In some cases during our exploration of tools for teaching and learning, we find something that is somehow both fairly simple, reliable, and flexible. Zoom is one of these cases, and many here at the University have found it to be a useful tool for meeting together digitally and remotely from the comfort and convenience of their laptop or moblie devices, as well as for basic applications for teaching and learning. Our friends at UIS have summarized some of Zoom’s basic functions aptly over at the University’s official page for Zoom:

“Zoom enables you to conduct live online class presentations, conferences, and meetings. Faculty and staff can use Zoom to connect with each other, with students, and with colleagues from around the world with audio, video and screen sharing….. Zoom works on your desktop or laptop computer, mobile device…..”.

All Faculty and Staff have access to Pro accounts, and students all have access to Basic Accounts, with a few differences mostly in relation to settings for meetings. Many are using these features for remote communications, online office hours, webinars, or as a backup option for instructional continuity, etc. All accounts have access to a few specific features that may be worth exploring in a deeper and more proactive way for anyone seeking to increase collaboration opportunities for collaborative, remote, online and/or blended learning. Let’s go over two of them:

  1. Share Screen
  2. Breakout Groups

Online Collaboration with “Share Screen”

(Source: Zoom)

The Share Screen feature provides a simple way to share the contents of your screen, mobile device, or other application such as an internet browser or powerpoint. This screen can be annotated by you or by your students if desired, you can also share a blank whiteboard, with the option to send participants a PDF copy seamlessly before moving on. This feature can be very helpful in fielding questions that are aided by online resources that can be visually referenced. It can also create opportunities for remote collaboration on a project such as a group paper or presentation in google drive where one participant is sharing their screen with the document open.

Learn more by visiting Zoom’s official support page for “How Do I Share My Screen?”

Online Collaboration with “Breakout Groups”

(Source: Zoom)

One way to engage students in a seminar format online is to divide them into small groups in order to dive deeper into a given discussion prompt, question, or problem. Within these discussions, students have a chance to connect with their peers in an online environment that can at times feel isolated and remote. The Zoom “breakout groups” feature provides a means to facilitate small breakout groups that can help reduce feelings of isolation and disconnectedness in an online learning session, with students interacting more deeply with each other and with the faculty member or facilitator, who can switch between groups before bringing everyone back together.

Learn more by visiting Zoom’s official support page for “Getting Started with Breakout Groups”

Going Further

Learn more about how to begin using Zoom at the UIS Support page for Zoom, or by emailing You can also practice running a collaborative online learning activity with Zoom with this Primer/Sample Agenda that we put together. As you grow more confident with hosting sessions, helping students to navigate sessions, and in your ability to utilize features such as “Share Screen” and “Breakout Groups”, your options for engaging your students with blended and online collaboration will increase.