Teaching & Learning


Initiatives and resources supporting the objectives of UCL's Education Strategy 2016-21


Five top tips for Zoom users

Angela Young (Head of Library Skills) and Tom McMahon (Student Partnership Manager) run down their top tips for using Zoom, including how to save time when updating registers.

Man with mask and headphones typing on laptop

16 November 2020

Choose the right Zoom for you

UCL has purchased the Zoom video conferencing software for one year to support learning and teaching during COVID-19.

Staff have access to both the Zoom Meeting and Zoom Webinar platforms which offer similar features and functionality, with some key differences:

  • Meetings are designed to be a collaborative event with all participants being able to screen share, turn on their video and audio, and see who else is in attendance.
  • Webinars are designed for larger audiences; the host and any panelists can share their video, audio and screen but attendees remain off camera. They have the ability to interact via Q&A, Chat, and answering polling questions. The host can also unmute the attendees. 

In most cases, Zoom Meeting will be sufficient (and simpler). If you need a higher capacity (up to 1,000 participants), email zoomsupport@ucl.ac.uk with the group size and whether it’s a one-off or repeated event; please allow 48 hours notice.

Visit ISD's Large Meetings and Large Teaching Events page for further guidance.

How we used it

As part of the six-week Make the Most of UCL programme, we hosted a 2.5 hour event split into four sessions, where 300+ attendees were invited to attend bits of particular interest to them.

We used Zoom Webinar, alongside the Zoom polling feature and Mentimeter, to run interactive sessions that included presentations and a panel discussion.

We learned some handy tips along the way which we hope will help any fellow Zoom newbies save some time and get the most from the platform, and your participants. 

What we've learned

1. Save time updating your attendance register

The session is over and you’re transferring attendance data to Register UCL. How long do you spend trying to figure out which of the possible three students signed in as ‘James’ that day? As much as you want to believe your session attracted some star power, where do you even start with ‘Bruce Wayne’ and ‘Beyonce’?

Top tip: We recently learned that if you tick the ‘only authenticated users can join’ box when setting up your Zoom class, it can save all sorts of time when it comes to updating the attendance register. Choosing this setting forces students to sign in with Single Sign On, using their full name/UCL username.  This simple step avoids the pain of trying to work out who logged in as ‘Jane’, ‘Jill’ or ‘Daffy Duck’ – making life much easier when it comes to updating RegisterUCL.

Take a look at ISD's Zoom Support Site for guidance on how to ensure only authenticated users can join your Zoom class and other tips for securing your Zoom meeting.   

2. Take control of the Q&A

The Q&A function on Zoom is really handy, as you can choose to respond to questions live or via text, and can also dismiss any inappropriate questions. This means you don’t necessarily need to use other services such as Sli.do for attendees / viewers to pose questions to the hosts or panellists.

You may have to wait a while for students to start submitting their questions via the Q&A function, so make sure you have some pre-prepared questions to fall back on. 

You may also want to politely ask participants to limit their verbal responses to 1-2 minutes, as it’s more difficult to give the subtle hints to wrap things up that you might give in-person.

You can also download all Q&A as a report after the event.

The Q&A feature is only in Zoom Webinar (not Zoom meetings) for sessions expecting more than 300 attendees. Temporary licenses for Zoom Webinar are available from ISD (see above). 

3. Use in-built polling for easy interaction

The Zoom platform has a conveniently integrated polling feature so attendees don’t have to open another service for multiple choice or single choice questions. If you do want to poll using free text questions or word clouds, you can still use another tool, e.g. mentimeter, and have attendees link out.

Other points on polling:

  • Questions can be set up in advance of the session. If you want them in a particular order within the Zoom interface so that it’s easier for you to launch the correct one as you go along, you have to set them up in the order you want them and you can’t change that order. It’s not the end of the world if they are not in the right order however, as you can select which one to display whenever you want in the session.
  • We started with a question asking attendees to tell us a bit about themselves, e.g. level of student, where they are based, faculty, are they international. This was a really good way to find out about our audience but you could also use it to check pre-existing knowledge, or as an ice breaker.
  • Attendees cannot see what their fellow participants are entering until you close the poll and share the results, so they are not influenced by others’ responses.
  • Poll results display as % without actual figures, which is good if you don’t have many people in the session but want to give the impression that you do!
  • If you record the sessions, the poll results do not appear in the video, but you can download the poll results as a report after the event.

4. Prepare for a busy Presenter role

As a presenter, there is a lot to keep an eye on: speaking, sharing your screen, reading your notes, monitoring chat, monitoring Q&A. You simply cannot keep an eye on everything. Some tips for dealing with this:

  • If possible, it’s a good idea to have an alternative host as a backup who can take over if necessary. The colleague (or multiple colleagues in a big session) can let you know if there is a question that needs answering, moderate the chat, etc.
  • If sharing your screen, I’d recommend you don’t attempt to do anything else on your screen at the same time. I was also looking at my notes on a Word document whilst presenting, and attendees ended up seeing some of my zoom controls and a big grey rectangle where my open Word document was.
  • If you can, log on to the Zoom session as an attendee on a separate device so you can keep an eye on what the attendees can see.
  •  Provide links to websites, mentimeter, etc. in the chat as well as any slides, and draw participants’ attention to them as needed.
  • Have a practice session – particularly if presenters haven’t used the platform before.

5. Don’t forget the data!

Reports from the session told us how many attendees, peak number of attendees, exact entry and exit times of each attendee and the country they were in. You can also get poll and Q&A reports.

If using Zoom Webinar, however, you must download these reports before your temporary license expires.

 Further information

The Teaching & Learning Portal features a useful guide to help you choose the right platform for your live teaching.

You will find information and guidance on how to use Zoom on the Zoom support site. This includes information about:

Note: To access the support site, please log in using the same username format and password as your email account (e.g. userID@ucl.ac.uk).

Chris Evans, Senior Teaching Fellow in UCL’s Interaction Centre (UCLIC), has also produced a series of Zoom for teaching videos.