Zoom World: How to Secure Your Virtual Classroom and Enhance Student Engagement

Worldwide schools are now using Zoom and other virtual learning platforms since the outbreak of corona pandemic, making it possible through video conferencing features for teachers and students to continue their learning journey. However, in recent past, these virtual platforms had faced some serious security threats where hackers were able to sneak into a zoom conference call and breach privacy. It is an excellent time to remind educators about the best ways to prevent unwanted visitors from disrupting your virtual classroom and for protecting your students’ privacy.

Anne Keehn, from Zoom blog, recently discussed these features in one of her blog posts. Following are some ways through which teachers can secure virtual classroom experience.

Meeting Controls before Class Begins

There are Meeting Controls that can be found in your Zoom settings to minimize disruptions:

  • Restrict annotation to prevent students from annotating on shared content or show the names of individuals annotating
  • Disable “Join before host” so students can’t join a meeting before you start it
  • Require a meeting passcode to join
  • Allow only authenticated users to enter, which requires participants to be signed into their Zoom account with your school’s domain to join
  • Disable screen sharing for users (participants must ask for permission to share)

Security Icon Familiarisation

During the meeting, you can click on the Security icon at the bottom of your meeting window to easily:

  • Lock your virtual classroom once class starts so no one else can enter
  • Force all new participants joining a meeting to enter the Waiting Room (where you can admit them on an individual basis)
  • Enable or disable participants from sharing their screens
  • Disable the chat feature to prevent participants from chatting with each other
  • Prevent participants from renaming themselves
  • Prevent participants from unmuting themselves

Manage Audio/Video streaming of your Students

You’re the teacher of your class, so you need to control your Zoom classroom. Open the Participants icon to:

  • Disable video for individual participants
  • Mute all participants in the meeting
  • Remove participants from the conference (and they cannot re-join)
  • Place participants in the waiting room (where you can readmit them)

It is important to remind students not to share their Zoom classroom details (meeting ID and password) on any public forum, such as social media or even your school’s public website. There are many more features of Zoom that can be used to enhance classroom management and students’ learning experience, such as:

  • Customizable Gallery View
  • Multi-pinning
  • Multi-spotlight

These features will be made available over across Zoom platform in a month or two. Lastly, the zoom does give the final control to the participants (students) over muting or unmuting audio for their privacy. However, in some exceptional cases, a teacher may want the ability to unmute participants’ audio selectively. This arises in situations where students may not have the ability to unmute themselves. These can be cases like:

  • Grade 7 or below where students may not know how to operate their microphones
  • Classes where students have physical or other constraints preventing them from accessing the mute controls
  • Physical exercise classes where students may be placed at a distance from their device
  • Music lessons where students are playing an instrument

To protect student privacy and maintain participant control, Zoom will require the meeting host and all participants to opt into this audio control. Once permission is granted, the same host can set up regular classes without needing to adjust permissions before each meeting.

Participants can revoke this permission at any time, including between meetings, by accessing a list of hosts to whom they have granted this permission. A warning icon will appear next to the security icon when this setting is enabled in a meeting.

If students do not grant permission to unmute, they will still be allowed in the meeting, and the host will be able to request them to unmute each time as usual.

Enhanced Breakout Room Features

According to Zoom blog, from September 2020 onwards, students will have the ability to select a breakout room and move between rooms. This allows even greater flexibility in the way you structure your small group learning. You can create themed breakout rooms or reading groups and invite students to move between them based on their interests in topics.

Hope educators around the work will make the most of their virtual platforms, and the learning journey will continue despite such catastrophic events.

Good Luck!

*Facts and information extracted from the Zoom Blog – Anne Keehn article

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