COVID-19 is sending countries around the world into lockdown and there’s no telling when the lockdown will be lifted. It really depends on which country you live in, and how available tests are there. People who can (a very small number of the population) are shifting to a Work from home model. Schools, colleges, and universities have been closed but many institutes are trying to shift to online learning.
Note: Be careful what you read online and beware of fake news about COVID-19.
Online learning has been around for a long time in the form of online courses. There are specific services that allow you to take courses online e.g. TreeHouse, Udemy, Coursera, etc. but they do not have live instructors. If you’re an educator trying to continue teaching during the lockdown, you will need to know how to create an online Classroom.
There are lots of tools that let you host online meetings but Zoom is what we recommend using for a classroom.
Why use Zoom?
We recommend using Zoom because of the following reasons;
- You can use the service for free.
- Anyone that is invited to a Zoom meeting (or your classroom), can join it without creating an online account. This is helpful if you’re teaching children that may not be able to create accounts on their own.
- With a free account, you can host/teach 100 students at once.
- Participants can ‘Raise a hand’ to ask questions.
- Zoom lets you create a classroom and have students join it from any platform.
- There is a group chat feature integrated into Zoom.
- You get a Whiteboard and you can share your screen if you need to.
This is an important one which is why we’re going to address it separately. Each session, with a free plan, can last 40 minutes. You can start another and that too will last 40 minutes. You can hold unlimited one-on-one sessions.
You can read more about the Zoom plans here.
Create an online classroom
Visit Zoom, and create a free account. Once you’ve created your account, you will be taken to the dashboard. This is where you can create a meeting that will basically act as your online classroom.
Give the meeting a name and add a description. You can enter what chapter of a book will be studied in class under the description.
The meeting can be created in a time zone of your choice. Additionally, you can add a password that participants will have to enter before they can join the meeting though it’s probably not a good idea if you’re teaching younger children.
The ‘Video’ part is something to pay attention to. You can allow both the host (that’s you), and participants to be online via video. This can be great because it gives everyone at home a little company but, it will impact network bandwidth and at this time, most networks are under a lot of strain. If you can do without video participation, limit it so that only you are using a video.
Next, there’s the ‘Meeting options’ section. You can enable the ‘Enable join before host’. This allows participants to join a meeting even if you’re not there on time. And finally, you might also want to enable the option that will automatically record the meeting/classroom session. Click ‘Save’.
Invite students to a classroom
Zoom offers multiple ways to invite students to a classroom. It supports online calendar invites via Google Calendar, Outlook, and Yahoo. You can also copy a link to the classroom (indicated below), and send it over any medium of your choice e.g., email, chat, text message, etc.
Joining a classroom
When your participants visit the link you’ve shared with them, they will be given a small file to install on the desktop. This is the Zoom app. It’s simple to install. Once the app has been installed, it will open and participants will be able to view the meeting.
On joining, each participant enters a name. This is the name they appear with in the classroom and it can’t be changed once the session starts.
Zoom has a lot of helpful guides available for those discovering the service during COVID-19. If you or any of your students are having trouble learning how the service works, check out the resources they have available for free.