Synchronous Instruction


Review our Instructor Resource Center on how to schedule Zoom lectures and meetings from within your Canvas course.

There are tools built into Zoom that can promote interactivity and active learning. Paired with other platforms like Canvas running your class live with Zoom can support many of the activities that instructors often utilize in face-to-face instruction, including think-pair-shares, small-group student discussions, collaborative writing or problem-solving, peer review of student work, and more.

We recommend recording synchronous instruction in Zoom to make available to students unable to attend live for various reasons.

Use Break-Out Rooms

Active learning techniques like think-pair-share and structured small-group activities can be done with break-out rooms. Zoom allows the “host” of the meeting (i.e. the person who uses their account to create the meeting) to create break-out sessions in two different ways.

  • You can automatically generate break-out rooms based on the number of “rooms” or groups you want to create (and therefore the number of students per group).
  • You can also manually assign break-out rooms by selecting which participants should be matched within groups.

With this tool, you can facilitate a class in which students move back and forth between the main meeting room (i.e. the large-group discussion) and their break-out rooms (i.e. small-group discussion). You can choose to maintain the same small groups within a session, or recreate them throughout the session so that students talk with different peers each time.

Visit Zoom’s Managing Video Breakout Rooms video for a step-by-step tutorial on creating and managing break-out rooms.

Use Slides and Screen-Sharing

When you want to give a brief presentation using slides, or simply want to make sure that the class learning goals or discussion questions are viewable by students, the “share screen” option allows all meeting participants to view your screen. Students can also share their screens, such as when they are doing an informal or formal presentation, sharing back with the class the work they’ve created in a homework assignment or in a smaller group break-out, or asking specific questions about their work on a problem-set or writing exercise.

Visit Zoom’s “Sharing Your Screen” video for a tutorial on screen-sharing.

Use the Whiteboard Tool

When you want to do a visual demonstration, you can utilize the “whiteboard” tool, which allows you to draw, write out problems, diagram, and annotate as you might do with a whiteboard in a classroom.

Visit Zoom’s “Sharing a Whiteboard” page for a tutorial on utilizing the whiteboard feature.

Use the Chat Tool

The chat tool is helpful for achieving another point of access to a discussion in addition to “speaking up” during class. Students can use the chat function to comment on an instructor’s or peer’s contributions, or to ask a question. Instructors can then bring that student’s contributions or question into the conversation or ask them to elaborate, increasing verbal participation.

In a class with a TA, the TA could be assigned to monitor the chat and make sure important questions or comments are addressed.

Visit Zoom’s “In-Meeting Chat” tutorial.

Pair Zoom Meetings with Other Forms of Synchronous Participation

To enhance student learning in Zoom remote sessions, consider simultaneously utilizing platforms like Canvas and Google Docs/Forms where students can do a myriad of activities like:

  • answer quiz questions in Canvas based on a presentation;
  • respond to discussion questions and comment on each other’s responses in Canvas or Google Docs;
  • attempt a problem-set posted on Canvas or Google Drive, working either individually or collaboratively;
  • provide responses to a quick poll in Google Forms or a Canvas survey;
  • do collaborative and individual writing exercises in Canvas or Google Docs;
  • review selected readings posted on Canvas or Google Drive and respond to facilitator-provided discussion questions in small groups;
  • and more.

The benefit of using Canvas and Google Suite to facilitate such activities is that the facilitator then has a record of student participation and engagement—especially for courses in which participation is a large part of student learning and factored into the assessment of that learning. Students can also be invited to do simple reflections or to complete assignments, or be given “think time,” without needing to document their thinking.

A Few Troubleshooting Tips

  • If your microphone is not working, use the phone number listed in the Zoom invitation when you set up a Zoom call. You can use your phone as the microphone and audio source for your call rather than your computer’s built-in microphone if necessary.
  • If your Internet connection is slow or lagging, consider temporarily turning off your video stream and only maintaining the audio stream.
  • Students and instructors alike are encouraged to wear earbuds or a headphone set. Wearing earbuds or headphones will reduce the amount of noise that your computer microphone will pick up, which will make it easier for the group to hear each other.
  • Mute the microphone when not speaking and unmute the microphone when speaking. Encourage students to mute themselves if they’re not speaking to minimize unnecessary or distracting background noise. Using the “raise hand” feature or seeing the microphone unmuted can give the group a visual cue for when a student wishes to speak.

Informed Consent for Recording Synchronous Class Sessions

Inform students that class sessions on Zoom will be recorded to ensure access by all enrolled students. Below is language that can be used for each meeting/class session.

Please note that this class session is being recorded. By participating in this class session, you are consenting to be recorded.

Below is language you can use in your syllabus and Canvas.

Please note that Zoom sessions for this class will be recorded to ensure access by all enrolled students. By participating in Zoom class session, you are consenting to be recorded.

Here is a link to Zoom that has setting options to require participants to consent to being recorded prior to joining.

Accessibility Suggestions

The video on the right shows how to assign the captioner. https://youtu.be/a06O8JmpPZA

If you use breakout rooms in Zoom, you will need to ensure that the captioner is in the same breakout as the deaf/hard-of-hearing student. You can manually move the captioner to the appropriate breakout room. Details can be found on moving participants from one breakout to another here.

For students who are blind or have low visibility, narrate the material that you’re displaying visually on the screen. Just as you might read visual materials aloud in class, read screen material that you share on-screen in case students are not able to see essential text.

screenshot of zoom account page listing usage and meeting