How to Use Zoom for Online Teachers

One of the first pieces of content here on Teach and GO was how Zoom is better for online teaching than Skype. As Zoom has continued to develop and online teaching has grown in popularity as well as the whole concept of working from home, we have some helpful tips for how to use Zoom for teaching online.

For a lot of our readers who have worked with various online teaching companies like VIPKID, many of these items will be hard won knowledge, but remember not everyone who teaches online is doing so with an online platform where all the material and tech is taken care of for you.

How to Use Zoom – The Essentials

So with that out of the way, here are our essential teaching tips when using Zoom to manage an online class that you need to know. Zoom has a lot of great features you may not even be aware of:

  1. Practice using Zoom and troubleshoot problems.
  2. Learn how to use games within your class.
  3. Create a background or use a virtual background.
  4. Use the breakout room feature
  5. Have a quite, dedicated spot to teach.
  6. Get a webcam, position it properly.
  7. Pay attention to your lighting.
  8. Get good pair of headsets with a microphone.
  9. Be mindful to look into the camera.
  10. Wear a colorful top.
  11. Consider getting a dedicated microphone.
  12. Have good posture and energy.

1 – Practice using Zoom and troubleshoot problems

We know you’re tech savvy, we know you know how to use Skype. Still, get a friend and practice using Zoom for 30 minutes. See how it works, try and think of last minute solutions to any problems that could happen.

Understand how to edit and adjust your audio and video with Zoom. Take note of the video quality and how to better improve things. Think of what you will do if your student can’t see you or hear you or vice versa.

Zoom is not complicated to use, but don’t proverbially “wing it” because you think it’s simple and easy. It is, but that’s how you get in trouble. When something unexpected happens that you’re not prepared for.

Take the time and prepare yourself for using this platform properly.

2 – Learn how to use games within your class

There are a large number of fun, interactive and free Zoom games. The way it works is that you can go to a game website and host your own game then direct the students to join using a unique URL. If you’re looking for one of the best games for both in class or online via Zoom then checkout Blooket.

Blooket is a totally free platform where you can create question kits, use kits other Blooket users have made, host live games or assign a Blooket kit as homework. If you want a more advanced platform with even more game modes and resources then take a look at Gimkit.

You can use Zoom games as a type of warmer for your students or as a tool to emphasis some specific concept you’re trying to teach. With adolescent students we strongly recommend you learn how to use both Blooket and Gimkit.

3 – Create a background (or use a virtual background).

A teacher background is very important because it helps set the tone for the online class. As a professional, you’re going to want to have some sort of professional background for your online class. What your background is specifically will be a result of the type of student you’re educating. Teaching small children? Bright colors, maps, whiteboards, the ABC’s and flags are all great choices.

Maybe you’re teaching teenagers via Outschool? Then you would want to go with more of a plain, simple background that’s not distracting. A shelf with books and and everyday items makes sense.

Don’t forget that with Zoom you can setup a virtual background. While the virtual background feature is pretty good, you may want to consider getting a simple greenscreen to really enhance the effect. Once everything is setup you’ll see how fun and impressive Zoom is for online learning.

4 – Use breakout rooms

If you’re hosting 10+ students on a Zoom call consider using the breakout room feature. The breakout room feature allows you to place others on the call into smaller rooms to practice. Maybe you have 20 students on the call that you’re lecturing too, you can use breakout rooms to put students into pairs for a few minutes to practice.

To enable the breakout room features simply navigate to your “meetings” tab and enable it. Then, as we previously stated get a few friends and first practice using this function so when you’re in class you know how it works.

5 – Create recurring meetings with Zoom

Zoom allows you to create a recurring meeting that are perfect for weekly or monthly class sessions where you have scheduled conversations. There are two advantages to using this configuration with Zoom. First, you may set up all of the call settings you want in advance and have them be consistent every time you meet. Second, because recurring meetings use the same join URL each time, it makes it easy for your students to join.

You can also create a meeting ID and password for each group you regularly attend if you want an added layer of security. Furthermore, if you meet with the same group on a regular basis but not at regular intervals, you can utilize the No Fixed Time option, which allows you to use the same settings and meeting ID with the same group over and over.

6 – Record the call

Zoom allows you to record the call. The call can be stored on Zoom’s servers or locally on your own laptop. The advantage of storing it in Zoom’s cloud is that it’s easy for all your students to access and download when they want. It also helpful in that it keeps an automatic log of the material covered so you as the teacher can refer back to.

In addition to this, students can also use various types of software to record the calls themselves. Our current favorite is Fathom. All you need to do is log in to your Zoom class and fire up Fathom. It will automatically record the call and transcribe everything said. In addition, when the call ends Fathom logs you out of the class.

Fathom is ideal for students, but as the teacher you can use a free tool like OBS to record everything. Just make sure to set the frame rate to 30 FPS so the recorded video is not choppy and weird to re-watch.

7 – Use annotations and collaboration

The capability to share one’s screen allows the host of a call to show others on the call whatever is on their screen. The annotation tool feature allows all the meeting participants to draw and highlight what they’re seeing, which can be really useful when discussing visual things like mockups, graphics designs, and so on.

Select View Option from the top of the Zoom window and then Annotate to annotate while viewing someone else’s shared screen. Select “annotations” from the toolbar that appears with all of your annotation options, including text, draw, arrow, and so on. You may save the entire picture with annotations as a screenshot by clicking the save button on the toolbar.

As a teacher, you can use the arrow annotation to point to a specific section, paragraph or idea within the lesson. Allowing your students to share their screens also enables you to provide real time feedback.

4 – Have a quiet, dedicated spot to teach

As any VIPKID teacher (or veteran online teacher for that matter) knows from experience, you’ll need a quiet, dedicated spot for teaching. This does not have to be complicated, it could be small section of a room or a spare bedroom.

The emphasis however is on quite, particularly if you’re using your laptop or desktops on-board audio. These integrated microphones tend to have a high gain and pickup all sorts of noise. The only laptop we’ve tested out (see our laptops for online teachers guide) that has amazing on board audio is the Macbook Pro.

As such, in combination with the first point to test drive Zoom, pay attention to how the ambient noise is. Is anything too loud? Can you hear people talking in the next room over? Dogs or cars out side too noisy? Adjust as needed.

4 – Get a webcam and position it properly

1080P, wider angle, better colors, improved audio.

Your laptop computer already has an integrated webcam. This should be acceptable to get started with, but definitely consider buying an affordable webcam for online teaching.

Webcams are not expensive and provide a massive improvement in low light conditions as well as picture quality. Your laptops integrated camera is most likely a 720P webcam, but you can get a 1080P or even a 4k webcam if you like.

Next, one big advantage of a webcam is that it’s more easy to position. With your laptop, you’ll need to make sure you have your laptop propped up on something so the webcam is positioned facing you as opposed to you looking down at the camera

The worst position you can have for the webcam is to have it facing up, pointing at your nostrils. For webcams, our top selection is the Logitech C922. But you can view our entire list for more.

5 -Pay attention to your lighting

A small, 6 inch beginner friendly ringt light.

Good lighting is just as important as the quality of your webcam. In general, depending on when you’re teaching you can always rely on natural lighting. If however you’re teaching early mornings or evenings then we suggest getting some proper lighting for online teaching.

You have a lot of good, affordable options for this. You can get a webcam that has a built in ring light or you can can get an array of different styles of ring lights. Everything from a large stand-a-lone light to a nice desktop ring light.

As for the actual color of the light, make sure it’s a nice white light. This will give you the most natural and flattering appearance on camera. You also want to get ring light as they are designed to light your face and not the entire room.

Last, don’t have any bright overhead lights only. It will be impossible for your students to see you clearly. Make sure all lighting, even a lamp is positioned in front of you.

7 – Get a good pair of headsets with a microphone

The most convenient, affordable and easiest way to get high quality audio for your students is to use a cheap headset for online teaching that also has a built in microphone.

Not only is it easier for you to teach because headphones do a great job of blocking out ambient noise so you can focus on your student better, it’s also helpful because your student can hear you more clearly due in part to the attached microphone.

Last, there are quite a few brands of headset that have a noise cancelling microphone. So if you’re teaching somewhere that has a lot of ambient noise (maybe your neighbors have dogs that love to bark at all hours of the day) you can still minimize any distractions and provide a quality learning experience.

8 – Be mindful to look into the camera

This is common sense, but it needs stating. Our tendency is to look at ourselves whenever doing any sort of video chat be it on Facebook Messenger, Instagram or Zoom.

Just be mindful to occasionally look directly into the camera when teaching because that’s where your student is. Sort of like when you’re in an actual classroom you need to purposefully look around the class until it becomes habit, online teaching is the same way.

We all naturally stare at ourselves, just make sure to not spend the entire class only looking at yourself. Make eye contact with your student by looking into the camera.

9 – Wear a colorful top

Your lighting, webcam and background all set the stage for your online class. Last it to make sure you look and feel great. Even though you’re working from home, still take the time to follow proper grooming like shaving, showering, makeup and so forth and prepare for class like the professional you are.

Next, wear a more colorful top as a teacher. You don’t need anything too wild, but when teaching children it’s particularly helpful to have something bright and friendly as it’s a good contract for the rest of your online teaching environment.

For example, a lot of male VIPKID teachers like to wear a sky blue shirt as it’s a child friendly color. This is why when you see a kids show everything is bright and dynamic, it’s what is appropriate for children.

10 – Consider getting a dedicated microphone

Small, affordable microphone with rich sounding audio.

If you’re wanting to use a quality pair of headphones that don’t have a built in microphone, you may want to get a USB microphone for your laptop as the audio quality will be much improved over your laptops built in microphone.

A dedicated microphone is just a helpful device to have overall because you can use it for online courses to give to your students, presentation style videos, voice overs and they help cancel out sound so your students can better focus on what you’re saying.

You don’t need to get anything to complicated of expensive. Just a quality, easy to use USB microphone that works via plug and play is fine.

11 – Have good posture and energy

Posture and a happy, positive demeanour are what you need to bring to your online class. With good posture you want to make sure you sit properly and upright. In between classes make sure to stand up and move around a bit.

Better yet, consider getting a standing desk for teaching as well as a dedicated desktop. Being able to stand and move will enable you to provide a more fun and dynamic class than you can with just sitting.

At the very least, also get a good chair for teaching. The ideal chair is not one of those massive, goofy computer chairs with a tall back. Instead, get something comfy, small and that’s one piece. You don’t want a chair that squeaks and makes noise.

11 Tips for Teaching Online with Zoom Conclusion

So that’s it for Teach and GO’s guide to teaching online with Zoom. Many of these tips are applicable for any online teaching platform. Even more so if you’re doing freelance teaching on Fiverr, Outschool or iTalki.