Zoom Features for Teachers

A reference on helpful Zoom tools for your classes

Elizabeth O'Donnell avatar
Written by Elizabeth O'Donnell
Updated over a week ago

All live classes on Outschool take place through Zoom, a video chat platform. This article covers the most useful features and recommended settings.

Classroom management strategies

Waiting Room

To learn more about the Waiting Room, please read Educator Tips for Starting Live Meetings.

Focus Mode

Zoom’s Focus mode feature allows you to restrict learners from seeing each other during class time, so they can stay focused without being distracted by other learners. This includes screen-sharing, so you can view and switch between each participant’s shared screen, while learners can only view their own screens.

Once Focus mode has been started, learners will only see your video, any learners spotlighted by you, and their own video. Learners will only see other learners' names, their nonverbal feedback or reactions, and hear them when unmuted. Focus mode should not be used to limit learners' ability to interact with one another, but is applicable for certain situations where a lecture approach is useful.

Please note that using Focus mode will not change the format of class recordings, which will always appear in gallery view, unless sharing a screen. Read the Zoom documentation to learn more about utilizing Focus mode.

Speaker and gallery view

Zoom provides two video options:  speaker view and gallery view. You can switch between the two modes by clicking the toggle at the top right. Speaker view, the default option when you start a meeting, shows a large image of the active speaker. Gallery view shows all attendees at the same size.  We recommend gallery view while teaching to better monitor your students in real-time.    

Avoiding background noise
Make sure that everyone stays muted when not speaking. Students are able to mute themselves in the same way that you mute yourself, but as the host you also have the ability to mute all participants. If a student forgets to mute themself or is too young to do so, you can mute them by hovering over their video feed in gallery mode. You’ll see a blue mute button there.

Raise hand
Zoom offers a way for students to digitally raise their hands. Students can click the ‘Reactions’ button located on the control panel. Once ‘Reactions’ is open, there’s a button called “raise hand”. Students can use that button to get your attention while muted; this works particularly well for large sections. You'll see the option to lower a student's hand when you hover over their video feed in gallery mode.

Remove a learner
The Put in Waiting Room feature functions like a virtual timeout and should only be used as a last resort measure. It will kick the student out of the meeting until you choose to bring them back in. The student will see a blank screen with the notice “waiting for host to let you back in.” You’ll see the Put in Waiting Room option by hovering over the student’s name on the Manage Participants screen and clicking the “more” button.

Disallow learners from changing their name
We strongly recommend that you use this setting to prevent learners from changing their Zoom names. From the Manage Participants screen, you can click on the “More” dropdown menu and uncheck the “Allow Participants to rename themselves” setting. Please note that this change is saved in your Zoom app, so you will not need to change this every meeting. 

Useful teaching features

Text chat
You can use the chat box, accessed from the bottom of the screen, to send messages to students during class. You can control how the learners use the chat feature by selecting who they can chat with from the “More” dropdown menu. By default, group chat is enabled. You can choose to limit learners to only chat with you, the host.  Or, to disable chat completely, you should choose the “No one” option. There is not a 1:1 student messaging option, so you don’t have to worry about students private messaging each other while you’re trying to teach. 

Screen sharing
Perhaps Zoom’s most useful teaching feature, screen share lets learners see what is on your computer screen. This could include a Powerpoint presentation, a website, a video, or anything else on your computer that would be useful for class.  Zoom also includes a built-in whiteboard as a screen share option, which can be very helpful for many classes. To share your screen, click the green button at the bottom of your Zoom window, then select the option that you wish to share. Remember to check the use computer sound checkbox on the bottom left of the screen share window if you wish to share a video with students, otherwise the audio will register as background noise on your side and will not be sent into the video classroom.

Zoom also gives you the option to annotate while screen sharing. This allows you to make your class more interactive, since you can draw arrows on Powerpoints, underline complicated words in articles, and do other helpful actions to help students follow along with the material. You’ll see the annotation option at the top of the screen while you’re screen sharing. Students also have access to the same annotation tools. 

If you click on the “More” dropdown menu at the top of the screen, you will have the ability to control the annotation settings. You can: 

  • Enable/Disable Attendee Annotation: This can be useful if the students are using the annotation tools in a distracting manner

  • Show/Hide Names of Annotators: If you have multiple learners annotating on your shared screen, you can hover over the annotation to see which learner created it. 

Breakout Rooms
Zoom provides a way for you to break students into separate video chat rooms in order to complete discussion exercises or other group work. You can read more about this feature in Zoom's guide to breakout rooms.

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