A guide to teaching with Zoom at UB

A woman in black dances at the base of Baird Point on UB's North Campus, with a laptop capturing her movements.

Kerry Ring, professor and artistic director of Zodiaque Dance Company, connects through zoom to students in her Modern 4 dance class while at Baird Point on March 26, 2020.

Photograph by Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

Published June 15, 2020

Zoom is now fully supported at UB, and faculty are using it to deliver lessons and engage with students online in real-time. If you’re planning on using Zoom in your courses, consider these best practices.


These tips were adapted from an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Establish the “rules of engagement” for Zoom meetings

Should students turn on their video? Should they keep their audio muted until they need to speak? Should they display their first and last names? 

Be clear with your students about how you expect everyone to engage during a Zoom session, and why. You might even ask them if they’d like to propose any standards for behavior, since they’ve likely seen plenty of good and bad examples on Zoom themselves.

Something to keep in mind: if you or your students are experiencing bandwidth problems, turning off video can sometimes address it. 

Plan how your sessions will start

Because people join at different times, getting a meeting started on Zoom can be awkward. Instead of awkward chatter (or, worse, painful silence) to start your session, consider introducing a guiding prompt for the first few minutes of the meeting. 

For example, ask students a question they can answer either over audio or in the chat. Consider “ice breaker” questions like, “What’s one thing you’re grateful for today?” or “What’s your favorite food?” These prompts can warm up the group and put those awkward first few minutes to better use.

Use breakout rooms

Breakout rooms are great if you want to get your students more involved in a Zoom-hosted class. Use breakout rooms to create smaller groups, with students assigned either randomly (great for getting a discussion going) or manually (if you want to give a group time to work on their project, for example). In either case, smaller groups foster more participation from students.

Because you can only visit one breakout room at a time, give the whole class a clear prompt for what they should be doing before you set up the breakout rooms. Encourage each group to take notes somewhere online where others can see it, like a Google doc. Designate a member of each group to report back to the class once the breakout sessions are finished.

Give students different ways to “speak up”

Just like in face-to-face classes, students learning on Zoom have different preferences for how they want to engage. Aside from speaking up over audio when appropriate, students can also use the Zoom chat (just remember to check it regularly), or you can encourage students to contact you on an outside channel (like email) if they have questions.

Get more out of Zoom at UB

You can find more best practices for using Zoom, as well as Zoom video tutorials on the UBIT website. More live Zoom trainings for UB instructors are coming soon—more information will be posted on the UBIT website as it becomes available.

You can get help with Zoom 24/7 by submitting a ticket to https://support.zoom.com/hc/en-us/requests/new.