If you would like to try out a synchronous discussion with your full class without going into break-out rooms, there are a few ways that you can encourage students to take part. First of all, the students need to know how to signal that they would like to speak, which can be difficult in a larger synchronous session online. Here are a couple of elements in Zoom that can help facilitate a larger group discussion.

  • Participants Panel / Raise Hand
  • Non-verbal Feedback (Yes, No, Slower, Faster, Break)
  • Reactions
  • Chat
  • Polling

Potential Applications

  • Raise Hand – If a student uses the raise hand feature, they will float to the top of the Participants panel. If several students raise their hand they will show up in the order they raised them. This can be helpful when you have several students wanting to jump into the conversation at the same time. You will need to verbalize who is next. 
  • Non-verbal Feedback – You can get a sense of whether the group is ready to go on to another topic of discussion by using the Yes / No responses. You can also use the thumbs up reaction. 
  • Chat – Ask all students to respond to a question in the chat: for instance, lines that stood out to them from that day’s reading, or a concept they struggled with. You can then call on students to further explain their contributions or simply move on. 
  • Allow students to private message (PM) you if they have a question or comment they are nervous about sharing with the full class. This simple accessibility affordance offers students with social anxiety an avenue through which they can participate.
  • Encourage students to respond via chat to the vocalized comments another student makes during the discussion. This allows for a deepening of the discussion without an increase in the amount of time needed.

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Tips and Tricks

  • You’ll need to make sure you have the Participants Panel open. If you share your screen, you will need to click on “Participants” again, to re-open the panel.
  • Zoom saves chat records as a separate file from the recorded video, which does not display the chat. You may consider reading students’ written points out loud to both make a full record of the class session and to offer students who prefer contributing vocally the opportunity to respond.
  • If you are planning to share the recording of your lecture, save and share the chat transcript as well. This will allow students participating asynchronously to reference the chat and for all students to return to concepts they found interesting.
  • Make a point to open the chat when beginning the class, and remind students to do so as well.

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