Best Practice for Teaching with Zoom and Google Meet

Pedagogical Recommendations

Purpose of Meeting Live

It is important to reflect on why you are meeting your students live (aka synchronously). If you are planning to mostly transfer knowledge (like one would do in a ‘traditional lecture’), you are encouraged to pre-record these inputs for students to watch at another time. For synchronous meetings, focus on what needs to be done with everyone together. For more information about best practice for meeting live, review our section on Synchronous and Asynchronous Teaching.

Display an Agenda

On your first slide, display an agenda so students know what to expect of your shared time together.

Using Chat Effectively

  • Moderate the discussion, i.e., “call on” a student with a comment to speak, in order to help them break into the conversation.
  • For larger classes, assign a TA to moderate the chat to ensure important questions and comments are addressed. Even for smaller classes, it may be worthwhile to ask a student (or two) to take on special roles as “chat monitors” to voice if there are questions that arise which the instructor has missed.
  • It’s helpful to have the host of the meeting not be responsible for managing the chat. In Zoom, give the chat monitor the hosting authority.
  • If using Zoom, you may wish to limit the chat so participants can only communicate with the host—or turn chat off altogether except when needed. There is no facility to limit the chat in Google Meet.
  • You can use chat to troubleshoot technical problems. For example, if a student is having trouble connecting via audio or video, the chat might be a space for you as the instructor or for fellow students to work together to problem-solve. If you have a TA or a fellow who can support the class instruction with technical help, this would also be a good person to respond to troubleshooting tips in the chat. 

Breakout Rooms

Use ‘Breakout’ Rooms to help students engage in smaller groups (just as they would do breakout groups in a larger class environment).

To setup breakout rooms in Zoom, click the breakout rooms button at the bottom of the screen. You must be the host to do this. There is no similar function in Google Meet so the best way to achieve this is to have separate rooms created for students to meet in. It is suggested you create a Google Doc with the group names and the assigned meeting room URLs and to have this document available in eClass. You should also share this document with everyone in the main Google Meet Room at the beginning of your session.

Rethink Your Classroom Activities

Make your class more interactive even if students don’t have ideal connections and aren’t able to hear and see everything perfectly. You could have students write and comment together on a shared Google Doc. Try using a student response system such as ePoll, PollEverywhere, Mentimeter or Google Forms to collect student responses and to share results with the students. Use collaborative online tools such as mindmeister, coggle, ideaboardz to brainstorm ideas and concepts.

Discussion Questions

Consider making discussion questions available in advance on eClass, either by screen sharing the questions (from a document or powerpoint slide) or by giving students access to the file, either on eClass or by sharing it in the live session.

If you need to play a video or audio file, it is recommended you have the link available for students. Stop your meeting and allow them to watch it directly from their own computer (rather than you playing it via screen sharing). This will improve the sound quality and, more importantly, will reduce the possibility of the video stuttering due to bandwidth issues.

Recording

Keep videos short—no longer than 15 minutes each. Don’t upload them directly to eClass. Instead, save them to Google Drive or to YouTube and create a link to eClass. Online educator Karen Costa has provided a number of helpful tips for creating short, lively online videos.

Think of these as “micro lectures” (as coined by ACUE), they should be concise and clear (and not the only source of learning). Some suggestions when recording (micro)lectures:

Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting

  • If your microphone is not working, use the phone number listed in the Zoom Room or Google Meet invitation when you set up a call. This allows you to use your phone as the microphone and audio source for your call rather than your computer’s built-in microphone. 
  • If your Internet connection is slow or lagging, consider temporarily turning off your video stream and only maintaining the audio stream. Turning off the video should improve communication quality and consistency.
  • Encourage students to test their speaker and microphone before joining the meeting. Both Zoom and Google will take you through a simple process to ensure that everything is working. Earbuds/headphones should be worn and an external microphone used, if available. These will reduce the amount of noise the computer picks up which will make it easier to hear and be heard.
  • Encourage students to mute themselves if they’re not speaking to minimize unnecessary or distracting background noise. Using the “raise hand” feature, literally raising one’s hand in front of the camera or simply unmuting the microphone (which will change the microphone icon) will give the group a visual cue that someone wishes to speak.
  • Some students may not have working microphones and thus may be unable to contribute using their voice. So check the chatroom (or have someone else check it for you—see above). Be aware of this when putting students in breakout groups.
  • Visit the Zoom Support Page or Google Meet Help Section for more support.
Inclusive Teaching and Learning

Accessibility Suggestions

  • It is recommended you place any recorded video into YouTube and then create a link from there to eClass. YouTube will automatically create captions (which aren’t perfect) and you can edit these captions and create captions in various languages.
  • Automatic live captioning is available with Google Meet (turn on the CC feature at the bottom of your screen). Zoom does have closed captions but it requires someone to type these as the class is occurring. It is extremely unlikely this individual would be able to keep up the pace and so it is not recommended.
  • 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 materials aloud in class, read screen material that you share on-screen just in case students are not able to see essential text.
  • Keep in mind the different accessibility needs of your students. For best practice, consult resources on Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Some examples include:

More information about inclusive teaching and learning can be found here.

Zoom Specific

Zoom Basics

Zoom is a synchronous presentation tool that allows instructors to use video, audio, and screen sharing to interact with students, Zoom is even integrated with eClass. For technical support with using Zoom and eClass, visit IST's Deliver Online page.

Best Practices for Securing Your Zoom Meeting

Best Practices for Securing Your Virtual Classroom
This link will take you to Zoom’s Blog page from March 27, 2020. You will also find other links to resources and to support videos. 

Creating and Accessing a UofA Zoom Account

Creating and Accessing Zoom Meetings through eClass
This link describes how instructors can create and launch Zoom meetings through their eClass course. 

Preventing Online Fatigue

As we continue to instruct online, our bodies and minds are experiencing strain. This video explores questions such as "What is online fatigue?" and "What is causing online fatigue?" Vocal instructor Jennifer Spencer discusses vocal health, vocal fatigue, how our voices are reacting to the increase of working online and shares strategies on how to reduce online fatigue. Watch here

Tips When Lecturing Live Using Zoom (YouTube Video)

This 13-minute video will give you a brief introduction to best practice when using Zoom, covering topics such as:

  • check-in;
  • screen Sharing;
  • showing videos;
  • chat;
  • recording your lecture;
  • breakout rooms;
  • hiding yourself and why.
Recording Zoom: Privacy Implications

The Information and Privacy Office's Best Practices for Recording of Lectures and Other Teaching Materials is now online. According to this statement, if you decide to record your classes and share them through the University-approved LMS, the instructor does not need to collect consent from individual students. However, instructors should include a statement on their course outline and eClass page that reflects the purposes, voluntary participation, and the duration and location of the stored file. An example statement aligned with the recommended best practices has been provided below:

Please note that class times for this course will be recorded. Recordings of this course will be used for the purposes of [add purposes, e.g. asynchronous learning, documenting conversation, etc.] and will be disclosed to other students enrolled in this section of the class [and add other people if these will be shared beyond students in class e.g., Teaching Assistants, other instructors, etc.].

Students have the right to not participate in the recording and are advised to turn off their cameras and audio prior to recording; they can still participate through text-based chat. It is recommended that students remove all identifiable and personal belongings from the space in which they will be participating.

Recordings will be made available until [add the date by which you will delete these recordings, e.g., the end of term, Dec. 30, 2020, etc.] and accessible by [indicate where recordings are stored, e.g., zoom cloud storage, Google drive, etc.]. Please direct any questions about this collection to the professor of this course [include name and email].

Managing Large Classes in a Synchronous Environment

What is a large class online? How large is very large? Researchers have been reluctant to identify exact numbers, however, Elison-Bowers and colleagues at Boise State University in a paper entitled "Strategies for managing large online classes" (2011) named large classes as 60-149 students and any online class over 150 students as very large. That said, the nature of the content and the kinds of learning activities can impact whether the class feels large to instructors and students.

The good news is the quality of interactions in an online course are more important than the number of people in the course (Nagel & Kotze, 2009).

In large online classes, communication between instructors to students is especially important for the instructor to appear credible and capable. Consider adding a welcome to the course message telling students about how you got into your chosen field/area of study, what you value as an instructor, and something about yourself that's unique and human (but not too personal, of course). Further, a weekly message summarizing the key misconceptions about a topic or general feedback on progress in the course will go a long way to showing you care about your students' learning. Students need to know when you are online and available to answer questions. Do you have virtual office hours? Will you answer questions in the chat or by email? Do you have a frequently asked questions section of your eClass that you update each week?

If you are offering synchronous video conference classes, in Zoom for example, consider asking a colleague, TA, or someone in your life you trust to help. It is very challenging to teach, watch the chat coming in, watch for students' raising their hands, listen to student comments, or shift students into breakout rooms all at once, especially in a large online class. If you are leading a class alone, limit the chat to specific times and for a limited amount of time (say 2-3 minutes) when you and the students read the comments coming into the chat together, then you turn off the chat and respond to key questions.

Another key aspect of large online classes is the development of a community of learners who feel a sense that everyone belongs in the course (Hrastinski, 2008). Students are more motivated to participate when they feel safe in an online course environment (Sun, Rau, & Ma, 2014). In a large class online, the students can be divided into teams, groups, or clubs of 3-7 students who meet regularly online to talk about the content, solve practice problems, do cases, or study together. Some of these student to student interactions can be moderated by the instructor through breakout rooms in Zoom, discussion boards, wikis, google docs, or projects. However, students can also be asked to arrange times on their own, just as they would in a face-to-face class.


Elison-Bowers, P., Sand, J., Barlow, M.R., & Wing, T.J. (2011). Strategies for managing large online classes. The International Journal of Learning, 18(2), 57-66.

Hrastinski, S. (2008). What is online learner participation: A literature review. Computers and Education, 51, 1755-1765.

Nagel, L., & Kotze, T. (2009). Supersizing e-learning: What CoI survey reveals about teaching presence in a large online class. Internet and Higher Education, 13(1), 45-51.

Sun, N., Rau, P.P., & Ma, L. (2014). Understanding lurkers in online communities: A literature review. Computers in Human Behaviour, 38, 110-117

Google Meet Specific

Google Meet Basics

Designed for live online video meetings with multiple users, this Google tool was built for collaboration and is available to all UAlberta members. For technical support with using Google Meet, visit IST's Deliver Online page.

Miscellaneous

Online Lectures and Pre-recording Lectures

IST's Online Lectures Overview outlines several centrally supported online lecture tools available at the U of A.

IST's Lecture Recording Overview outlines the options available to instructors who need to record lectures and deliver them online to students.

Remote Conferencing

Whether you’re running low on meeting space and time, or are unable to physically meet with your students or colleagues who work remotely, IST has a wealth of conferencing options available to bridge the gap.

Video/Web Conferencing & Lecture Recording

Whether you want to bring distanced students into a class, have a guest present remotely from abroad, capture your live lecture, or pre-record it for later viewing, IST can provide the training, equipment, and on-site or on-call assistance to help your session run smoothly. Learn more.

Simple Tech Tips for Making High Quality Content Online
If you don’t consider yourself savvy in the world of online video, here are some simple tips for you to utilize the tools already at your disposal to make better looking, better sounding, better edited videos. Watch here.



Uploading a Video to YouTube & Editing Subtitles
While this video will provide you with information about how to upload a video to YouTube and edit subtitles; if you are creating videos for your students, we recommend using the University of Alberta’s alternative to YouTube - YuJa. Yuja will allow you to add subtitles, add quizzes and perform edits within your video, add collaborative comments and more easily share your videos than using YouTube. Watch here.