Although video conferencing applications such as Zoom and Webex are not considered social media apps, they played a major role in the last few weeks in maintaining the social connection between people. Since people have experimented with these tools, I do believe this will have a fundamental impact on how we will be engaged in life after the COVID-19 crisis is over. These apps will be part of our daily lives and will be a major tool of digital citizens.
Zoom has been widely used across the globe due to COVID-19. Most universities are using it to transfer their Face to Face classes to Virtual/Remote learning, including the University of Regina. My team at work has been involved in this transition. We had to offer Zoom drop-in sessions to answer any questions or help with any technical issues for the first time users. Therefore, I have been playing with it a lot for the past two weeks. I thought to explore it a bit deeper as part of my personal journey.
My experience of using it in my work encouraged me to offer my help to create and manage zoom accounts for the Arabic weekend community school that my kids attend, which include training teachers and creating manuals for teachers, parents and students. Zoom is keeping us connected in these rough times. Zoom enables the social network and allows us to maintain “social distancing.”
After the first weekend, the feedback from the teachers made me make some adjustments to the settings.
- All teachers requested to have mute upon entry option enabled to avoid sudden interruptions
- We noticed that when a teacher shares her PDF, whiteboard, or worksheet, younger children will annotate on the shared screen and start to make a mess. Students were curious to find more about this new method of teaching and began to explore every option in the app. I had to turn off the ability for participants to annotate a shared screen by the host.
- My kids brought my attention that students, especially from the younger age groups, would start to privately chat with their friends during classes. I had to disable the private chatting as well.
Among the many resources available online, I would like to focus on a couple of the somewhat hidden options that were useful to have in our drop-in support at work, as well as some useful settings that helped the Arabic community school to run smoothly. I will include some resources that I found online that speak to the privacy and security that came up lately with the heavy usage of Zoom around the world.
Once we started the drop-in support sessions, we figured that there are a couple of options that we need that can make our life easier and facilitate our mission to explain how to best use Zoom. The most important one for us was to share the Zoom window interface. By default, Zoom windows and toolbar aren’t included when we share screen. We found it very useful when we explain how Zoom works, for example. To do that, you have to enable an option in zoom.us and the Zoom desktop app. I created a Google doc with detailed instructions on how to turn this option.
The other useful setting was to set up a co-host, according to the Zoom website “You can be signed in to Zoom on one computer, one tablet, and one phone at a time. If you sign in to an additional device while logged into another device of the same type, you will be logged out automatically on the first device.”
For example, I was able to pre-assign each one of the ID team at U of R as an alternative host to all support meetings. In this case, each one of us can log in with their personal accounts as usual. When he/she logs in, they automatically are assigned a co-host role. Once the host leaves the meeting, an alternative host gets the hosting privileges; this is based on the order of alternative hosts. This made us not worry about breakouts in virtual room availability if the host had to leave the meeting.
On the other hand, setting up a zoom room for each class in the Arabic community weekend school was a different experience. I ended up creating one room for each class (6 rooms in total). Each room has a unique meeting link that doesn’t change. This made the life of the students (and their parents) much easier. Teachers with no prior experience were able to grasp the concepts very quickly and classes in the school were not interrupted.
However, like everything with technology, the extensive usage of Zoom showed some privacy and security concerns. Zoombombing is a well-known terminology that is currently used to describe “unwanted intrusion of an individual in a video conference call, causing disruption.” according to Wikipedia. I found many useful tips on how to minimize this issue. For example,
- Don’t use your personal meeting ID for every meeting and with everyone. Create a different one to avoid having many strangers into your virtual room.
- Always use a password when creating a new meeting.
- Restrict screen sharing ability to host only.
- Try to enable zoom waiting room option
Some useful resources: