of the discussion back to the rest of the class

You could have students rotate roles across the semester so that they get to experience and learn the different skill sets associated with each role. 

Let your students know that you, and if applicable, your co-instructor(s) and/or TA(s), may be dropping into each breakout room periodically to check their progress and answer any questions, but that they do not have to stop their discussion if they do not need anything from you.

After providing your students with both verbal and written instructions, give them a minute to ask you any clarifying questions before you send them to their breakout rooms.

When the class is ready, use Zoom to automatically divide your students into breakout rooms. You can set the breakout rooms to close automatically after a set duration. This adds a countdown timer in the breakout rooms informing your students of the remaining time they have. As students are discussing in their breakout rooms, stop by several breakout rooms to see how the discussion is going and answer any questions, if any. You may also broadcast a message to all breakout rooms to solicit questions. Your students can always request for help from their breakout rooms by clicking the Ask for Help button, which alerts you to their request and prompts you to join their breakout room.

When time is up, if you did not set the breakout rooms to automatically close, manually close them so all students return to the main room. Ask all the student reporters to identify themselves using the hand-raise button (part of Zoom’s Nonverbal Feedback feature). When a student reporter is ready to share with the class, unmute that particular student and have them share their screen with the class. Other students can ask questions via the chat window. When the student reporter is done presenting, you can unmute the rest of that group to allow them to solicit and answer questions from their peers.

  • Test-Taking Teams 3 : Students work in small groups to prepare for a test. Students then take the test individually and submit their responses. Immediately after, students retake the test in their small groups, working to find consensus on their responses.
  • Jigsaw 3 : Students work in small groups. Each group becomes an expert in a different topic. New groups are formed, comprising at least one expert on each topic. In these new groups, each student teaches their peers the topic they became an expert on.

Strategy 5: Short Student Presentations

Short presentations provide an opportunity for students to engage in peer instruction. This type of activity invites students to synthesize and communicate their knowledge. Students can be asked to research an issue of interest to them that is related to the course topic or work on a problem outside of class, and to present their findings during an upcoming online class session. This allows students to link course content with their own interests and lived experiences, and learn from their peers.

  • Google Slides
  • Student: Significant (>60 minutes)

Identify a course learning objective that would greatly benefit from having students explore the topic further on their own. For example, you could have students use their analytical skills that they developed during the course to analyze a different area, setting, artifact, or scenario of their choice. Alternatively, you could have your students design proposals to address a problem raised in class.

Assign student presentations with sufficient time for your students to prepare their presentation, e.g., at least one to two weeks in advance. Be sure to provide specific instructions regarding the format and duration of the presentation, e.g., “The presentation is 5 minutes long with 10 minutes for audience questions,” as well as any criteria for evaluation, which could be represented as a rubric.

This strategy works best if you provide students with preliminary feedback on their presentations prior to your online class session. Consider having a short online meeting with each student presenter or checking in via email to provide feedback on their presentation and to answer their questions at least a few days before your online class session.

When it is time for your students to present during your online class session, first remind the class of the purpose and format of the student presentations. Encourage your students to be active listeners during the presentation, e.g., reflect on how the presentation might apply to your interests, explore how the presentation enriches your perspectives on the topic, type your questions into the Zoom chat, or write down your main takeaways from the presentation.

When the student presenter is ready, unmute their microphone and allow them to share their screen with the class.

While the student is presenting, you may monitor questions that are being submitted by other students to the Zoom chat. Once the presentation is finished, select a few questions for the presenter to address.

When the student presenter is done answering questions, consider having all your students reflect on what they learned. For example, you could ask your students to summarize their main takeaways from the presentation or describe how the presentation connects with different aspects of the course. Have your students share their reflections on a discussion board on CourseWorks (Canvas) or an open-ended poll on Poll Everywhere. You can skim through these reflections to see what your students gained from the student presentations.

  • Digital scavenger hunt: Students find or create media (images, video clips, audio clips) that they think best represent assigned course concepts to share with the class.
  • Book club 5 : Students choose from a list of suggested books on course content and form corresponding book clubs. Each book club presents a final report to the rest of the class, while other students identify common themes and differences between the presented books and the books they chose in their own book club.
  • Student group presentations: Students work in small groups outside of class on an assigned project and present their findings during the online class session. Other students in class focus on asking questions and linking the presentation to course content.
  • Working in a virtual classroom requires patience. Begin with simple low stakes activities for you and your students to get comfortable with the new format and provide time and opportunity for your students to ask you questions. Eventually, instructors, TAs, and students will gain proficiency with these online tools.
  • Seek to minimize barriers that students may face in order to participate in the activities you plan for your online class session. Factors to consider include access to reliable technology and conducive spaces, student physical and mental abilities, and timing. For ways to make online learning accessible for all your students, please refer to CTL’s Accessibility Resource .
  • Do a test-run of each activity you plan to use before your online class session, preferably with a CTL Learning Designer or a teaching colleague. Given the number of user-specific settings in Zoom, you will want to ensure that all the features you will be using have been enabled prior to your online class session. Some features cannot be enabled once your online class session has launched.

Community Building in Online and Hybrid (HyFlex) Courses

Collaborative Learning Online

Facilitating and Promoting Student Engagement in the Online, Synchronous Classroom (Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning)

Online Instructional Activities Index (University of Illinois, Springfield)

Tips & Tricks: Teachers Educating on Zoom (Zoom) 

How to Be a Better Online Teacher (Flower Darby, Northern Arizona University)

  • Bonwell, C.C. & Eison, J.A. (1991). Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report 1. Washington, D.C.: George Washington University.
  • Fink, D.L. (2003). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Barkley, E. F., Cross, K. P., & Major, C. H. (2014). Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty . John Wiley & Sons
  • Mazur, E. (2013). Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual. Pearson Higher Ed.
  • Barkley, E. F. (2009). Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty . John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. 
  • Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed). Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • First Steps for Moving a Class Online
  • Graduate Student TAs: Adapting Your Teaching
  • Inclusive Teaching and Learning Online
  • Asynchronous Learning Across Time Zones
  • Virtual Office Hours
  • Teaching with CourseWorks
  • Teaching with Zoom
  • Teaching with Panopto
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Zoom Made Me a Better Teacher

When classrooms went digital, relationship building became my most essential tool to keep students engaged.

Zoom Made Me a Better Teacher | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Student online learning in classroom. Courtesy of AP/Jacquelyn Martin.

by Carl Finer | November 3, 2021

The start of the new year at the middle school where I teach in South Los Angeles has been stressful; the rapid spread of the Delta variant shook us from the tenuous sense of security we were lulled into over the summer. Fans blow in the hallway, dual air filters hum in the classrooms, staff screen kids for symptoms at the gate, and everyone wears masks.

The stakes are high: the surrounding community was ravaged in earlier waves of COVID-19 as family members in service jobs or working in nearby garment factories brought the virus home to crowded, multi-generational, and multi-family households. But after a year of mostly distance learning amidst the traumas of the pandemic, the kids need to be back in the classroom, and they need us there to support them.

Yet as we return, and as we try to reinvent our school to be as physically and emotionally safe as possible, there’s a lot my colleagues and I learned during our unexpected time as a Zoom school.

Our first few months online were a struggle. My sixth and eighth graders often signed into their Zoom late or for the wrong class periods, had trouble finding the materials for their assignments, and turned off their cameras.

My email would ping with Zoom notifications from students trying to join my English class hours after it had ended. They’d leave comments in the Google Classroom stream: “Mister, where are you?” or “When are you starting class?” They’d turn in blank assignments, I’d return them, and they’d immediately turn them back in again. After requesting cameras be turned on so we could all be present together, I’d view a half dozen or more ceiling fans.

Plus, it was a challenge to build relationships with my students. There weren’t opportunities to chat at the door, to check in while they worked, to guide to the right book from my classroom library. My frustration mounted as my expectations for myself and for them weren’t being met.

By mid-October, after the first quarter had ended and with the staff temperature near boiling, our administration devoted a weekly meeting to checking in and recalibrating.  What was working and what wasn’t? What did the kids need from us now? What did we need now?

In Zoom breakout rooms, bleary and slumped low in their chairs or leaning on their knuckles, colleagues vented. They were spending more time planning than they had since they were first-year-teachers, but not seeing results. Kids were not completing assignments and not responding in our interactive lesson platforms. And we were just burned out from staring at screens.

Being asked how I felt—and being given the space to be vulnerable and honest in answering—made me feel as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

We had to let go of our hold on what things had been like before the pandemic and accept the reality of what was: We all were learning, on the fly, a different job. Our students, facing spotty internet and often difficult situations at home, were also being asked to do something they’d never done before.

As a staff, we responded by simplifying and streamlining, both in our classrooms—where we set common expectations for everything from assignment names to office hours and reduced the clutter of notifications—and our mindsets. This meant a recommitment to building relationships—one of the only tools we had to keep students engaged, and to engage with one another. We built in time during our staff trainings and meetings as well as during our classes just to check in with the community, catch up, and see how everyone was doing. Over winter break, I mailed each of my students (over 120 of them) a personalized postcard just saying hello and that I looked forward to seeing them after the holidays.

Zoom Made Me a Better Teacher | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The new and improved classroom. Photo courtesy of Carl Finer.

Research supports this deliberate recalibration of our professional and student relationships.

The Search Institute , a youth development nonprofit research center, defines a “developmental” relationship as a close connection between a young person and an adult or peer that powerfully and positively shapes the young person’s identity and helps them develop a thriving mindset.

Middle school students who reported strong developmental relationships with teachers were eight times more likely to stick with challenging tasks, enjoy working hard, and know it is OK to make mistakes when learning. They also were more likely to have higher grade point averages, feel connected to school, and feel culturally respected and included.

Last spring, after examining district-level data on relationships and engagement during distance learning, our organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion committee, which I’m a member of, gathered two focus groups of our most vulnerable students—middle schoolers with disabilities and high schoolers who identify as LGBTQ+—to find out what it took to keep them engaged in online school.  The belief was that listening to these students could help us build support systems that, by addressing their needs, would also serve everyone better.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, both groups praised teachers who proactively built trusting relationships through open (often private) communication and found ways to show they cared. Surprisingly, it didn’t take much to make a difference.

Students said:

“People just need to be asked how they are doing.”

“My best teacher talks to me privately. If I’m having trouble with something, they’ll message me in the chat or pull me into a breakout room or stay after class and ask what’s going on or how they can help.”

“One time a teacher noticed I was off, that I was kind of depressed, and asked me if I was OK. I’d been going through a tough time, and it meant so much that they just asked. I was able to do my work after that.”

At the end of last year, I asked my journalism students to share their experience of living during the pandemic in a photo essay, and they responded with images capturing their frustrations with screens and boredom of quarantine as well as challenging family situations. They also took photos of the things that gave them joy and connection: new pets, escaping into nature, time with family. I asked—and in response, they shared their resilience and creativity.

Now, back with these students in-person, I’ve rebuilt my classroom environment to be more warm and welcoming, even as the environment outside the school frays. Plants and framed art line my walls along with bean-bag chairs and a couch from Target. The rows of desks have been moved into groups along with much of the learning. Each class created their own Spotify playlist, a practice I started during distance learning, and we play these during independent work. And, in my assignments, using technological tools like interactive collaboration boards, Google Forms, and our class website along with old-fashioned, desk-side conversations, I make space for students to shout out classmates, share how they are feeling, and reflect on what matters most to them.

The personal and mental health challenges we all still face as the pandemic continues are immense. But fortunately, one of the most impactful tools we have to cope with those challenges is simple.

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woman with Zoom screen reflected in glasses

End Meeting for All

When we remember this time, we’ll do so through a bunch of little boxes on a laptop screen. The photographer Thomas Dworzak captured our strange, sad year on Zoom.

Photographs by Thomas Dworzak / Magnum Photos

Zoom, for most of us, arrived last year. And didn’t it feel right on time? Eerily on the button. As if the nine-foot locusts that run the universe, in a spasm of insect whimsy, had given us simultaneously a deadly, denormalizing virus and a new medium of human communication in which to freak out about it.

Not a flawless medium, by any means. Zoom drained and flattened. It boxed and confined. It got stuck, freezing beloved or not-so-beloved faces into a rictus of electro-smear. Some people got headaches from all the weird shouty talking. From all the nostrilly loomings. From all the being looked at. From all the looking at yourself, because Zoom also involved you, the user, in a kind of reptile staredown with your own Zoom image. (Only once I’d discovered the “Hide Self-View” feature, a month or so into the pandemic, could I settle down on Zoom.)

family with baby and 1st birthday candle

But there was poetry in it, too. In the world that we had abruptly entered, Zoom was the poorly lit liminal space—between home and work, between contact and estrangement, between you and not-you. And it helped, no question. Broadcasting from our little Zoom hutches, from our strange dioramas of domesticity, we beat back the infestation of isolation. Business got done. We stayed in touch.

man laughing with zoom background of police car on fire

I like the Zoom moments captured here, by the photographer Thomas Dworzak. In their humble aesthetics they seem to confess the inadequacy of the image: the impossibility, the inappropriateness, of an iconic Robert Capa –style shot that crystallizes the pandemic for us. But each one is part of a single, global story: the story of how we managed. And failed to manage. Some of the faces are engaged, alert, present, fully into their Zooming; others are puffy with blankness, not in the mood at all. There are weddings, birthdays, physiotherapy sessions, ballet classes, court dates (the stare of a judge on Zoom is especially august), bursts of activism and testimony. The images are not autonomous. Even the most fabulously random tableau—say, the shirtless man with no eyebrows, hefting in each hand what looks like a condom filled with water—exists within, and depends upon, the blurry continuum of Zoom.

Two men kissing after getting married

Have we been changed by all this? Have we been changed by Zoom? “The suburban office park is dead,” I was told authoritatively the other evening by a man who seemed to know what he was talking about. Work habits have shifted. So that might be something. Otherwise, look around—we’re grinding slowly and sulfurously backwards into the regular. Flights are full, traffic is stacking up, the wheels of commerce are turning. Humans, we have missed. But maybe not the planetary weight of humanity. In Dworzak’s collage of images, we see that weight being mysteriously, messily, awkwardly, and somewhat beautifully sublimated. We see it being thrown, for a moment, onto a new plane.

diptych one man with tropical zoom background and the other image of people running on decks

Online? In Person? The Power of Letting Students Choose

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  • Classroom Management
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I t’s been a full year since thousands of university faculty and millions of students made what’s likely the largest adjustment in instructional delivery in history, migrating mid-semester from physical classrooms to online ones. As the possible end of this great transition nears, higher education is exhaling a collective sigh of relief—but there is a new question facing most university faculty and administrators: now what?

Since last summer, university leaders have been busy determining when and how campuses can safely reopen. But as strategist and professor Vijay Govindarajan pointed out during an HBP webinar on COVID-19’s impact on the future of higher education last May , “while it’s important to attend to the challenge of the present, it’s equally important for universities and faculty to see the moment for what it is—a seismic shift within higher education.”

Those words ring even truer today. As most of us know by now, higher education is unlikely to fully return to pre–COVID-19 course delivery models. Millions of students have now experienced the intensive integration of technology into their courses, and this has likely reset their expectations for the future. Professor Govindarajan challenges us to use the lessons learned from the great transition to explore—more permanently—new models for instructional delivery.

Last fall, I did just that. I piloted a delivery approach, called the Choice Model, and implemented it in two of my principles-level business courses at Illinois College. The model, which allows students to choose, every day, whether they’ll attend class in person or online (via Zoom), was positively received by students. When surveyed, they said they preferred the Choice Model to all other delivery approaches combined (including fully in-person learning) by more than a two-to-one margin. Here, I will explain how I came up with and implemented this new model, how my students reacted, and how I plan to integrate it into my course design in the future.

What a Difference Autonomy Makes

While many colleges and universities have remained fully online since last March, many others—my institution among them—decided to open for face-to-face instruction for the Fall 2020 semester, with the first week and last two weeks taught remotely. As faculty, we were encouraged and supported to find ways to use technology to reduce student-to-student contact (per pandemic guidelines) and enhance learning. Empathizing with my students, I imagined that our announcement of in-person instruction was met with a combination of excitement about returning to the classroom and varying degrees of anxiety regarding the virus and what the fall might bring.

In times of stress, one of the factors that empowers individuals is the ability to exert a degree of control over their environment . I quickly determined that giving my students a choice in how they received their education would allow them to exert greater autonomy. Not to mention, developing students’ autonomy is a critical learning goal, and an explicit one in many UK universities .

This all got me thinking: if students were allowed to make choices in their education relative to the pandemic, perhaps their anxiety would decline and their performance would increase.

I developed the Choice Model in direct response to these factors. It’s similar to a hybrid model, but with one key distinction. The Choice Model lets each student choose—every day—whether they prefer to attend class in person or online.

Let’s dig more deeply into the model and how it came to be.

“One of the factors that empowers individuals is the ability to exert a degree of control over their environment.”

The Choice Model: Combining Flexibility and Engagement

During the summer of 2020, I began exploring students’ concerns about available course delivery options. Two common themes emerged:

Fear of the unknown. In conversations with former students, several said they would be hesitant to commit fulltime to a delivery format they weren’t familiar with (namely online learning). And they said risk was high: if the format wasn’t right for them, the only options would be to drop the course or to suffer through it for the entire semester.

Concerns about staying engaged and motivated. Several years ago, before my time at Illinois College, I conducted surveys with community college students about their experiences learning online. Their feedback was largely negative. Most had been in online courses that provided content, assignments, and a schedule of due dates, and students found it hard to be motivated or engaged.

Thus, an ideal course delivery system needed to provide students with a choice that enabled each student to move between delivery systems as their comfort level and environment changed. Giving students a daily choice could provide some feelings of control and reduced anxiety, while also allowing students new to digital course delivery to try it out. If it didn’t work for them, they could always return to attending in person.

For this model to work, however, I knew I needed a way to engage students both in the classroom and online. For me, the learning platform Echo360 became the critical link that elevated the Choice Model from other hybrid approaches. To keep in-class students and those participating on Zoom engaged in long class periods, I used Echo360 to ask students multiple choice questions every 10 minutes or so, checking in on students’ understanding of the content we had just covered in the session.

I graded responses on a mastery basis. Students received five points if they obtained a score of 70 percent or higher on the Echo360 questions asked on a given day, and zero points if they answered less than 70 percent correct. For students who paid attention and took notes, these questions were easy—for those who did not, they proved to be very difficult. As the semester progressed, the average scores on these questions increased (as did students’ exam scores, by one to two percent per exam). Similarly, student performance on an end-of-semester comprehensive final exam rose from 70.5 percent to 77.67 percent.

I also used the Echo360 platform to understand how my students would be attending class on any given day. The first question I always asked at the start of each session was, Are you attending today’s class:

A) In Person

B) Via Zoom

This allowed me to track not only what percentage of each student’s sessions were attended in-person versus on Zoom, but also the performance of in-person attendees versus Zoom attendees on the check-in questions asked throughout the session.

Positive Results, Positive Attitudes

What are the benefits of the choice model.

I’ve found the Choice Model, in which students can choose whether they attend class each day in person or online, benefits students, faculty, and administration in the following ways:

Student Benefits

Ease of attendance, ease of use. Requires only a smart phone and an internet connection to attend class. Echo360 is a free student download and takes five minutes to learn.

Fewer COVID-related anxieties. Students can decide whether to attend in person or online based on how secure they feel at the time of each class.

Faculty Benefits

Reduced risk of virus transmission. De-densifies the classroom, bringing fewer students into close contact with the professor and allowing for greater social distancing.

Relative ease of use. The only additional technology needed was a second webcam, a wireless lapel mic, and licenses for Zoom and Echo360.

Administration Benefits

Ability to maintain class sizes and avoid additional staffing. Due to the need to social distance in classrooms, a classroom that normally holds 35+ students might now only hold 15, necessitating additional classrooms and staffing. The Choice Model allows those students to voluntarily separate so that only one classroom and one educator is needed.

I also saw comprehensive final exam scores increase by seven points in a Choice Model class over another section taught fully in person a year earlier. Students credited the use of the check-in Echo360 questions during each class session as being helpful for keeping them engaged with the material during 70- and 100-minute classes.

Attendance also increased from 85 percent in Fall 2019 to 93 percent in Fall 2020, since the most common reasons for not being in class—not feeling well, being unable to get to campus, having to be out of town, etc.—were no longer barriers. An additional benefit of the Choice Model was the ease of teaching students who were placed in quarantine or isolation. In these instances, all I needed to do was to email the student to check on their health and well-being, and then to remind them to simply attend class using Zoom, if they were feeling up for it.

By the end of the fall semester, the Choice Model seemed to be a popular innovation with students. In a post-semester survey, I asked students to rate the model on a scale of 1 to 7 (with 7 being high), and the mean response was 6.7. When asked to rank the Choice Model among other course delivery alternatives—such as fully in person, fully on Zoom, and a 50/50 hybrid approach—30 out of 44 students ranked the Choice Model as their number-one preferred course delivery model, well ahead of fully in-person instruction.

Responding to Challenges

The model was not flawless, however. One challenge of the Choice Model was the passive nature of Zoom attendees. Echo360 was effective at engaging students with the course content, but getting students to engage with each other was another issue. Since these were principles-level classes, few of the students were familiar to me prior to the start of the course, which also made relationship building a slower process. In a post-COVID world, I intend to make greater effort to build those relationships when implementing this model.

A second challenge involved teaching quantitative material through the Choice Model. Students attending through Zoom seemed to struggle more with material that involved quantitative problem solving compared to their peers attending in person. Providing Zoom attendees with recordings of classes and additional video support was unsuccessful. A greater level of coaching on my part and increased diligence on the part of students was needed.

A third challenge was that, while giving students choices is generally positive and empowering, not every student choice is going to be a good choice. One of the unfortunate consequences of the Choice Model was that some students who needed the structure and peer-support of a classroom chose instead to attend through Zoom. The effect of not choosing wisely became apparent when grades were issued at midterm. While the number of poorly performing students was not significantly greater than usual, the extent of their poor performance was concerning, with most of the poor performers averaging below 50 percent.

Follow-up conversations with Zoom students who were performing poorly revealed that they had two other things in common—they attended class with their cameras off, and they were multitasking while attending (eating lunch, cleaning the room, working out, etc.). Most of the students with low performance said that they chose to attend via Zoom specifically for the convenience and so they could multitask. I had to explain to them that their strategy was not working. Many of those students chose to continue attending via Zoom, even after being told they would do better by being in the classroom. However, in most cases, students’ self-reported multitasking ended, their in-class quiz scores generally increased, and their performance improved to the point of passing.

“Giving students a daily choice could provide some feelings of control and reduced anxiety, while also allowing students new to digital course delivery to try it out.”

Imagining a Post-COVID Future That Includes the Choice Model

While there are some issues and limitations with the Choice Model that still need refinement, I am confident this model is applicable well beyond the current pandemic for the following reasons:

From a student perspective, the Choice Model adds value to the student experience by allowing students to choose the form their education will take each day. Even if a student chooses the same option every day, the fact that they have a choice at all still has value.

The model offers convenience and flexibility to students, especially for those who prefer in-person instruction but do not want to be locked into being on campus. For the type of student who often has work or personal conflicts, the Choice Model provides a Zoom option as a safety net. Conversely, a student who is unsure how well they will learn in an online environment also has a safety net, knowing there is an option for in-person instruction if needed.

For colleges and universities, the Choice Model has significant potential as a cost-effective alternative to online instruction. This is particularly true for online courses that are unlikely to enroll large numbers of students yet need to be offered. It is inefficient to offer an online course with only 12 students while also offering an on-campus section of the same course with 20 students. This requires twice the staffing resources compared to one section of 32 students taught through the Choice Model.

In March of 2020, higher education faced one of the greatest crises it’s ever encountered, certainly in my lifetime. In the months following, institutions and faculty responded swiftly. We were called to create new ideas and implement new solutions, recognizing that higher education has likely changed forever. The Choice Model is one emerging idea that has the potential to more permanently improve course delivery long term. As we look toward a post-COVID future, the lessons of the past year should propel us forward; we do not want to regress and lose the momentum. Our students deserve nothing less.

John Drea

John Drea is is an instructional assistant professor of marketing at Illinois State University. Drea retired from full-time teaching in May 2023 after a 39-year career in higher education, with 21 years spent in public higher ed administration and 18 years as a full-time faculty member in marketing and sports management. Drea is Professor Emeritus at both Western Illinois University and Illinois College. His career has been highlighted with several awards for innovation and teaching excellence.

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IT Teaching Resources

Classroom resources, participating in a zoom meeting or class: best practices, gse-it shares best practices and tips for participating in a zoom meeting, before meeting or class, setting up zoom.

  • Download the latest Zoom client/app .
  • Make sure your Zoom profile is updated with your preferred name and pronouns.
  • If planning to open a file during the meeting, use a device that has access to that file. 
  • Connect your device to a power source.
  • Find a quiet and well-lit place. Be mindful of your background, attire, etc., as much as possible given the circumstances.
  • Close extraneous apps/programs.
  • Use headphones with a microphone.
  • Log into Zoom 2-5 minutes early, so you can test your audio , microphone , and video . 
  • For class, Canvas may be updated prior to each class with activities to do before, during, and after class. Check this prior to class to ensure you have everything you need to have a great learning experience.

During a Meeting or Class

Attending class.

  • Navigate to the course in Canvas and go to the Zoom header on the left, OR
  • Navigate to the Canvas Calendar and find class as an event.
  • Canvas may be updated prior to each class with activities to do before, during, and after class. Check this prior to class to ensure you have everything you need to have a great learning experience.
  • If necessary, rename yourself , including preferred pronouns if you’d like.
  • Close or mute all browsers and devices that are not relevant during class time. Our devices allow us to do so much and being on them for learning can encourage us to multitask in unprecedented ways. 
  • Expect the inevitable technical hiccup (freezing, disconnecting, loss of audio), and exercise patience and grace with one another.

Meeting Etiquette

  • Try to share your video (if experiencing connection issues, then turn it off).
  • Mute yourself when not speaking.
  • Use Zoom’s gallery view to see larger groups of participants.
  • Use the non-verbal feedback tools and chat to engage and signal without disrupting the general flow of the meeting.
  • Signal the presenter if you can’t see the shared screens.
  • Try not to send a “ private chat ” to the presenter as it may be difficult to monitor it while presenting.
  • If you experience a tech glitch, try to take it in stride while you troubleshoot. 
  • Overall, be flexible, adaptable, and understanding of different situations.

Motivation as a lens to understand online learners

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What type of drainage pattern is this? Underground drainage and Dendriric drainage pattern

What is the name of the mountain you are looking at? Mount. Shasta - Sacred Mountains Next To Pluto cave

2. Zoom to placemark 2. What type of drainage pattern is this? Dendriric drainage pattern

What is the name of the mountain range that is causing this type of drainage? Sacramento mountains

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Zoom Summaries

Zoom Summary Guidelines

If you miss a Zoom meeting, please write a 250-300 word summary, including at least one paragraph, one direct quotation from the conversation, and as many bulleted points as you like.

You are encouraged to make your summary interactive, responsive, and —NOT simply informative.  What did you learn from watching & listening to the recording?  What would you have said or asked if you’d been present at the meeting?  Would you have used Zoom emoji reactions to any particular moment in the Zoom?  Would you have used the Chatbar?  Would have wanted to do a Screenshare—and, if so, what would you have shared?

These are just a few questions to get you going with the creative part of the summary—don’t feel obligated to respond to all of them or in order…  Basically, I just want your summary to indicate what you learned from the Zoom (the important stuff related to the course) and also how you responded to it, the ideas it gave you, etc.

Note: When posting, please title your post using your name and the meeting # (i.e., Monroe Street Zoom Mtg 1 Summary) and remember to check the box next to the “Zoom Category” before posting.

You can test that you posted correctly by clicking this link; if you can’t see your post there, then go here, scroll down and look for post (you can search for your name as well), and click “Edit” then make sure you’ve selected the right category.  Rinse and repeat.

3 thoughts on “Zoom Summaries”

Alexandria Dorato Monroe Street Zoom Mtg 1 Summary

After watching the zoom recording, I felt more comfortable with starting college. When I registered for classes, I was nervous about remote learning and how it would work out for me. I am glad that you went over everything, I have a clear understanding of how this course will be for me. I learned how to use open lab by simply following the steps that you provided. If I was able to attend the zoom meeting, I would have asked how to view my grades. After watching the video “Love is the Message, the Message to death” by Arthur Jafa, I understood your feelings towards the video. The message is just so powerful. A quote that stood out to me was “when in need, who will save you”. This quote makes me wonder and also feel upset for the people who feel that they are alone in this world. I also learned what is expected from you in terms of the media shares after reading your response to the video. I get a better understanding after seeing examples because it enables me to know that I am doing the task correctly. I developed a few questions after you discussed the reading “A Word’s Meaning Can Often Depend on Who Says It” by Gloria Naylor. I would have asked why the word could never be applied to a woman as she stated. Naylor gave her reasoning but it is still unclear to me.

Question: For the essay draft, do you want more of a bulleted format or write it as if we were writing the final copy? Do you want us to just revise the draft?

Also.. I am going to try to join the zoom meetings on my lunch break. I don’t think i can attend the entire meeting but i will be there whenever i get the chance to.

Unfortunately I was unable to join the zoom meeting but after watching it I understand how this course will be. in this meeting , I clearly understand the syllabus and the work we have to do in this term. This is my freshman year and I didn’t use open lab in high school but after watching the video I learned how to use this.We have to do media share where we have to share link/ image or video that says something about who we are or where we are. There was an essay “A Word’s meaning can often depend on who says it”. It was interesting because she started essay saying that words don’t mean anything and later she was talking about particular word that has different meanings. She showed that words meaning can be changed over time or by some reasons. I found this interesting. The way you explain the text was amazing and I can’t wait to come in next session.

(I have no questions for now because some of questions I had and other students asked that. So I got answer)

Maram Awadh Zoom Mtg 1 Summary

Before watching the zoom recording, I was overwhelmed and lost due to the fact that I didn’t receive any information or emails about this class and was basically in the dark. After viewing this recording, I now understand a bit of what to do and what this class consists of. I learned a few things about OpenLab and how to use it for this class, I was very confused at first when I logged in but now I’m getting the hang of it. If I was in the zoom call I would have asked about the assignment that was due and where to upload it and I would have asked how to view my grades, also I would have totally used zoom emoji. I never knew we could do that, so that’s another thing I discovered. One thing I found really interesting and what stuck on my mind during the reading was when you said “Words themselves have no power in of themselves without the power that people as a community assign to them.” I found this very interesting because nowadays people use these racial slurs to degrade people, specifically people of color and they use these disgusting words to make themselves feel “higher” and more “superior” to them. They give these words a lot of power and use them against a specific type of person or group. Personally, I found the reading very interesting and I enjoyed the meaning behind it. I also enjoyed the conversations you had with the students and I hope I get to make it to your next zoom call.

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Five Tips to Make Your Essay “Flow”

an essay about zoom

Photo by “Maksym Yymchyk” on Unsplash.

This post was written by Sydney Nicholson, a second-year master’s student in the English Department.

Dear writer,

Have you ever wondered what it takes to make an essay “flow”? In my time as a writing center tutor, I’ve noticed that this is one of the most common questions our clients ask. It is my hope that this blog post will not only provide some clarity on what writers mean when they talk about flow but also provide you with a few tips and tricks that you can use to address this concern.

When we talk about flow, what we are really asking is whether the individual ideas in our essay come together to create a coherent whole. In other words, we want to know if our ideas “hang together” in a way that makes logical sense to the reader. In order to address our concerns about flow, it can be helpful to break this question down further and ask:

  • Does my essay have one clear goal?
  • Does each sentence in my paragraph support the point I want to make in that paragraph?
  • Does the paragraph that expresses those ideas support the point I am making in my essay as a whole?

Since you are familiar with the subject you are writing about, it can be challenging to address the flow of your essay. When you read through your essay, your brain knows why you are making each of your points and why those points are connected. Unfortunately, because those connections are apparent to you, you can forget to explain those connections to your reader. Effective writers use a number of tools to see their paper with new eyes and put themselves in the reader’s shoes. Here are five of my favorites:

  • Think of your thesis as a kind of itinerary for your paper

Tour guides give their clients an itinerary that tells them where the tour will end and what they will see along the way. An effective thesis is like an itinerary; it not only tells the reader what you are going to say but it also gives the reader a sense of how you are going to arrive at that conclusion. When you write a thesis that tells the writer how you will arrive at your end goal, you become a guide for your reader. You prepare them for each of your main topics so that they aren’t surprised or caught off guard when they come to a new section of your paper. Just as no one wants their tour guide to take them to The Haunted Mansion when they were expecting to visit Splash Mountain, no one wants to be caught off guard by a paper that took a turn they didn’t expect!

Here is an example of a thesis that only tells the reader where a paper will go: This paper argues that John Williams was inspired by Gustav Holst’s orchestral suit The Planets.

Here is an example of a thesis that tells the reader where the paper will go AND how the author will get there: This paper argues that John Williams was inspired by Gustav Holst’s orchestral suit The Planets by comparing the tonal patterns in “Mars: The Bringer of War” to the Imperial March.

  • Write topic sentences that are “mini-theses”

Pay particular attention to the first sentence of each of your paragraphs. These sentences are key to guiding your reading through your ideas and they can make or break the flow of your essay. When you write a topic sentence, you want it to do three things:

  • Tell the writer what they will know after reading that paragraph
  • Explain how that paragraph is related to the one that came before it
  • Use key words from the prompt to reassure your reader that this paragraph is responding to the central question of the paper

Here’s an example topic sentence: In addition to using religion as an active tool against nature, the four survivors also utilized religion to wield power over their inner conscience.

This topic sentence uses the key words “religion” and “power” to prove that this paragraph relates back to the essay prompt which asked the writer to explain how Vasco da Gama and his crew used religion as a tool of power in the New World. Its first phrase briefly sums up the main idea of the previous paragraph and explains that this paragraph provides an additional example of how the four survivors used religious as a tool of power. Finally, the topic sentence clearly tells the reader what this paragraph is about when it states that four survivors utilized religion to wield power over their inner conscience.

  • Use a graphing activity to see how your sentences relate to one another

an essay about zoom

Photo by “Andre Taissin” on Unsplash.

In an essay that has a coherent flow, each paragraph will have one central point. Within that paragraph, the individual sentences will work together to develop that idea. To see whether your sentences are working together to develop one concept, use this graphing activity. Here’s how it works:

  • Copy and paste your paragraph onto a blank page
  • Put each sentence on its own line.
  • Read through your paragraph sentence by sentence
  • When you see a sentence that further explains the sentence that came before it, press tab and indent it. When you see a sentence that isn’t connected to the idea that came before it, do not indent that sentence at all.

In a paragraph where all of the sentences hang together to form a coherent whole, you should notice that each sentence is indented a bit further than the last one. Here’s an example of a graphed paragraph from an advertisement analysis essay:

an essay about zoom

The last sentence in your paragraph should “zoom out” and restate the main claim of the paragraph. Thus, it should be similar to your topic sentence. You can represent this similarity by keeping your concluding sentence flush to the left edge of the page.

  • Never assume that your reader will understand why you are connecting two thoughts together without your help.

If you make your reader guess why you include a quote or a particular piece of information they might guess incorrectly. You are the expert on this topic and it is your job to show the reader why the quote that you include or that really interesting piece of information about the Trojan Horse is actually connected to your main topic about the way that technology can become a tool for deception.

  • Read your paper aloud to a friend or schedule an appointment at the UWC:

Reading your paper out loud to a friend or writing consultant is a great way to make sure that the order of your essay makes sense to someone who isn’t familiar with your topic. If you would like to make an appointment at the Baylor University Writing Center to work on the flow of your essay, please come visit us on the second floor of the Moody Library or make an appointment online at www.baylor.mywconline.com

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The Brown Bag Teacher

Teach the Children. Love the Children. Change the World.

September 19, 2015

Narrative Writing: Zooming into Small Moments

Watermelon vs. seed moments.

At the beginning of the week, we started with the hands-on. So often in writing we forget to start with the concrete and move to the representational. It’s best practice in math (and we totally do that) but for writing we somehow always jump to the pencil.

So, we cut into the watermelon to make it more manageable. (Then, #teacherfail – I BOUGHT A SEEDLESS WATERMELON. <insert every face palm emoji here> Thankfully there were still white seed, so our metaphor continued. Students decided that the cut watermelon was definitely more manageable to eat and talk about.

We then made the connection that the HUGE watermelon was just like our “List Stories”. I went to the park, then I played on the slide. Then I went on the swim. Finally it was dark. I went home. We talked that knowing what happened is very different than knowing all the details.

Relating it to Ourselves

We went back to our writing journals and brought them back to the carpet. Students shared “ Watermelon Stories ” in their journals that they may need to revisit. (Note – this totally wasn’t a shaming lesson and totally voluntary. I love pulling examples from our own writing because it makes it much more real. ( Snag this organizer for your classroom here. )

an essay about zoom

As students shared one of their watermelon stories, I asked – “So ___________, instead of writing about the WHOLE __________, what part can you go back and describe?” When students picked specific parts (hitting the piñata, riding the roller coaster), we called these ‘Seed Moments’.

Finally, it was writing time! As students worked, I delivered plates of watermelon as a motivator and reminder to think small. Then, I started conferencing with my habitual list-story writers. 😉

Using Mentor Texts

Putting it into action, shared writing.

This friend is sharing about his recent trip to the zoo, seeing tigers. My favorite line – “One did not look fun. He was lame.” Hahahaha – classic and perfect 1st grade writing. (Note – he does go on to explain the lame tiger behavior.)

an essay about zoom

  • Opinion Writing ( blog post , resources , bundle )
  • Narrative Writing (blog post, resources , mentor texts , bundle)
  • Inform/Explain Writing ( blog post , resources , bundle )
  • How-To Writing ( blog post , resources , bundle )

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Reader Interactions

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September 19, 2015 at 2:58 pm

Such wonderful lessons! I am wondering what type of writing journals you use. I really like the wider lines and the area to put a picture at the top of the page. Thank you for sharing more inspirational ideas!

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September 19, 2015 at 10:08 pm

Hi Mandy! I actually picked up some Primary Writing journals from Dollar Tree (just for my struggle . I haven't seen them since. I know you can order them on Amazon and Lakeshore, too…but they are really expensive. I actually prefer real composition notebooks but know that my struggling writers need the extra support!

September 20, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Order from Dollar Tree online:)

September 20, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Unforuntaley, this is one product they aren't selling online. So, you have to luck out that your store is selling them!

September 19, 2015 at 7:32 pm

I LOVE the anchor chart!!!

September 19, 2015 at 8:21 pm

I absolutely love your posts about Writing Workshop! I am definitely going to try this lesson, watermelon, binoculars, and all with my kinders later in the year! Thanks so much for sharing, Catherine!

September 20, 2015 at 2:29 am

Another amazing post about Writing Workshop! Thank you so much for sharing. We are working on small moments this week. Thank you!

September 20, 2015 at 8:55 am

What a fantastic post! I love that you point out how many times in writing we just quickly jump to the pencil and don't take time to "build up." These are fantastic mini lessons. Thank you so much for sharing!

Kelly Lattes and Lunchrooms

September 20, 2015 at 10:50 am

A really useful post. Thank you. I would be interested to know which mentor texts you use for other skills – both reading and writing.

September 26, 2015 at 2:20 pm

It did this "seed moments" lesson with my kiddos this week. My husband and I had a long discussion about whether or not you can still buy watermelons with seeds!!?? I should have just gone for it like you did…I'm sure your kids will remember it for a long time :0) Great post! I'm trying hard to incorporate more writing. Keep the ideas coming!!

October 9, 2015 at 1:15 am

Night of the veggie monster is a great mentor text!

November 18, 2015 at 11:30 pm

Thank you so much! This helps me explain what a small moment is to my son in 2nd grade with out having to email his teacher!

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Essay Hook Examples That Grab Attention (Formula for Better Grades)

Essay Hook Examples That Grab  Attention (Formula for Better Grades)

Table of contents

an essay about zoom

Meredith Sell

Have you ever read a line that caught your attention so fast, you didn’t look up until five paragraphs later? Props to whoever wrote it — they mastered the attention-grabbing hook.

Top 10 Essay Hooks

For many writers, hooks (or ledes, as they’re referred to by journalists) are both tantalizing and infuriating. Out in the wild, we spot first lines that are startling and mind-bending and stoke our curiosity. But then we sit to write our own and all we can think of is “once upon a time” or “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” or, worse, “imagine yourself…”

‍ ‍ The truth is: every piece of writing can’t start with an explosion or a chase scene. Especially if you’re writing an academic essay or other piece of nonfiction that needs to stick with the facts. But there are better ways to start your essay than the sleepy “A recent study observed 300 chimpanzees in 50 habitats over seven years. This is what it found.”

  • ‍ How do you write a hook that grabs your reader’s attention right away?
  • Is there a way to make sure the hook fits the piece you’re writing?
  • ‍ How do you use AI to produce better hooks?

These are just a couple questions we’ll answer in this article. 

But first, let’s talk about what you need to know before attempting to write that opening sentence.

Try our FREE essay hook generator > Try our FREE essay hook generator >

an essay about zoom

What to Know About Your Essay (and Topic) Before You Write the Hook

Whether you’re writing a research paper on economics, an argumentative essay for your college composition class, or a personal essay for that blog you’ve been plotting, there are a few things you need to nail down before you settle on a first line.

1. Gain In-Depth Knowledge of Your topic

an essay about zoom

Name one thing under the sun. You could write an essay about it.

Before you actually write your essay, though, you need to know your topic — not just in name, but in-depth. You don't have to be a subject matter expert , but you do have to research.

Your research will help you narrow your focus, build an argument, and uncover the facts to shape the flow of thought throughout your piece. What you learn in the research stage should determine how you structure your essay — and should guide your choice of hook.

‍ Did you uncover a shocking fact? A compelling anecdote? An interesting quote? Any of those things could be your hook.

‍ Take action: When you’ve finished your research, go through your notes and think through your essay. Mark or make a list of anything you learned that’s compelling enough to be a good lead. Then, filter that list through your essay genre.

2. Type of essay

an essay about zoom

In academic settings, there are generally three kinds of essays:

  • Argumentative: Making the case for a certain stance or route of action.
  • Expository: Explaining the who, what, when, where, why, and how of some phenomenon.
  • Narrative: Telling a true story as a way to explore different ideas.

‍ The type of essay you’re writing is key to choosing the best hook for your piece. 

A serious argumentative essay probably shouldn’t start with a joke. And a shocking statistic may not be the best way to set the stage for a narrative story.

‍ Take action: Go through your list of potential hooks and cross out anything that doesn’t fit the type of essay you’re writing, whether it's a persuasive , argumentative or any other essay.

3. Audience and tone

To make sure your essay is properly engaged and understood, you need to keep your audience in mind and choose a tone that fits both your subject and your audience.

For an argumentative essay, you’re trying to convince someone who doesn’t agree with you that what you’re claiming is right or, at least, reasonable. You don’t want to turn them off with snarky or offensive language — but you do want to be authoritative. Your hook should match that tone and support your effort.

A narrative essay is likely to welcome more lyrical language, so starting with a colorful description or an anecdote might make more sense than, say, a bold claim or surprising fact. Whatever tone you choose for your narrative essay — comical or gentle or bold — should be used for your hook.

‍ Expository essays can use all sorts of tones and be written to a variety of audiences, so think carefully about the tone that best fits your subject matter. An essay explaining how the human body shuts down when overdosed will likely require a different tone than one on the lives of circus masters in the late 1800s. 

‍ Take action: Look at your list. Can you write these potential hooks in a tone that suits your subject and audience?

Are you writing a 10-page paper or a three-page reflection? Or is this your senior thesis, pushing 100 pages?

‍ If you’re writing a shorter paper, you’ll want to keep your hook quick and snappy. Don’t wax eloquent over three paragraphs about your childhood baseball league if your research paper on Little League is only four pages long.

At the same time, a long work — like a senior thesis or a term paper — could be enhanced by a longer hook. Just make sure your hook relates to and supports the core point of your essay. You don’t want to waste space describing a scene that ultimately has nothing to do with the rest of your piece.

‍ Take action: If you write out the items on your list, how long will they be? A sentence or paragraph? Perfect. Two to five paragraphs? Unless your essay is on the longer side, you may want to save that information for later in the piece.

‍ Now that you know the basic facts about what you’re writing, let’s look at some approaches you could use to catch those readers — and reel them in.

5 Enticing Essay Hooks (and How to Avoid Common Mistakes)

1. shocking fact or statistic.

Your research turned up a trove of information — some of it’s boring, some of it’s downright mind-blowing. Here’s a tip: If you lead with anything, lead with the mind-blowing stuff.

‍ Your job as the writer is to either make the mundane interesting or point out what’s not mundane at all. That starts with your first sentence.

For example, let’s say you’re writing about the color of the sky. You don’t want to start with “the sky is blue”. But you could start by explaining how the sky got its color.

For example:

‍ Making the mundane interesting: Sunlight is clear and colorless — until it strikes earth’s atmosphere. Then, scattered by air molecules, it colors our sky blue.

‍ Not mundane at all: In 2020, wildfires up and down North America’s West Coast sent so much smoke into the atmosphere that, in California, the sky turned orange.

Whether you’re sharing a fact or statistic, make sure it’s shocking or unexpected. And state it as directly as possible. 

Produce a shocking statistic with AI

Go to Wordtune, add your headline, and click on 'Expand on' and type "statistics". You can scroll through different AI-suggested stats that relate to your subject at hand.

an essay about zoom

Get Wordtune for free > Get Wordtune for free >

2. Bold claim hook

Especially fitting for argumentative essays, this approach goes from zero to 60 in two seconds (or less, depending how fast your audience reads). The idea is to get to the point ASAP. Make your claim — and then dive into your argument to back it up.

Will your claim ruffle feathers? Hopefully. If your “bold claim” makes people shrug, you haven’t succeeded either in writing it or in choosing a claim that’s actually bold. 

‍ Avoid the mistake of making a claim that people already accept as fact.

Just like “the sky is blue” won’t work as a shocking fact, it won’t work as a bold claim. We know the sky’s blue. Tell us something we don’t know. Or better: tell us something we’ve never heard before and may even find hard to believe. (As long as you can back it up.)

What could work for our sky color example?

  • Denver has the blue-est sky of anywhere I’ve lived.
  • Climate change is making sunsets more colorful than ever.

Generate a bold claim suggestion using AI

Go to Wordtune again, and write a statement that has general consensus. Then, choose the 'Counterargument' suggestion. This is a great way to formulate a bold claim with no effort at all.

an essay about zoom

3. Story/Anecdote hook

an essay about zoom

In an anecdote hook, you use a story to establish a connection between the topic and the reader to gain their attention. The story must be direct and concise, and relate to the main topic quite directly.

If your research turned up a wild example from a study that perfectly fits what you’re writing about, leading with that anecdote might be the best way to open your essay. Or maybe you have a personal story that relates to the topic — or permission from a friend to include their story.

The anecdotal hook is a favorite for magazine journalists and, let’s be honest, most of the writers in the room. It’s an excuse for us to play with words and work in more storytelling. As a bonus, well-told stories also have a knack for sucking in readers. Humans are storytellers . It’s like our radar is always pinging for another wild tale to first hear and then share.

But be careful you’re not wooed by a story that doesn’t fit the essay you’re writing. And if it does fit, keep it brief. The details you include need to be relevant to the essay, not just satisfying the inner gossip’s need for more juice.

A favorite writing tip that applies here: enter the scene as late as possible, leave as early as possible.

Consider these two examples:

‍ Long and rambling: When I moved to Colorado in 2015, I’d never been here before and I didn’t know what to expect. I came from Illinois, where I thought the skies were big and the landscape was boring. I wasn’t expecting the Colorado sky to be bigger. And I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be more blue.

‍ Direct and concise: The first thing I noticed when I moved to Colorado was the sky: it seemed bigger and more blue than the sky anywhere else I’d lived.

Either of these hooks could work fine if we were just writing a personal essay about a move to a new place, but if we’re specifically writing about the sky, the second example is better. It sticks to the point — the sky and the color of the sky — and doesn’t get bogged down in irrelevant details about where the person moved from, whether they’d been to Colorado before, or what they were expecting.

Improve your story using AI

Not all of us are natural storytellers. By using AI you can expand a short-written story, or simply phrase it better.

an essay about zoom

4. Question Hook

Do you remember the beginning of this blog? No need to scroll back up, because I just used the same hook style again: the question.

Starting your piece with a question is a great way to spark curiosity in your reader and set up what your piece is about. But there are plenty of ways to do this poorly.

Avoid any variation of “have you ever thought of…” or “have you ever wondered…” Questions like these try to put thoughts into readers’ minds that they may or may not have ever considered, and can be a major turnoff.

Instead, you’ll want to come up with a unique question that approaches your topic from a fresh angle. This means honing in on what was especially interesting or surprising from your research — and maybe even doing some brainstorming of different questions to find the most fascinating one.

What questions could you ask about the color of the sky? So glad you asked.

  • Why did the sky turn orange in the middle of the day?
  • If light is clear, why does the sky look blue?
  • What do earth’s atmosphere and rainbow-casting suncatchers have in common?

5. Description Hook

an essay about zoom

Another favorite of the literary writers in the room, description is a prime choice for explanatory or narrative essays. But it takes some focus and intention to do well. 

Like with story hooks, you want to keep descriptive hooks concise. Whatever you’re describing — historical figure, disease, sporting event, London in the 1600s — should be clearly relevant to the central purpose of your essay. Your description should either illustrate the point you’re making or serve as an introduction to your topic.

Mistakes to avoid:

  • Relying on passive voice
  • Choosing bland words
  • Describing a scene that’s common to the reader 

As with all hooks, your description needs to be specific and unexpected .

So what would make a good descriptive hook for an essay on the sky? 

Describing a sunset is too cliche, so cross that one off the list. Describing the sky as it is on a normal day wouldn’t be shocking or unexpected. To reach something unique, you’d have to either zoom in on the air molecules (like we did in our shocking fact example) or take a totally different approach:

Only an artist, the kind that memorized the colors in the crayon box as a kid and uses words like cerulean and violet , could name the difference between the blue of Colorado’s sky and the blue of Indiana’s sky. But she saw the difference, first in photos and then in person. That richer Colorful Colorado blue reflected in her eyes. Not baby blue or sapphire or azure — or even sky blue. Blue bird, perhaps? That’s what Coloradans called it. We’re closer to the sky, they say, that’s why it’s blue-er here. Believe it or not, they’re right.

Create a description hook with AI

By now, you know the process. You write the main topic of your essay, and click 'Explain'. You can also try the 'Emphasize' suggestion, which rather that adding an explanation, reiterates the message more deeply.

an essay about zoom

3 Approaches to Avoid When Writing Hooks

Every type of hook can be done poorly, but avoid these at all costs. These hooks are tired and overdone. They may help you start your first draft, but please — for the sake of your readers — do not submit an essay with any of these leads.

1. Quotations

Abraham Lincoln probably didn’t even say that quote the internet attributed to him, but even if he did, people probably already know it. It’s not shocking or unique or unexpected. Leave it out.

2. Definitions

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines hook as “a thing designed to catch people’s attention.” 

This approach doesn’t catch anyone’s attention — unless you’re defining a particularly unusual word. But even if you are defining an unusual word, there’s probably a more interesting way to start your essay than relying on someone else’s definition.

3. “Imagine this”

Here’s a hint: Cut “imagine this” and keep the rest. The hook will either work (and be an enticing description) or be painfully boring. Either way, you’ll at least avoid the most cliched approach to starting any piece of writing.

Our Go-To Trick for Writing Catchy Hooks

If you want a surefire way to write compelling openings , do this:

Go through your notes and either outline your essay or write the whole thing. This way, you’ll know the central thread (or throughline) that runs throughout your piece. 

Once your essay or outline is complete, go back through and identify a particularly compelling fact, claim, or example that relates to that central thread.

‍ Write up that fact, claim, or example as the hook for your essay using any of the methods we’ve covered. Then revise or write your essay so the hook leads smoothly into the rest of the piece and you don’t repeat that information elsewhere.

Does your hook spark curiosity in you? Did that fact surprise you in the research stage? Chances are, your readers will have the same reaction. And that’s exactly what you want.

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Moving from notes to an organized and well-supported essay is a heavy lift for adolescent writers — and for their teachers.

Templates for argumentative and explanatory essays

Zoom In templates help scaffold student writing, using interactive outlines, tips, and sentence starters. Teachers can differentiate instruction by assigning individual students either a high or low level of writing support.

Multiple drafts make perfect    

After students draft their essays, they review them using a student-friendly interactive rubric , with categories found in the Common Core, C3, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced frameworks.  

Not just any essays – historical essays  

Zoom In asks students to both write and read the way that historians do. Each essay calls for historical background — context — in the first paragraph, in order to orient the reader to what was happening at the time. When students cite an author and document as support, they are asked to provide information about the author that will help explain his or her perspective on the topic.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING:

“Zoom In’s writing scaffolds allowed my students to take the nuts and bolts out and really focus on that sophistication that leads them to a higher level of thinking.”

Jennifer Bremmer, Eighth Grade Social Studies Teacher, California

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Guest Essay

Do Not Empower the Criminals in Haiti

A hand reaches through a plant to touch a pane of glass that has been shattered by a bullet hole.

By Jean-Philippe Austin

Dr. Austin is a Miami-based oncologist and a co-founder of the Haitian American Foundation for Democracy.

Here’s what I remember most about my childhood growing up under a dictatorship in Haiti: fear.

We could never speak against the president-for-life, François Duvalier. My classmates, the children of regime officials, were dropped off at school by big men with guns. One night, men came to take our neighbor’s father, and no one ever saw him again. Sometimes we would walk by the National Palace and avert our eyes, too afraid to even look onto the grounds.

It is agonizing to watch yet another generation of Haitians living with terror. Since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, the country’s network of gangs, some sponsored by government officials, have gained territory, arms and audacity. Earlier this month, they formed a confederation and effectively launched war on the state, blocking Ariel Henry, the unelected and unpopular acting prime minister, from flying back into the country. They overran the capital, orchestrated multiple jail breaks, burned government buildings and police stations and attacked the central bank.

I am safe in Miami, but my relatives and friends in Port-au-Prince have told me they are not. One recently had his car shot up; another fled his home after the neighborhood was taken over by gangs; another saw gang members shoot into his convenience store and threaten his employees; another had his house burned to the ground. Most people I know there are terrified they will run out of food and water.

Now some of the same individuals imposing this chaos and destruction are jockeying for power as Haiti’s next government takes shape. Haitians deserve better. Haitians have always deserved security and a say over the fate of their country. They deserve to be led by people who represent the population and strive to keep them safe — not the criminals who have caused their fear and misery, year after year.

For several weeks, Haitian political parties, civil society organizations and diaspora groups have been negotiating what Haiti’s transitional government will look like after Prime Minister Henry resigns , as he has pledged to do. Many hope for a representative council that can re-establish security, rebuild institutions and inspire Haitians’ confidence to vote for a new government in elections later next year. The Caribbean Community , or Caricom, has brokered negotiations, mostly over Zoom, that have created a transitional presidential council, including both democracy advocates and members of several political parties. That council will select a new interim prime minister.

As these negotiations have taken place, the violent leaders controlling the streets of Port-au-Prince are vying for legitimacy. Both Jimmy Chérizier, known as Barbecue, whose gangs have reportedly massacred and raped civilians, and Guy Philippe, who recently served time in U.S. prison for money laundering related to drug trafficking, are casting themselves as freedom fighters and legitimate political leaders . They have said they will reject any internationally organized agreement, raising questions about how the Caricom-brokered council will be able to regain control of the country.

Some observers of Haiti say that involving those criminal leaders in the next phase of Haiti’s governance could help restore order. That is both a dangerous misconception and a ludicrous idea: It is these men who are currently fomenting violence in a bid to gain power. More than 1,500 Haitians have died in gang violence since the start of the year, according to a new United Nations report . After a bully knocks everyone down, you don’t give him what he wants and expect him to stop. He will always want more and use violence to get it.

Haitians deserve governance by the talented, capable people of integrity and technical skill who have been reluctant, and often afraid, to participate in public life, which has been taken over by a criminally connected political class. The transition government in formation must not include criminals, their deputies or any political party with ties to drug trafficking, arms dealing or gangs.

I have watched state violence destroy lives. When I was a child in Haiti, my father’s twin brothers, Roger and Rodrigue Austin, were involved in a plot to overthrow President Duvalier. Roger helped hide other conspirators in cane fields near where my father worked for the Haitian American Sugar Company. Soldiers eventually burned the fields, killed some of the men and imprisoned my uncles. They never came home. My grandfather was briefly imprisoned as well — Mr. Duvalier believed in collective punishment — and died soon after his release. My father went into hiding, and eventually my parents, siblings and I fled to the United States.

The gangs holding Haiti hostage today are in some ways the direct heirs of that era. Mr. Duvalier governed by violent enforcers: the feared Tonton Macoutes, who imposed state power with machetes. After the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, other leaders followed, employing neighborhood gangs to safeguard their power. Politicians’ use of gangs has gone even further in the past dozen or so years, as a series of manipulated elections allowed Haitian leaders with little popular support to gain office. Instead of winning people over with good policy, empathy and transparency, leaders relied on gangs to intimidate the electorate.

The United States has had a defining role in Haitian politics for generations. Washington supported the savage Duvalier regime, valuing its stability and its opposition to communism during the Cold War. Recently, for more than a decade, the United States has supported Haitian leaders as they dismantled democratic institutions and instrumentalized gangs, and even as the country devolved into gang warfare.

Now the United States is taking a back role in the ongoing negotiations for the transition government, ceding the position of deal maker to Caricom. That is a mistake. Despite Washington’s less than helpful interventions in the past, Haitians need more forceful U.S. involvement to ensure that gang leaders and those connected with them receive a strong message that this time, the United States will not tacitly support their participation in running the country. The U.S. government should not work with gang affiliates and should guard against the engagement of any of their associates with power in this transition.

And the United States will need to take specific actions. Washington should immediately release funds so that an international force led by Kenya can deploy to help restore order and provide security. The installation of the government will need international security support — or there will be no installation.

Washington has a longer-term role to play as well. It should help ensure over time that the new transition government is both functional and remains unbeholden to gangs. Haiti needs to rebuild its police force and establish effective vetting and other processes that will ensure its independence from corrupt politicians and gangs. The judiciary, too, must be rebuilt so that courts work and prosecutors and judges cannot be bought off. The United States and the international community have sponsored elections in the past, but have not meaningfully invested in building these critical institutions and developing citizens’ participation in the system. Only strong institutions and government agencies can support security and stability — and eventually, democracy.

The new transitional government offers a chance — now it is up to Haitians in every sector of society, the Haitian diaspora, the United States and the international community to support it. Without that, the gangs will keep winning, and will extinguish Haitians’ chance to live in a democratic country without fear.

Dr. Jean-Philippe Austin is a Miami-based oncologist. He is a co-founder of the Haitian American Foundation for Democracy.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Instagram , TikTok , WhatsApp , X and Threads .

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Zoom and avaya announce new strategic partnership to deliver enhanced collaboration experiences.

an essay about zoom

Avaya selects Zoom‘s AI-powered collaboration platform, Zoom Workplace, to integrate with Avaya’s Communication and Collaboration Suite to help enterprises reimagine teamwork

SAN JOSE, Calif., and MORRISTOWN, NJ, March 25, 2024  (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) —Today, Zoom and Avaya announced a strategic partnership designed to deliver enhanced collaboration experiences to global enterprises. As part of the partnership, Avaya selected Zoom Workplace — Zoom’s AI-powered collaboration platform that will include meetings, team chat, scheduler, whiteboard, spaces, and more —  to integrate with Avaya’s Communication & Collaboration Suite, providing customers with a new, streamlined way to manage their communications environments and workflows. 

Additionally, Avaya will offer the integrated Zoom Workplace solution and will deliver an enhanced collaboration experience to its base, which boasts some of the industry’s largest enterprise customers.

Adding innovation value without disruption

Avaya customers can gain additional value from their existing investments in Avaya private cloud and premise-based solutions while also leveraging Zoom’s user experience and interface to power their collaboration needs. 

“Today’s enterprises are seeking to benefit from the latest AI-powered innovations to help differentiate, accelerate, and grow, all while integrating new levels of performance with minimal disruption to existing core systems,” said Alan Masarek, Avaya CEO. “By partnering with Zoom, we can deliver on the promise of ‘ innovation without disruption’ for Avaya customers, providing added value to enterprises through world-class collaboration experiences within the Avaya platform.”

“Zoom was built to offer a sophisticated yet easy-to-use product, and as Zoom has expanded to include hundreds more products and features, as well as generative AI integrated throughout, delivering an exceptional user experience is still core to who we are and something we continue to invest heavily in,” Eric S. Yuan, Zoom founder and CEO. “Customers and partners like Avaya continue to look to Zoom to power their collaboration needs because of its speed of innovation and because it just works. We are excited to deliver that same experience to the thousands of Avaya customers who will benefit from a simple yet powerful way to collaborate.”

Enhanced collaboration with Zoom and Avaya

Existing Avaya customers will retain their investments in Avaya’s solutions and devices while benefiting from Zoom’s AI-powered collaboration platform, Zoom Workplace. 

Working together, Zoom and Avaya’s partnership is designed to deliver a joint solution that will provide an enhanced collaboration user experience for Avaya customers, including:

  • Interoperability between platforms and devices, enabling users to work in Zoom Workplace while also leveraging their existing investments in Avaya’s Communication & Collaboration Suite solutions — Avaya Aura and Avaya Enterprise Cloud — without disrupting investments in existing customizations, workflows, or infrastructure.
  • Access to Zoom AI Companion, Zoom’s generative AI digital assistant.
  • Collaboration solutions such as Zoom Team Chat, Zoom Scheduler, Zoom Whiteboard, flexible spaces, and more.

The new Avaya and integrated Zoom Workplace experience and device interoperability will be available to Avaya customers globally in the coming months. More details around the joint solution will be shared later this spring.

About Avaya

Businesses are built by the experiences they provide, and every day, millions of those experiences are delivered by Avaya. Organizations trust Avaya to provide innovative solutions for some of their most important ​ambitions and ​challenges,​ ​giving them the freedom to engage their customers and employees in ways that deliver the greatest business benefits. Avaya contact center and communications solutions power immersive, personalized, and unforgettable customer experiences that drive business momentum. With the freedom to choose their journey, there’s no limit to the experiences Avaya customers can create. Learn more at avaya.com . 

Zoom’s mission is to provide one platform that delivers limitless human connection. Zoom Workplace — the company’s AI-powered, open collaboration platform built for modern work — will streamline communications, increase employee engagement, optimize in-person time, improve productivity, and offer customer choice with third-party apps and integrations. Zoom Workplace, powered by Zoom AI Companion, will include collaboration solutions like meetings, team chat, phone, scheduler, whiteboard, spaces, Workvivo, and more. Together with Zoom Workplace, Zoom’s Business Services for sales, marketing, and customer care teams, including Zoom Contact Center, strengthen customer relationships throughout the customer lifecycle. Founded in 2011, Zoom is publicly traded (NASDAQ:ZM) and headquartered in San Jose, California. Get more info at zoom.com .

Avaya PR [email protected]  

Businesses are built by the experiences they provide, and every day, millions of those experiences are delivered by Avaya. Organizations trust Avaya to provide innovative solutions for some of their most important ​ambitions and ​challenges,​ ​giving them the freedom to engage their customers and employees in ways that deliver the greatest business benefits. Avaya contact center and communications solutions power immersive, personalized, and unforgettable customer experiences that drive business momentum. With the freedom to choose their journey, there’s no limit to the experiences Avaya customers can create. Learn more at https://www.avaya.com .

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

Certain statements discussed in this release as well as in other reports, materials and oral statements that the Company releases from time to time to the public constitute “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (the “PSLRA”). Generally, words such as “anticipate,” “estimate,” “expect,” “could,” “intend,” “believe,” “plan,” “target,” “forecast” and similar expressions or the negative thereof are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements reflect management’s current expectations, strategic objectives, business prospects, anticipated economic performance and financial condition and other similar matters. Forward-looking statements are inherently uncertain and subject to a variety of assumptions, risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated or expected by the management of the Company. These statements are not guarantees of future performance and actual events or results may differ significantly from these statements. Actual events or results are subject to significant known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, many of which are beyond the Company’s control. It should be understood that it is not possible to predict or identify all such factors. Given these risks, investors and analysts should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of the document in which they are made. The Company disclaims any obligation or undertaking to provide any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statement as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law. These statements constitute the Company’s cautionary statements under the PSLRA.  

All trademarks identified by ®, TM, or SM are registered marks, trademarks, and service marks, respectively, of Avaya Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Source: Avaya Newsroom

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    Zoom In asks students to both write and read the way that historians do. Each essay calls for historical background — context — in the first paragraph, in order to orient the reader to what was happening at the time. When students cite an author and document as support, they are asked to provide information about the author that will help ...

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  27. Zoom and Avaya announce new strategic partnership to deliver enhanced

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  28. Zoom and Avaya announce new strategic partnership to deliver enhanced

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