As the global outbreak of COVID-19 lead to the closure of the state universities on 13th of March 2020 and subsequently to a lock down across the country, we at the Department of Computer Engineering, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka had to move our teaching and learning sessions online. One of the widely used tools for this is the Zoom video conferencing tool made available through Lanka Education and Research Network (LEARN). It is used to conduct synchronous lectures to the students, while asynchronous lectures sharing, and material sharing is done via another effective tool used within the faculty based on Moodle: the Faculty of Engineering e-Learning System (a.k.a FEeLS).
Use of Zoom has enabled conducting interactive lectures, tutorials, lab sessions and meetings of project groups with their supervisors. I happened to be using tools such as FEeLs and Google Classroom for classroom management and tools such as Skype, BigBlueButton for online meetings, and this has been a time when Zoom is being widely used in work, whereas previously it has been for casual meetings among the members of volunteer groups I was involved in.
With my experience so far with Zoom, I strongly believe that it will be a good idea to check on the Zoom meetings settings and have a quick test done before the meeting. Mainly, because you would not want to spend a large amount of an hour-long synchronous session setting it up and housekeeping, and would like to have records of the meetings conducted, and would not want to accidentally miss recording the session as you wanted to. Here, I am listing a set of settings I found to be worthwhile checking and setting up before an online session via the Zoom premium application. The corresponding settings can be set up through the settings menu in the administration panel (at the top left), once you log into the web portal with your Zoom registered account.
Menu at the top right of the administration web portal in Zoom
- Enable Recording of the session
Recording of sessions is supported via the Zoom desktop client and is not available via the browser. The session recordings can be set to be saved in the cloud or the local machine.
2. Maintaining the chat history
If you would like to have a record of the chat during the session, it has to be turned on via the same panel (as Recording )above.
3. Meeting control tool bar
For a smooth experience for the participants, it will be worthy to familiarise yourself with using the meeting control tool bar, while you are recording a session or sharing the screen. This setting can be viewed under Settings (at the top right in the administration web portal)-> Meeting
4. Virtual background
This is an interesting feature from Zoom supported in the Zoom desktop client. This allows us to have a virtual background of our preference for our video. This may be useful if you would like to have a background different from your living room set up or/and add some fun to the session. One of the default backgrounds provided from Zoom makes you look like presenting from space! It is recommended to use a green virtual background for a better video.
5. Use a password for the meeting and share it separately (via SMS, Whatsapp messaging, etc)
For each meeting, a password can be set up and it can be shared by other means of communication. This setting is available for each meeting listed under the Meetings menu (at the top right in the administration web portal).
6. Retrieving records of completed meetings
Reports of online sessions conducted via the Zoom desktop client including attendance are available under Reports (at the top right in the administration web portal). This feature is not available for meetings conducted through the web client.
7. Personal Meeting room
This feature enables us to have our virtual meeting room which can be dedicated to regular/frequent visitors. It can be used to launch instant meetings or/and as a convenient method to set up routine meetings, for which all that is required is to share the personal meeting room id with the intended participants. With that, the invitees will be able to join (pop into our virtual meeting room) anytime unless the meeting is locked or the waiting room feature is setup. This is available with the Zoom web, with the Zoom Desktop Client, or with the Zoom mobile app.
A comprehensive guide on setting up a personal meeting room in Zoom is available here.
8. Join before host
This enables the participants to join the session before the host starts or joins the session. This will be useful if you are setting up a meeting for someone else. This setting is available under Edit Meeting option selected for any meeting from the Meetings menu (at the top right in the administration web portal).