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Overcoming Zoom Doom, Doldrums, and Blahs: Engagement Strategies for Virtual Class Meetings

By Leah Bergman

“Not another Zoom meeting!” Who else has thought this over the past several months? Students are no different, especially when they’re attending many classes and extracurriculars online throughout the week. 

We’ve all experienced the feeling of “Zoom Doom,” whether we’re attending a class session, conference presentation, meeting, or family get-together. While Zoom is an amazing collaboration tool, it can fall short if engagement strategies aren’t incorporated into class meetings. Continue reading for some ideas and techniques to help you and your learners stay engaged throughout the semester.

Planning the Session

Prior to the Zoom session, consider a few goals you would like to accomplish during the class session. In order to keep students’ attention, divide topics and activities into 10-15 minute segments, with processing breaks or reflection time between them. Planning the session will help the flow of the session and will ensure that both you and students are staying on-task and making the most of your time together.

Facilitating the Session

On the day of your Zoom session, join the meeting early. Not only will this give you a chance to resolve technical issues prior to class, but it also gives you a few moments to welcome, interact with, and get to know students.

Turn on your video and encourage students to turn theirs on and leave it on during the session. This can be done using the “Ask to Start Video” option. While students shouldn't be forced to share their video, due to a variety of reasons, video promotes interpersonal connection and helps you pickup on non-verbal queues and body language. If it’s distracting to look at yourself, or the many thumbnails of gallery view, hide your own video and switch to active speaker view

Make sure you’re sticking to the agenda you came up with. To retain students’ attention and engagement, incorporate a brain break or active learning exercise at the end of each 10-15 minute segment. This can be a simple stretch break, or an opportunity to pause for commentary, questioning, reactions, or reflections from the students. Give students the option of typing their thoughts into the chat or unmuting themselves and speaking one at a time. 

When your class is over, be the last one to leave the session. Being available gives students opportunities to connect with you, to continue classroom discussion, and to seek help. If a student does stick around to chat, make sure you stop the recording in case they want to discuss something personal. 


Utilizing Zoom Engagement Features

As you facilitate the session, look for opportunities to increase student engagement and promote active learning. As you’re trying new things, it’s important to help students understand your expectations about the activities by explaining when and how they should participate. Zoom has some built-in features to encourage interaction among the instructor, peers, and content.

Table of Zoom features and how they can be used. Use the Reaction features to solicit engagement from your students as they can clicking on yes, no, thumbs up, applause, and other emotions. Use the Polling feature to invite feedback from students, check understanding of key concepts, and gauge opinions on course topics. Use the Chat feature to ask and answer questions and share opinions and perspectives. Use the Whiteboard feature to work out complex problems and formulas or draw models and prototypes. Use Breakout Rooms to discuss biggest take-aways, think, pair, share, complete notes and clarify muddiest points, etc.

Switching Things Up

If you’re tired of using the same Zoom routine, change things up by trying something new. The feature-rich platform allows you to be as creative as you want to be. Below, are some ideas to consider:

  • Start the session off with something fun or intriguing; Maybe an upbeat song, an interesting graphic, a riddle, or a question or the day
  • Use your outfit, virtual background, or artifacts in your camera view to introduce a new topic
  • Invite a guest speaker and invite students to participate by submitting questions ahead of time
  • Create a virtual escape room, Amazing Race, or scavenger hunt, where groups of students have to complete tasks or follow clues to come up with an answer
  • Get students involved in the teaching process; Have each student or a student group select a course topic and have them lead the day’s lesson
  • Have students role-play in a mock consultation, debate, or negotiation, in breakout rooms
  • Encourage each student to share what they’ve been working on by playing or singing a piece of music, reading an excerpt of their writing, or showcasing their artwork
  • Take a few minutes for activities that can build community, relieve stress, or act as a brain break:
    • Two truths and a lie
    • Pet meet and greet
    • Show and share

Teaching is an experiment. Flexible teaching during a pandemic is even more so. We encourage you to try one thing new and find something that works for you and your students. Regardless of the outcome, your students will appreciate your efforts to fight Zoom fatigue. Who knows… you might enjoy the change, too!

If you would like help implementing any of the engagement suggestions for your class Zoom sessions, please contact eLearning via We’ll even do a quick practice session with you so you can simulate the experience of a live class meeting.

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