Dynamic, interactive discussions are essential to how many faculty teach and engage with students, but online discussion is qualitatively different than in-person discussion. Therefore, it’s important to first consider the goals for the discussion and the context of your class.
- Do you want students to share their thoughts on the fly or do you want to give them time to reflect (by themselves or with smaller groups) before presenting to the larger class?
- What do you want students to share: Is it just their verbal responses or can your prompts allow for more creative responses that use images or other artifacts?
With these goals in mind, consider how you can leverage the online environment to spur discussions and increase engagement. See the following Zoom tools/activities that facilitate student-instructor interaction and student-student interaction:
- Breakout rooms allow you to break students up into groups that each have their own meeting space. Instructors can move among the breakout rooms, send messages to all students across all breakout rooms, and control when students come back to the main room. In addition, the meeting host can pre-assign students to breakout rooms prior to class.
- Polls give you the opportunity to prime students for the day's content at the start of class, survey the class's reaction to a recent assignment, or facilitate communication in other ways. Though you can create Zoom polls during a Zoom session, it can be distracting to do so, so polls should be written before class begins. For questions that come up during a class on the fly, consider using Zoom nonverbal feedback (see below).
- Nonverbal feedback - including raising hands, answering yes/no, asking you to go slower/faster - lets students to communicate quickly and without verbal interruption. When students choose one of these reactions it will appear next to their name in the participant list, as well as a count of the number of students who chose the same reaction.
- Annotation tool allows students to collectively draw/comment on an image. This tool can be effective for brainstorming and gauging students' initial understanding of a concept. Annotated images can be saved and later posted to the class for additional activities. Coach students to verbally describe their annotations for the benefits of anyone that cannot see the video.
Note:You will need to enable the Annotation tool in your Zoom settings.
- Chat allows participants to type chat messages to everyone in the meeting or privately to an individual. Chat is especially useful to give more people the chance to be “heard” (e.g., for students who would prefer not to speak up in class) without interrupting the verbal discussion or for activities when everyone is “speaking” at once (see the “Wait for it” activity in Zoom to the Next Level as an example).
- Screen sharing can go beyond presentations and capitalize on the online environment to show examples or evidence. For example, ask students to respond to a prompt verbally and present screen-share course material to support their response. Alternatively, students could use screen sharing to demonstrate a process or show samples of their own work.
- Virtual backgrounds can be used to solicit creative responses to questions. For example, you could ask students to choose a fun virtual backgrounds and explain why they chose them for beginning-of-the-semester icebreakers, or use them as a response to prompt to motivate discussion. Coach students to verbally describe the backgrounds for those who cannot see the images. Also note that technology limitations or personal preferences may impact a student's ability to share video.
Keep in mind that you can turn on and off the ability for students to use several of these features in Zoom.