Tool Talk | April 22, 2015

If you Skype or Hangout, you’ll probably like Zoom

WebcamImagine the scenario where the College closes because of a snow storm. Instead of cancelling class, you ask students to meet you in a virtual classroom where you can present your lecture, share your computer screen, and engage with students while you are all at different locations. Students who don’t have equipment or access to the Internet at the time of your virtual class can call in through the phone. For students who are not available, you record the session and make it available to them a few hours later.

Zoom is a desktop video conferencing tool similar to Skype or Google Hangouts. It allows a group of people to interact in real time through audio, video and text messages. The advantage of Zoom over Skype and Hangouts is that participants do not need to share contact information with each other or create accounts. The host emails an invitation containing the link to the meeting room. Participants click on the link, download a launcher the first time they use Zoom, and go into the meeting room. Meetings can be scheduled ahead of time or initiated on the fly. The meeting room can be active even before the host arrives.

Zoom is not as sophisticated as Adobe Connect and Blackboard Collaborate. It doesn’t have polling features and cannot create breakout rooms. However, it does allow participants to raise their hands, participate via audio, video and text as well as share their screens. The host can mute and unmute participants, lock the meeting, create groups, send invitations, take screenshots, and send files during a meeting.

Professors at Hunter are using Zoom to hold virtual office hours as part of hybrid and online classes. They are having online meetings with small groups of students or colleagues. They are also using Zoom to bring in guest speakers to their classes and to consult with educational technologists.

To get started with Zoom, first create an account. A free account allows you to hold meetings that last up to 40 minutes with a maximum of 25 participants. Send the invitation to your participants or students via email and they will be able to join you using any browser or an app on their mobile device. Follow these instructions on how to get started with Zoom, or learn more about the advanced features here.

Update: Zoom has changed since this blog post was published. It does allow polling and breakout rooms. A free account allows you to hold meetings with a maximum of 100 participants. Please see features and pricing at

Image credit: mofetos. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial license.


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