Zoom

Videoconferencing with screen sharing and breakout rooms.

 

Annotated screen shot of Zoom

Annotated screen shot showing key controls

Zoom is a lightweight yet full-featured videoconferencing tool. It includes standard features like audio and video support, a chat room, presenter sharing, and screen sharing. Zoom also has a whiteboard and an easy-to-use breakout room feature that lets the host place participants into small groups, either randomly or by design, and bring everyone back together again after the breakout discussion is over. Sessions can be recorded. Zoom offers several different options for how video is displayed (speaker is featured in a larger window; everyone is in a small window with all windows in a grid; videos across the top with presenter’s screen larger in the center; and so on).

The presenter has a great deal of flexibility in selecting which application or screen to share. Users with two monitors may show either one without needing to mirror, and a presenter can also share the screen of an iPad or iPhone (as long as they have joined the meeting from a computer with the Zoom app installed).

Scenario / Use Case

We have used Zoom to facilitate large- and small-group working sessions. We will usually share a screen that shows the meeting templates in a drawing application, then use that application to graphically record the meeting. Participants may use video if they wish. With large groups, we use the breakout group feature to allow participants to converse in small groups of three to five, where they explore a topic in depth or generate ideas in a brainstorming session (we generally support this work with another application, like a shared document editor or a collaborative sticky-note board). While working in the breakout groups participants sometimes choose to turn their video on and/or share a screen. When we bring everyone back together, participants discuss their ideas and insights as a whole group again. Once the meeting ends, we send copies of all the graphic recordings along with links to any shared documents we used.

Pros

  • It’s very easy to set up a meeting and send out invitations
  • Hosts can create standing meetings with the same log-in information for recurring events
  • The video quality is good even over wifi
  • The breakout room feature is useful and uncomplicated
  • Participants can join from computers and mobile devices
  • Hosts can graphically record without a digital pen tablet if they have an iPad

Cons

  • Zoom is a relatively new tool and is still blocked by some IT departments and firewalls
  • Some participants will not be able to be placed in a breakout group depending on their account settings or the device they are connecting from (workaround: leave one breakout group in the main room)

Groups It’s Good For

  • Small distributed teams that like to use video conferencing to see one another
  • Large groups that can take advantage of the breakout rooms for more intimate conversations
  • Non-profit groups or teams looking for an affordable videoconferencing solution
  • Independent coaches and consultants looking for an affordable videoconferencing platform

Cost & Access Information

There is a free version of Zoom that supports meetings up to 40 minutes in length. Beyond that, there are tiered subscription levels. See www.zoom.us for more information and pricing.

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