Using Zoom to Teach Your Class Online

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As an instructor, Zoom can help keep your class going if you or your students have a situation that keeps you from meeting in person. Synchronous online class sessions, where everyone joins a Zoom meeting at a scheduled time, is one way to create engagement when students are remote, but Zoom can also be used to support other teaching and learning scenarios. Zoom can be used on laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones, and even desk phones, giving students many ways to access the class session.

On this page, you will find information about preparing for your Zoom session, engaging students with chat, screen annotation, polling, non-verbal feedback, and breakout rooms, and delivering accessible online class sessions to your audience, as well as information for specific teaching scenarios. Click the links below to view each section.


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Zoom was designed to be intuitive. Still, it works best if you make some key decisions and become familiar with the platform before inviting students into an online meeting.


Install the softwareThe desktop version of Zoom will give you the best results and functionality when hosting a meeting. Coach your students to install it as well. Students who plan to join Zoom meetings from a mobile device should also download the Zoom mobile app.

Learn more about Zoom:

Test your audio and video

  • Visit to check your internet connection, audio, and video. Do you need a headset? Which camera angle is best?
  • If multiple meeting attendees are in the same room, in order to avoid feedback only one person should join the meeting with audio.
  • Find your light! Make sure there is a light source (including windows) in front of you, not behind

Schedule your class sessions

Go to the Zoom item in your Canvas course navigation, click Schedule a New Meeting and follow the instructions. Choose recurring meetings when appropriate so the URL will remain the same throughout the course. Remember to give your meetings a meaningful name!

If you schedule from Canvas:

  • Course meetings appear to students in within the Canvas course site
  • Cloud recordings can be automatically made available through the Canvas course site
  • You can separate course meetings from other meetings
  • Meetings scheduled from Canvas also appear as events to class participants in the Canvas Calendar


  • Only use your personal meeting ID and personal Zoom URL for unscheduled meetings. These meetings won't have the benefits above and cannot be co-hosted.

Plan roles for students: don't host alone

You’ll have a less stressful classroom management experience if you deputize someone else to manage aspects of the online space. Consider asking one TA or student to monitor the chat and one to help their peers with technology issues. You can also formally designate alternative hosts. That way, you can focus on teaching, and you’ll give students some extra digital skills practice.

Encourage a sense of community

The sense of presence will be enhanced when everyone shows their face via their web cam. Consider requiring students to turn on video as a key part of participation, since it is easier to engage with the class if you can see them, and students are more likely to pay attention if they know they’re on camera. Also, coach students on how to toggle to the Gallery view (this is the “Brady Bunch” view where everyone is visible to each other at the same time).

Tips to share with your students:

  • Make eye contact with the camera (the camera is the class!)
  • Mute mics when you’re not contributing
  • Find your light! Make sure there is a light source in front of you, not behind
  • Speak in a conversational tone - you won’t need to raise your voice
  • For more tips, read up on running a smooth meeting in Zoom

Prepare for technical issues

Host a low-stakes introductory online meeting, with the sole purpose of having everyone log in, troubleshoot technical issues, and get used to the Zoom interface.

  • Arrive early enough to work out technical difficulties.
  • Have a backup plan in case of unexpected issues or difficulties (i.e. phone conference, using Canvas to facilitate the class, group discussions, or independent learning activities.). Inform students of the backup plan ahead of time so they can remain on task if technical issues occur.

Create an agenda

Plan for a synchronous online course session just like you would plan for an in-person class. Share your agenda with students ahead of time so students have a clear idea of how the class will progress, what will be covered, and the activities they’ll engage in. Periodically cover online etiquette and expectations of the students, or consider providing a "best practices" document that outlines the expectations.

Record your session

In the case that someone has a technical issue, you may want to offer them future access to the class material. To address this, you can record the class session. 

  • Record to the Cloud, rather than on your computer: It's convenient to record to the cloud, as you can receive both a URL to the video and an interactive transcript. There is no quota on Zoom recordings, and recordings of meetings scheduled via Zoom in Canvas appear within a few hours.
  • Start recording in the right layout: The recording layout is based on your view when you begin recording. Therefore, remember to share presentations before recording, and switch to active speaker view rather than gallery (or don't use your webcam at all), otherwise the video of you will be superimposed over the top right corner in the recording.


  • Let students know you’re going to record the session.
  • Offer students the option to mute their audio and/or turn off their video during the recording.
  • If meetings are recorded to the cloud and you are using the Canvas integration, you can find the recordings right in Canvas.  
  • These recordings may be subject to different retention policies then other class session recordings.  
  • Contact your local academic technology support for guidance on where to store the recordings and how to display them to your class.

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chat, screen annotation, polling, non-verbal feedback, and breakout rooms

You can use the features of Zoom to guide different types of interactive activities. These activities offer variety to break up a long class session, and they offer different means of expression.


Using the chat tool can encourage engagement by allowing more students to interact with the live activity, rather than just listening. There are even advantages of Chat over the traditional classroom:

  • Get large numbers of responses to a question immediately, and use these responses in real-time or archive them for later.
  • See exactly where students are on a particular issue or debate, informing who to call on next.

Think about how, when, and where you want to allow students to engage in chat. For example, are you comfortable with comments in Chat throughout the class, or only at particular moments? If you have a TA who can filter comments, you might allow students to use Chat continuously; if you don’t, you might encourage its use at discrete times.


  • Chat allows posts to the whole class or to one other person.
  • You can download the full chat history at the end of class, if you want to keep the record.
  • Chat can be overwhelming for some students. It is recommended you offer this type of interaction as an option, but do not require it from all students.
  • Chat can also be overwhelming for you to monitor while you’re also trying to teach. Have a student or TA to monitor the chat so you can focus on teaching.

Screen annotation

Zoom has basic annotation tools (text box, free form draw/pen, shapes, and highlighter) that you can use to guide students or explain a concept. Access these tools by selecting the Annotate option when you're sharing your screen.

Zoom annotation controls

Note: Screen annotations are not accessible for screen reader users. If you use this feature, be sure to use accessible presentation best practices: say what you’re doing while you’re doing it (e.g., "I'm drawing a big red circle around the login button on this web page").


Set up polls in advance and launch them during your class session.

Non-verbal feedback

Activate the non-verbal feedback feature for your meetings to allow students to communicate with the teaching staff without interrupting the meeting. Routinely check in with students to address any non-verbal feedback. This feature also allows you to manage verbal feedback, as you can instruct students to use the "raise hand" feature to indicate when they'd like to speak. Remember to keep the students muted until you call on them to avoid extraneous background noise.

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Breakout rooms

You can use Zoom's breakout rooms functionality to have students do group work. As the instructor, you can join breakout rooms, broadcast messages to the breakout rooms, and end the breakout sessions when it is time to regroup.

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If you have someone designated to take notes (an accessibility best practice), you can enable closed captions, which allows your notetaker to transcribe what’s being said in real time. 

If you require live captioning, Zoom easily integrates with providers such as 3Play Media. Note: the cost for this service is not covered centrally.

All students may not see or make sense of the visual display as you intend. Get in the habit of describing whatever is happening visually on the screen.

Zoom logo horizontal rule dividing the page into sectionsDive into Specific Teaching Scenarios

    Host office hours or small group discussions

    • Code review: You can use screen sharing to meet with an individual or group of students to review code. Authorizing remote screen control enables one to take control of the other's shared application and allows for navigation, text entry, etc on the remote computer. Note that when remote screen control is enabled, your Breakout Room setting will be disabled.
    • Collaborative problem solving and brainstorming: Use the shared whiteboard feature to digitally annotate a whiteboard. Allow others in the session to annotate on the same board to share ideas and problem solving methods. A tablet is useful for handwriting.  
    • Consultation: You can use Zoom's high-quality audio and video to simply have a discussion with an individual or group of students. Easily share documents or anything else on your computer via screen sharing.  
    • Control who joins your session: The waiting room allows you to provide a single Zoom session ID and the ability to invite only selected individuals into the discussion. You can also set a custom message in your waiting room that lets students know you will be with them shortly.

    Pre-record video

    You can present slides to further explain a topic that was only touched upon in class or if several students ask the same question. Sessions can be recorded and shared for later viewing.

    write on the board

    If you usually do "boardwork" as part of a class session, you have a number of options.

    • Try the basic Annotation Tools (text box, free form draw/pen, shapes, and highlighter) to guide students or explain a concept.

    host an interactive review session

    Host online review sessions leading up to a midterm or exam or an entire lecture. Use Zoom's polling feature to gather feedback on problems or topics to cover and private breakout rooms for discussion. Record the session and share it for on-demand viewing. We advise muting all remote students and asking a TA to monitor questions in chat.


    See also: Technology