Ed Tech #9: Zoom

What is it?

Zoom is a video conferencing and web conferencing service, so you can use to it conduct virtual meetings. (It does other things, but I’m just going to discuss its video conferencing capabilities). It’s great for collaborative online work. It’s similar to Skype, Webex, Google Hangouts, Blackboard Collaborate, etc. When you conduct your Zoom meeting, you can use audio, video, screen sharing, screen sharing of a “whiteboard”, and chat (an instant message chat you can use during the meeting). You can also record your meeting.

How does it work?

If you go to Zoom’s website, you enter your email address and sign up for free. They’ll send you an email, and you click on the link to activate your account. After you choose a password, your account is created. One of the easiest ways to host a meeting is to simply send others your personal Zoom URL. If they click on that URL, it will take them to your Zoom meeting room. You also can send them your Zoom personal meeting ID. They visit Zoom’s website and type in that meeting ID, and then they’ll be put into your Zoom meeting room. Participants can also call in on a phone, which is great for situations when someone’s internet goes out at an inconvenient time (which is all the time).

Strengths, Limitations, and Applications

While I mentioned a number of other similar tools, Zoom sets itself apart by how easy it is to use and its reliability. I have used it a handful of times and have never experienced poor connection issues, glitchy-ness, or the “can you hear me? I can’t hear you” problem often encountered in virtual meetings.

Here’s what the interface looks like when you’re hosting a meeting:

Screenshot of Zoom interface

So user-friendly!

You can do quite a bit with the free account. You are able to host/attend an unlimited number of meetings and host up to 100 participants. 1-on-1 meetings can last as long as you’d like, but there’s a 40 minute limit on group meetings (although you technically could just log out and start another meeting… but you didn’t hear that from me).

Zoom could easily facilitate online group work among students, or could be used by an instructor to hold office hours, exam review session, etc. It’s long been noted that interactivity in an online class leads to greater student satisfaction with the course (see this article, for instance). Student-student and student-instructor engagement is a key component of a well-designed online learning environment, and Zoom could be a valuable tool in creating that kind of collaborative environment.

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9 Comments

  1. I have never heard of zoom. It’s amazing how many different resources there are now for online collaboration. It’s a new skill that our students will need to possess. They will be working with people all around the World to get projects done. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Is this similar to Blackboard? I could see the time limit being a problem, especially for high school and college classes. I like how it seems to be reliable in regards to the quality of the auto. If you pay for a subscription can you get a longer time limit, or maybe unlimiteid time?

    1. It is similar to Blackboard Collaborate since it is only for virtual meetings. You can upgrade to a paid account for meetings that have unlimited time.

  3. Neat! I agree, I feel like there are so many options now for digital collaboration. But I can’t complain- I use Skype and FaceTime all the time to keep in touch with my family. Your comment about there not being many glitches makes me wonder if it would be possible to conduct online sectionals with my band using zoom. I have always wanted to try that!

  4. I could see using this for review sessions at the high school level— I definitely would have taken some teachers up on that! It also looks like a great way to host online sessions of a class; it would, like you said, cut down on the awkwardness of not know who’s about to speak.

  5. This sounds great. I use Google Hangouts for meetings and have definitely had glitches. So if it is just as easy and a little more reliable it sounds good. I also like the idea of using something that isn’t Google just to get off their grid sometimes. Thanks!

    1. It is a good alternative to Google Hangouts – it’s nice, too, you don’t have to have a Google account to use it.

  6. I have been asked about Zoom by others and have not had any experience with it. Perhaps we should try it in class sometime. Thanks.

  7. There are times when my class competes against another class in Quizlet and I need to be able to see and talk to the teacher in his classroom. We both have more than 30 students and that is way too many students to fit into one classroom. I will show him Zoom and see if he wants to try it out the next time our classrooms compete.

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