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Choosing the right platform for live online teaching

Compare the features and suitability of UCL's recommended live, synchronous teaching platforms, Zoom, MS Teams and Lecturecast Live.

Live teaching or synchronous teaching is online teaching where students attend and may take part in the activities as they happen (i.e. they are not watching a pre-recorded lecture). 

Visit the Basic hybrid teaching toolkit and Technology for hybrid teaching in UCL classrooms for guidance on teaching in-person students and online students at the same time. 

Last updated: 17 January 2022

Contents

Platforms to deliver live teaching

Which platform should I use?

Live teaching tools - functionality comparison at a glance

Platforms to deliver live teaching 

Zoom is a popular videoconferencing tool for which UCL has a site-wide licence for all staff and students. It is integrated with Moodle for setting up classes and Lecturecast for storing recordings. The standard licence allows anyone to set up meetings or classes with up to 300 participants, but this can be increased to 1000 on request. 

Microsoft Teams or MS Teams is primarily used for staff communication and online meetings and both internal and external events. It is not currently integrated with Moodle or Portico so managing class groups involves manual effort unless you already have teams or channels with the appropriate participants. 

Lecturecast Live is part of UCL’s video capturing service and is installed across 180 teaching spaces. It now facilitates live streaming of in-class sessions, which remote students can access via Moodle in the same manner as Lecturecast recorded teaching events.

Which platform should I use? 

There is no single best answer as it will depend on your circumstances, but in most cases we would recommend Zoom due its integrations with existing systems and previous experience at UCL. 

The teaching platform you choose will depend on a variety of factors including teaching requirements, the group size, the course subject, whether the teaching will be part of a hybrid teaching approach and whether your live sessions include students who are based in China. 

If you have students accessing your live synchronous teaching event from China,you may find that Zoom gives you better performance for some students. For online groups larger than 250 participants, Zoom is also a good choice. For smaller groups and 1:1 meetings, MS Teams may offer some advantages particularly if you are sharing or collaborating on documents.

For basic hybrid teaching that does not require synchronous activities within the same platform, Lecturecast Live is the simplest option for teaching staff, but the least interactive for remote students. See more about technology for basic hybrid teaching in UCL classrooms

To help you understand which platform is best suited for you, we have outlined their core functionality, benefits and considerations, and provided a summary comparison table.


MS Teams 

MS Teams is currently used widely across UCL for staff communication and internal and external events. MS Teams also has some features that make it applicable to teaching. Currently, Digital Education recommends Teams for smaller interactive meetings and 1:1 sessions.

Benefits

  • Up to 1000 participants per meeting in MS Teams.
  • Large gallery view allows up to 49 individuals to share video simultaneously. Together Mode optionally places your participants in a lecture theatre style environment.
  • Automatic live captioning that includes the name of the person speaking automatically appended to the caption. Transcripts are an option for recorded sessions. 
  • Integrated Accessibility features including dark/light/high contrast, screen reader compatibility and immersive reader. 
  • A meeting/session can be set up through your Outlook calendar or directly in MS Teams.
  • Great consistency of experience across Mac, PC, iOS, iPad OS and Android with the free Teams App. 
  • Attendance tracking report can be downloaded during a Teams session. 
  • Integrated file sharing and storage.
  • Teams and Teams meetings can be set up by students and staff.
  • Chat feature includes GIFs and emoticons.
  • Students can be divided up into breakout rooms. Organisers can create up to 50 breakout rooms with participants assigned to a group manually or automatically.  

Considerations

  • There may be connectivity issues with students in China which may make it challenging for them to join a live teaching event. Students in China can be directed to UCL’s China Connect service which may help with their connection. 
  • It requires greater manual effort as it is not integrated with Moodle or Portico.
  • Session recordings are stored on MS Stream where they must be managed but can be linked to or embedded in Moodle. 

Case studies 

Documentation

Detailed guidance on using MS Teams can be found on the Microsoft Teams SharePoint site.


Zoom 

UCL has a site-wide Zoom licence. 

Benefits

  • Greater reliability for students and staff in China.
  • Up to 1000 participants if you request a Zoom Large Meeting license.
  • Large gallery view allows up to 100 individuals to share video simultaneously. 
  • Meeting hosts can turn on automated captions to improve accessibility, or a dedicated manual captioner can be included in events.
  • Cross-platform with PC, Mac and Linux desktop clients, iOS and Android apps and a more limited web browser version. 
  • Participants can be pre-assigned to breakout rooms. 
  • Breakout room timer.
  • Up to 50 breakout rooms.
  • Supports dual-camera mode so that you can have input from two cameras (e.g. a webcam and a visualiser).
  • Integrated with Lecturecast to transfer event recordings automatically into your Lecturecast personal library from where it can be edited and shared with students. See the Zoom recordings in Lecturecast guide.

Considerations

  • For students in China there may be some privacy concerns.  Zoom needs to be treated as an open platform with no guarantee of privacy for call participants. UCL has no verifiable knowledge of, or influence over, Zoom's worldwide infrastructure agreements with national authorities. We advise all staff to use care and discretion when sharing sensitive content or research data with participants or when discussing potentially politically sensitive matters with call participants. 

Case studies

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

Documentation

Guidance on teaching with Zoom can be found on the Zoom Resource Centre, whereas further technical guidance can be found on the ISD Zoom page.


Lecturecast Live 

Lecturecast is UCL’s video capturing service for teaching that is installed across 180 teaching spaces. Lecturecast Live is a new feature that facilitates live streaming of in-class sessions, which remote students can access via Moodle in the same manner as Lecturecast recorded teaching events. This is one of the basic hybrid teaching options introduced for the 21/22 academic year. 

Benefits 

  • Fully integrated with Moodle so students will access live streaming teaching events in the same way that they currently access Lecturecast recordings. 
  • Live streaming is automatic once scheduled. 
  • No delay in watching a teaching event after it has concluded and recording is complete. 
  • Students have the same view as Lecturecast recordings, which include the in-room video feed of the lectern and a feed of the presentation materials shared using the in-room audio-visual system. Audio continues to be captured using in-room mics. 
  • If students have connectivity issues, they can reconnect to the live stream or view the recording via Moodle once the teaching event is completed and the video has been processed and made available. 
  • Teaching staff can access viewing analytics as they would with any Lecturecast recording. 
  • Can be combined with Moodle activity completion tracking. 
  • Available via web browser so no additional software required. 

Considerations 

  • This option is the least interactive for remote students taking part in synchronous teaching and learning. 

Future roadmap 

  • The Lecturecast Scheduler tool will continue to be enhanced to further facilitate the scheduling of live streaming. 

Documentation 

Detailed guidance on using Lecturecast, including the scheduling of live streaming, can be found in the Lecturecast Resource Centre.  


Live teaching tools - Functionality comparison at a glance 

FeaturesLecturecast LiveMicrosoft TeamsZoom
Moodle integrationYesNoComing soon.
Lecturecast integrationYesNoYes
Recommended Browsers

Chrome
Edge (Chromium)
Firefox
Safari

Chrome
Edge (Chromium)
Safari (beta)

Chrome
Edge (Chromium)
Firefox
Safari

Mobile Apps for iOS and AndroidMobile browser recommended
    
Microsoft TeamsZoom
No of simultaneous Webcams / Audio1Up to 49Up to 49
Max Number of ParticipantsLimited only by the number of students enrolled on the Moodle course1000

1000*

300 with a regular license. 

Up to 1000 if you request a Zoom Large Meeting License. 

Allows Multiple ModeratorsN/AYesYes
Invite External guestsN/AYesYes
Attendance TrackingYesYesYes
Chat FeaturesNoYesYes
WhiteboardNoYesYes
Integrated Polling ToolNoYesYes
Hand-Raising OptionYesYesYes
Session RecordingYesYesYes
Share FilesNoYesNo
Screen / Application SharingYesYesYes
Multiple Camera FeedsYesNoYes
Breakout Rooms

No

YesYes
Live CaptioningImprovements in development Yes (automatic) Yes (automatic or manual)
End Meeting for AllYes (at end of scheduled event)YesYes
Standards

WCAG 2.1 AA
Section 508

WCAG 2.0 AA
Section 508
EN301 549

WCAG 2.1 AA
Section 508
EN 301 549
 
Virtual BackgroundsNoYesYes
Dial in optionNoYesYes

Acknowledgements

The comparison table has been adapted from Durham University’s Online Meeting/Lecture tools guide as shared under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.