Also: here’s a preview of Zoomtopia 2021.
Now that back-to-school season is upon us again, some students are back in the classroom, and some will continue to learn remotely (depending on the school district). To better understand how Zoom has evolved to support educators and the value of digital platforms, I spoke with Pat La Morte, global education solutions lead at Zoom Video Communications, in my recent ZKast interview, done in conjunction with eWEEK eSPEAKS. Highlights of the interview are below.
Zoom has evolved to keep pace with online learning
- Many schools, educators, students and parents struggled with virtual learning. This has less to do with the technology and more to do with preparedness and experience with products like Zoom.
- Most schools were forced into remote learning with no notices causing ad hoc deployments that lead to inconsistent experiences. Now that schools have had time to take a step back and assess the past year, expectations should be higher.
- Although Zoom was initially designed as an enterprise solution, its adaptability made it a valuable resource for schools during COVID-19. Zoom recently made enhancements specifically for the education sector.
- Zoom’s Focus mode allows teachers to engage with students without distractions and improves classroom management. Students in a meeting cannot see each other, while the teacher can see all the participants.
- With new pinning and spotlighting enhancements, teachers can spotlight and pin up to seven participants. If a school uses a sign language interpreter, that person is prominently pinned on the screen the entire duration of the meeting.
- Another new feature sends students to a waiting room if a teacher loses internet connectivity for more than 20 seconds. Students get a pop-up message that alerts them not to leave the meeting.
- Zoom already has several features that weren’t designed specifically for schools but are used by educators, such as:
- Livestreaming for graduations, sports/games, and other events that have attendance limits due to COVID-19.
- Breakout rooms, where teachers can split a class into groups of students to work on projects or assignments.
- Polling, which allows educators to create multiple choice polls and gather student responses live during meetings.
- Zoom will soon launch advanced polling, a feature that will let moderators create up to 20 polls, making the experience even more interactive for students. The feature will expand to include true/false, fill-in-the-blanks, and other questions to help teachers quiz students.
- As an online video communications platform, Zoom is committed to improving security, which is a major concern for educators.
- At the start of the pandemic, Zoom made several security enhancements like adding end-to-end encryption for an additional layer of protection.
- Zoom formed a CISO Council and advisory board, which includes security leaders from different industries.
- Alex Stamos joined Zoom as an outside advisor to perform a comprehensive security review of its platform.
- There are some best practices teachers/educators, students, and teachers should follow to maximize learning in the digital environment this year.
- Teachers/educators should make sure they understand Zoom to help students navigate the platform if they experience issues.
- Zoom should complement not change the way an educator teaches. It should be managed as a classroom space.
- Teachers should provide a consistent workflow for all students. If some students are in the classroom and some are learning remotely, they all need to know where to find the material.
- Students should follow the teacher’s protocols and pay attention to the lessons teachers are presenting via Zoom.
- Schools have to protect future competitiveness, school identity, and their legacy in a virtual world.
- Schools that were most successful during the pandemic reimagined instead of recreated the learning environment.
- Education has never been so accessible to so many people and it will be difficult to go back to “normal.” Yet there are still socioeconomic issues that need to be addressed.
- Low income communities in the U.S. don’t have adequate broadband for distance learning.
- Availability/affordability of equipment and connectivity are required to bring accessibility to these communities.
- E-Rate, which provides discounts on telecommunications services and internet access to schools and libraries, is one example of a government-funded program.
- Schools are also working with local cable and broadband companies to bring Wi-Fi hotspots to students’ homes.
- Platforms like Zoom are equalizing what is unfair in the education system.
- In the future, some districts will be building schools with no classrooms and using Zoom to deliver material. Students who are on campus/building could be working with a teacher in more of a mentorship role while engaging in hands-on learning at home.
- Education will be a key track at the upcoming 2021 Zoomtopia event. There will be a total of 10 sessions ranging from a visionary keynote to best practices to safety. More information can be found on the Zoomtopia site.
There is still a wide range of inconsistency between states and countries with the respect to the pandemic. This means the uncertainty and rapid changes to safety protocols will continue to change, sometimes very quickly.
Schools, parents and students must accept the reality that virtual learning will be in place, likely indefinitely. Educators need to rethink how learning is done and leverage the unique capabilities of products like Zoom to change the way students learn and collaborate.