Zoom for learning

  • Zoom is a video conferencing platform used at Brookes for online teaching. You might participate in lectures or seminar-style Zoom meetings with your class, or watch recorded Zoom meetings in your own time. Zoom is used because it has features such as ‘breakout rooms’ to divide classes into small groups that make it suitable for interactive online learning.

    Our top tips

    Familiarise yourself with the main features

    It can be tricky to find the right controls and features when you’re trying to concentrate on the content of the class. Watch the short video below to become familiar with how to create a Zoom account, and the display and menu options before joining your classes.

    Participating in Zoom classes (synchronously - at the same time)

    Be prepared - camera on / off?

    Even if your class normally has cameras off, come to each session prepared to switch your camera on at certain times (e.g. if you’re reporting back from a breakout room discussion). Be considerate; you might feel comfortable in your pyjamas and having posters with swear words on your walls, but other people may not want to see this. Zoom enables you to have virtual backgrounds which can be useful for hiding a messy room, but they do take more processing power on your devices. See this guide for more on using virtual backgrounds:

    Taking part

    Lecturers say that it is tough to teach when they can’t see how the audience is responding, even if everyone is interested and listening. A few supportive comments or questions in the chat box, or using the thumbs up icon can make a difference. The real value of online learning is in interaction and through being an active learner. See the following guides for more on how to learn actively online and good principles of online communication.

    Managing breakout rooms

    Having a group discussion in a breakout room can take longer to organise than face-to-face groups. Make sure you have all the documents you need open, as you can’t see the screen from the main room once you’re in breakout rooms. In the menu bar at the bottom there are options so someone can share their screen, and also ‘ask for help’ to call in the lecturer if needed.

    Prepare before and after

    Some people find it harder to learn from online classes. This may be because they haven’t had time to think about what they want to gain from the class. Unlike a face-to-face lecture where you have some travelling time, it is easier to join your Zoom class a few moments beforehand and not really be ready for it. The principles of preparing for a lecture and reviewing the notes afterwards are still very useful for Zoom classes. See our guide on lectures for more strategies for getting the most out of large classes.

    Note-making not dictation

    Taking brief notes can help you concentrate. There’s a temptation to capture everything you hear, especially if you’re a fast typer. It’s more effective to listen for longer and write summaries in your own words as you will have processed the information rather than just copying it. Zoom classes are recorded at Brookes so you can go back to anything you haven’t understood. An efficient tip is to note down the time so you can skip straight to that section in the recording. See our note-making guide and the section below on learning from Zoom recordings for more strategies.

    Minimise distractions

    Zoom classes often involve multiple streams of information, including the slides, presenter, chat box, voting, and any additional documents. This can be very distracting, so minimise any further distractions by closing browser windows, turning off notifications, and not checking messages. The built-in Zoom chat box is a common distraction itself so you may want to only read the chat box at certain times during the class. See the guide below for more on how to manage the challenges of online classes.

    Learning from Zoom recordings (asynchronously - in your own time)

    Use recordings efficiently

    Passively watching a recording while not really paying attention isn’t usually a good use of your time. Taking brief notes, asking yourself questions, and reviewing what you’ve learned can help make it more effective. Also if you’re rewatching a session you attended, skip ahead to the places you noted down to check any content you didn’t understand. See the following webpage for more on learning effectively from lecture recordings:

    Have a structure and purpose

    Trying to learn on your own from lots of recordings can seem overwhelming and fragmented. Regain perspective by looking at the overall module aims and main issues in the module. How does this lecture fit with them? What are you trying to find out from this lecture and why is that important? See our guide for more on how to adapt to studying online.

    Plan non-screen time

    Spending too much time in front of a screen can make you feel tired and headachy. It's easy to just continue watching another video, so explicitly plan in breaks and non-screen study time to give yourself variety and give your eyes a chance to recover. For more tips on avoiding screen fatigue see the link below: