Teaching with Zoom

Before Class

Download Zoom from the Zoom website if it is not already installed on your computer.

Setup Strategy

Consider how your class is taking place on Zoom: are you primarily lecturing (one-way interaction) or are you hosting a group discussion with remote participation? Identify the following:

  • Room: What size room is your class taking place, and how is the seating going to be arranged?
  • Audio needs: What does the remote audience need to hear?
  • Video needs: What does the remote audience need to see?
  • Presenters and participation: Is there going to be a single presenter or a panel/group of participants?

Technical Recommendations

I am teaching class at home via zoom I am bringing remote students to my live classroom

If you need an external webcam and microphone for Zoom:

Please note these recommendations may be sold out on Amazon and other retailers.

Recommended equipment contingent on consultation for classroom dynamics. We recommend contacting Instructional Technology & Training (itt@usfca.edu).

Download the "Using Zoom for Live Meetings and the Classroom" training guide (PDF) for strategies and technical recommendations to help you successfully teach a class using Zoom.

Preparing for your Zoom session

  • Dress to impress: It’s easy to give in to the temptation to wear sweatpants and an old t-shirt because you’re working from home.  However, your colleagues expect you to have a professional appearance.  Dress for your video conference the way you would for an in-person class.
  • Control video and audio qualityUse the video camera and microphone in your computer’s built-in system. Try to hold meetings in quiet, indoor locations to control ambient noise.
  • Adjust your lighting: Don’t sit directly in front or beside a bright light source, or else all the audience sees is a bright light and a shadowy figure, but don’t sit with the only light behind you or your colleagues will only see a silhouette without your expressive facial features! Experiment with moving lamps and your camera until you can see your brightly-lit face on the screen.
  • Think about your background: Try to provide a nice, plain background. Place your pet animals in another room, and mute your home or cell phones. If you have unavoidable background noise (outside construction etc.), consider “muting” your own microphone until it is your turn to speak.
  • Camera position: Ensure your camera is framing your image correctly. Ensure that you are framed with your head and shoulders in the shot. Position the camera at a height as close to your eye level as possible. This ensures all participants can see your face, and avoids unflattering angles such as looking up at nostrils, or down on heads.
  • Practice speaking to the camera and not the screen: Our tendency is to look at the person on the screen, but you should look at the camera when YOU speak so your students feel like you’re talking directly to them.

Optimize Zoom

Before you launch Zoom, close all active browsers (email), suspend any downloads in progress, and close all unnecessary programs as these functions will compete for bandwidth during your active Zoom session and cause “freezes” and pixilated images.

Before the Zoom session begins, open Zoom, select “New meeting”, then access the settings menu next to the microphone and select Test Microphone and Speaker to test your sound input. 

During Class

Be present in Class

Tell students to be sure their microphones are on mute and their video camera is on so you can see them. 

Share your Screen

Before you start your lecture, be sure to:

  • Open your presentation, any websites or pages you will need for your lecture. 
  • Close any programs you are not using during class such as email or tabs of other websites.
  • Then share your screen with your students so they can follow your lecture by viewing your powerpoint presentation.

Lecturing on Zoom

Providing a lecture online can be challenging. Here are five quick tips you can apply while presenting your lecture:

  1. Be sure to speak clearly for everyone to hear. If you normally speak fast, try to slow your pace just a tad so students will have be able to understand class concepts and content.
  2. Add natural breaks during your lecture and ask students if they have any questions. This is a great time to check the chat box and drink a glass of water.
  3. Use your mouse arrow to point important concepts on your slides. This will help students understand the concept you are discussing.  Try to avoid using  “as you can see”, “there”, “here”, “this”.  
  4. Repeat questions that are being asked so students can pay attention to not only the question but the answer you are providing for clarity.
  5. Record your class. This will give students an opportunity to watch the class again and gain more understanding of key concepts and content.

Facilitating Class Participation

Ask students to wait until you cue them to ask questions. There are three options you can use to facilitate class participation:

  • Option 1: Encourage students to type their questions in the chat client and you can sort the questions and answer in between lecturing.
  • Option 2: Ask students to use the raise your hand emoticon and unmute their microphone when you call their name then mute their microphone again once they asked their question.
  • Option 3: Apply impromptu small group discussions using Breakout Rooms (PDF) in Zoom. 

Class Netiquette

Express your expectations for your students especially in an online environment. Create your own Netiquette policy, adapt the ones we have below or have the class create their own. By having this policy it will help provide a positive teaching and learning environment.

What is Netiquette?

Simply stated, it's network etiquette -- that is, the etiquette of cyberspace. And "etiquette" means "the forms required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be required in social or official life." In other words, Netiquette is a set of rules for behaving properly online. Excerpt from the book Netiquette by Virginia Shea:

General Netiquette Policy

When communicating and participating online, please remember that others cannot hear your voice or see your face. Please keep the following behaviors in mind:

  • Present yourself professionally. Dress appropriately as you would in the classroom.
  • Find a quiet area to attend class with no distractions.
  • Try to not eat and drink while you are attending class or with your microphone turned on.
  • Be respectful of other participants, their time (be brief), their bandwidth (few attachments/signatures), and their opinions
  • Avoid using all caps, may be read as SHOUTING
  • Keep your comments constructive
  • Keep subject lines clear
  • Spelling and grammar do count; proofread your writing
  • Be coherent and concise.
  • Acronyms may not be understood: “aok”
  • Check the most recent comment before replying to an earlier one

Additional Resources from ETS