A virtual classroom is an online learning environment that allows for live interaction between the instructor and students, regardless of location, through a video conferencing system. The university's video conferencing system, Zoom, can be used to host:

  • virtual lectures for large classes where students are mostly passive learners
  • interactive tutorials (with approx. 35 participants) where students are active learners
  • individual consultations where a student can meet with the instructor one-on-one

Zoom has a range of functionality to help facilitate an interactive and engaging virtual learning environment. Zoom allows you to:

  • share your screen or specific applications (i.e. a presentation through PowerPoint)
  • annotate on top of your shared screen or using a shared virtual whiteboard
  • view other participants' screens (subject to settings)
  • conduct polls to gage prior knowledge or opinions on a particular topic
  • encourage student feedback through reactions
  • communicate with participants through the in-meeting chat
  • facilitate group work with breakout rooms

The following guide includes a range of tips to support staff in facilitating a virtual classroom environment:

Preparing for a Virtual Classroom

  • It is recommended you purchase a headset, such as the Logitech USB Headset Black H340, to ensure high quality audio. 
    • If your computer doesn't have a built in webcam, consider purchasing a mountable webcam, such as the Microsoft LifeCam Webcam HD-3000
    • If you plan on hosting a Zoom session with more than 50 participants, you will need to log a request with the ITS Service Desk to ensure your room can hold a session of more than 50. 
    • Optionally, purchase a mini-document projector, such as the HoverCam Mini, if you require handwritten demonstrations, or alternatively use the built-in whiteboard feature. Refer to the Share a Whiteboard guide by Zoom.
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    Pre-Session

    • Advise students to purchase a headset or earphones with a built in microphone to avoid feedback from poor microphone quality.
    • When scheduling a meeting, it is recommended you adjust the default settings in Zoom to best suit a virtual classroom environment. Refer to the Recommended Settings for Using Zoom for Teaching guide.
    • Consider inviting a guest speaker or industry expert to the Zoom meeting for a Q&A session where students are able to ask questions through the chat and verbally using the raise hand feature. 
    • Consider acknowledging via an announcement that the meetings will be recorded throughout the semester for those who are unable to attend. Refer to the Add an Announcement guide. 
    • Create a PowerPoint for each session to maintain structure and distribute a copy to the students beforehand. Refer to the Example Virtual Classroom Plan section.
      • Begin with an engagement activity while you wait for all participants to join the session.
      • Start with an ‘agenda’ slide with a specific learning goal and strict timing for each section.
      • Plan staggered interactions throughout the meeting, such as reactions, question time or polling, to maintain student engagement. Ensure any polling questions are created before the session. Refer to the Polling in a Zoom meeting guide. 
      • Include ‘break’ slides to give students time to process information, reflect, apply new ideas and ask questions.
      • Plan to get through less content than you would in a face-to-face session.
    • Optionally, set up a discussion board and instruct students to post any questions about a particular topic or assessment task in the discussion board before the Zoom session and dedicate time to answering those questions during the session. Refer to the Create a Forum and Create a Thread guides.
    • Consider having a co-host for the first few sessions until Zoom becomes more familiar. Refer to the Enabling and Adding a Co-Host guide by Zoom.
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      Introductory Session

      Plan a short introductory session with the purpose of ensuring students are familiar with the structure of a virtual classroom and are competent in using all of the tools within Zoom.

      • Audio and video settings should be tested by the teacher and students. Refer to the Testing Computer or Device Audio guide by Zoom.
      • Establish student expectations in a virtual classroom setting, such as:
        • The chat will not be monitored in real time through the meeting and should be used to ask topic-focused questions.
        • Students should only use reactions when directed.
        • Microphones/webcams need to remain off.
        • Students can click on the ‘Raise Hand’ button to indicate they have a question.
        • If students are having any technical difficulties, they can contact AskUS via webchat, phone or email for assistance. 
      • Give students the opportunity to introduce themselves either in the chat, or via webcam if it is a small group, to share where they are based, why they are taking the course and an interesting fact about themselves. 
      • Use reactions for icebreaker questions, as students are able to view which other students have the same response through the Participant's window. Refer to the Reactions in a Zoom meeting guide.
      • Use polling to gauge prior knowledge and experiences amongst the cohort and share results with students to show trends amongst the group. Refer to the Polling in a Zoom meeting guide.
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      During the Session

      • Test your audio settings. Refer to the Testing Computer or Device Audio guide by Zoom.
      • If using a webcam:
        • Check your background is free from distractions.
        • Place your laptop at a comfortable height.
        • Use the webcam for the introduction and for physical demonstrations, but turn it off for the rest of the meeting as this will save bandwidth.
      • Use active learning tools within Zoom, such as polling and reactions to engage students. Refer to the Reactions in a Zoom meeting and Polling in a Zoom meeting guides.
        • Use reactions as a ‘check in’ to see how students are coping with new concepts.
        • Use polling for knowledge check questions after a particular topic has been discussed to ensure students understand content.
        • Use reactions or polling to gauge whether students can relate to the topic being discussed or have used a particular theory in practice. 
      • Encourage discussion through the chat window, but ensure strategies are in place for managing large groups of students (i.e. over 30 students). Refer to the In-Meeting Chat guide by Zoom.
        • Enlist a few trustworthy students or tutors to respond to questions on your behalf.
        • Enlist someone to collate and privately message you, through the in-meeting chat, any questions that were not answered or missed.
      • Encourage verbal student responses and questions.
        • Use the 'raise hand' reaction to manage students wanting to speak and to avoid interuptions. Refer students to the Reactions and Polling in a Zoom meeting student guide. 
        • Refer to students by name over the microphone when addressing their question or idea to ensure students feel appreciated for contributing, and to encourage participation.
      • Use breakout rooms to facilitate group work and automatically place students in a room to complete an activity. Refer to the Getting Started with Breakout Rooms guide by Zoom.
        • As the host, you are able to join different breakout rooms to check on student progress.
        • As the host, you can broadcast a message to all breakout rooms, such as time warnings or instructions, and can close all breakout rooms with a countdown of 1 minute.
      • If pausing the recording (i.e. if students go into breakout rooms), ensure you verbally say you are about to pause and record to avoid confusion when students rewatch the recording. Refer to the Recording a Zoom meeting guide by ITS.
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      Post-Session

      • If you choose to save the in-meeting chat, revise the saved chat log to see if there were any questions that were not addressed. Refer to the Saving In-Meeting Chat guide by Zoom.
      • Either forward the email from AARNet with the recording and password to all students or copy the link, password and link expiry date into an announcement. Students can view either the audio only or the video version.
      • The recording link will only remain active for 4 months, therefore to access Zoom recordings long-term, you can download the video from AARNet CloudStor and upload it to Kaltura. You are then able to embed the video with your Learn.UQ or edX (Edge) course. Refer to the My Media and Add a Zoom Recording to edX (Edge) guides. 
      • Download the meeting report to view participants, duration and polling data. Refer to the Meeting Reporting guide by Zoom.
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      Tips for Virtual Consultations

      • Use an online scheduler, such as World Clock, to determine the best consultation times depending on different time zones.
      • Once the time has been determined, schedule all consultations directly through Zoom, as the calendar invite should convert the time zone automatically for students in their Outlook calendar (depending on their Outlook time zone settings). Refer to the Organising a Zoom meeting guide by ITS. 
      • During consultations, you are able to provide feedback on student work by allowing them to share their screen. Students can also share their work via Google Docs so you are able to enter comments in real time. Refer to the Sharing a screen in a Zoom meeting guide by Zoom.
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      Tips for Virtual Tutorials and Seminars

      • Use the meeting as a peer assessment session where students take turns sharing their work on an assessment and seek feedback from their peers.
      • Use breakout rooms and manually assign students to work in their assignment groups. They will be able to share their screen and discuss the assignment using the chat and their microphones. Refer to the Getting Started with Breakout Rooms guide by Zoom.
      • As a follow up to the virtual tutorial/seminar, students can schedule their own meetings with their group members through Zoom to work collaboratively on assessment tasks. Refer students to the Virtual Classroom (Zoom) student guides.
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      Example Virtual Classroom Plan

      Description Management Time (mins)

      Introduce topics to be covered and run through agenda. 

      Click on the Share window to share the PowerPoint application. Turn on microphone and webcam.  5

      Cover first topic.

      Turn off webcam, but continue sharing PowerPoint application and audio. 10

      Students to answer polling questions to check their understanding.

      Open the Poll window and launch poll. Once students have responded, stop the poll and share results with students. 5

      Opportunity for students to ask questions through the chat or raise their hand to verbally ask a question.

      Open Participants window and allow students with hands raised to speak. Open Chat window and answer any questions asked in the chat. 5

      Cover second topic.

      Continue sharing PowerPoint application and audio. 10

      Students to use reactions to show whether they understand the topic.

      Students to open Participants window and react. Monitor student reactions and then clear all reactions through the Manage Participants window. 2

      Opportunity for students to ask questions through the chat or raise their hand to verbally ask a question.

      Open Participants window and allow students with hands raised to speak. Open Chat window and answer any questions asked in the chat. 5

      Place students into small groups within breakout rooms to complete activity and apply new knowledge.

      Open Breakout Rooms window and automatically sort students into small groups. Students to join breakout rooms and participate in activity. Broadcast a message to breakout rooms when students have 2 minutes remaining.  Close all breakout rooms with one minute remaining.  10

      Summarise content covered and remind students that recording will be available after the session.

      Turn on webcam, but continue sharing PowerPoint application and audio. 5
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