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I have been conducting virtual classroom training for many years. I have used Adobe Connect and WebEx Training as my virtual platforms for the vast majority of that time. I am currently facing a potential platform change to Zoom. In my research and testing of Zoom as a virtual classroom and I am struggling with two particular aspects, and I am hoping to learn from the experiences here in the community. 

Adobe Connect and WebEx Training allowed me to the following

1. Load content slides vs share

2. Stay in the "structure" of the room (menus, annotation toolbar, chat, etc). 

I am currently entrenched with WebEx Training. I can load my slides and the room layout is consistent for both me and my participants. This allows for easy instructions, minimal UI troubleshooting, and questions, In my testing of Zoom, I have struggled with the numerous layout shifts and movement of buttons like chat and annotations. We use the chat and participant panels extensively for communication, hand raises, green check checks, red X's, etc.

The potential for participant confusion and troubleshooting issues is concerning. Would you mind sharing some of your experiences in shifting to Zoom from other platforms? What has been your experience in using Zoom in general as a full-fledged virtual classroom? 

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    Great question and I can feel your pain! Before Covid-19 we mainly worked in Adobe Connect and Webex with a session every now and then in different platforms. Since Covid-19 it has gone the other way round and Zoom is the platform everyone has.

    Point 1 – Slide Share

    Jo has a post here with some tips for screen setup options -

    Regarding the screen share. We tend to share the application PowerPoint rather than the whole screen. We run PowerPoint windowed from our side of the share, the attendees see full screen slides but we can then setup our monitor space how we want, moving the participants panel around, chat window around our facilitator guide how we want it on the screen.

    The downside to this setup. The attendees can see the title bar of you PowerPoint (What the file is called and the orange bar). They can also see the bottom details section, what slide you are on, how many slides in the deck etc.

    We prefer to run it this way to gain the optimization for screen setup, participants panel large enough to see all attendees and in a place where we can easily see it plus a large chat window and enough space for our notes.

    Point 2 – Structure

    Zoom can be a pain in this area for sure. Unlike Adobe Connect where you are in control of how the screen looks for them, in Zoom they have control. They decide if the chat panel is open or the participants panel, just like Webex in this respect. What do you normally in do Webex to deal with this? We make sure at the start of the session we have slides that show how to open these panels, we verbally tell them, we then make sure we use them and check everyone has been able to use them.

    Zoom has the extra headache of not just panels open or not but how they display. Full screen vs maximised in a window is a big difference in Zoom, the difference between the aforementioned panels being docked to the right of the screen much like Webex or floating panels potentially on different monitors or over the top of the slides. We don’t overly tackle this head on, we mention your panels might be floating or not, I paste some instructions about flipping between full screen or not. We mainly deal with this in the session if attendees have issues.

    An additional issue in Zoom is that the attendee can also change the size of the slides (Screen share), they can swap the primary view between the webcam and screen share, potentially making the slides really small and webcam almost full screen, let alone changing gallery view for webcams and so on. Again we don’t overly tackle this head on, we mainly just make sure we have awareness of this and ready to help assist attendees if they have issues.

    Finally, annotations. This can seem like a real pain to get attendees to access them. Move your mouse to the top of screen, click on options, click on annotations etc. We always make sure the first time we use annotation that we have slides that show them what to do whilst we talk them through it. We then get them to use the text tool and write their name on the slide, this way we can easily check that everyone has worked this out. Keep in mind many mobile devices and Chromebooks won’t have access to all the annotation tools or not even the option at all.

    A second finally! Keep in mind that in Zoom many of the menu options fade away until the use clicks on the screen or moves their mouse over the screen. Jo often says “wiggle your mouse on the screen to reveal the button”.

    Hope this long post helps!  

    Zoom - screen setup
    Hi all, A lot of people are using Zoom for meetings and learning, and sometimes struggling to share their screen as well as see the participants and…
    • These are great insights with regard to facilitation. Thank you!

      Our audience tends to not be tech-savvy. Have you found participant issues to be more or less than anticipated in the virtual classroom scenario?

      • I think it is probably about the same or even potentially a tad less depending on the issue or what you mainly deal with in AC or Webex.

        More and more people are using Zoom socially or for work. For getting them connected to audio, unmuting and speaking I think is easier as most have done it already. Less issues than AC and Webex here.

        Annotation tool use is a bit harder to start off with as most have not used them before. But it is not a huge issue if you exaplain it really well the first time and give them a reminder the second time. Biggest issues here are users not being able to use them because of their device. We have now started to design our slides with reference numbers so people can still get involved in the chat. "Can't stamp the selection on the screen? Each point is numbered, in chat put down each number that reflects XYZ"

        I would say one in five sessions someone changes the view and I need to help them. Making the webcam full screen and the slides tiny for example. Toying with the idea of starting off with a section which explains this. I had someone 90-minutes into the session saying they were having a hard time on some of the slides. Finally found out they had set webcam to primary view and put the slides in the gallery view. I think this was just an outlier though.

        Maybe one in five sessions again for, I can't find my particpants panel or chat window. I explain "Alt-F" and get them to move from full screen because they are using one screen and the chat panel or participants panel is behind the Zoom window or they have minimised the panel or.... They have more than one screen and not realised it has loaded on that screen. As soon as i get them out of full screen it docks to the right and all is good.

  • Hi Bryan,

    As Mike said, great question and an insightful take on the Zoom interface that we completely agree with and have discussed ourselves.

    I like the way you have looked at this and there is a big difference between the approach of Connect/Webex and Zoom, and that level of control that a host has is really positive in terms of troubleshooting. The advantage Zoom has is that attendees can control how they want things to look best based on their visual, working and learning needs. But it doesn’t mean that they need to know how to do it, and Mike has highlighted how we tend to support people.

    The other disadvantage from a facilitator perspective is with breakout rooms. I find that every time I go into a breakout room to check on groups and come back, the entire screen has to reload and I have to set certain elements of it up again, including the breakouts panel. I find it slow and clunky, but it is what it is.

    Mike mentioned how we work, here’s a post on how to screenshare PowerPoint in a way that is easier and a BIT more like the other platforms:

    Zoom is a great platform for virtual classrooms, but you will find lots of things that aren’t as good as Connect/Webex that you are used to. But there are other things it can do (like participants can change the chat text size with CTRL + or CMD +, which Webex can’t do). Let us know if anything we’ve suggested helps and what else you come up with. Good luck!

    Zoom: screen sharing PowerPoint in a window
    A few people have asked about good ways to share their PowerPoint slides when facilitating in Zoom so that they can still use the chat and participan…
    • Thank you! I just discovered this option in PowerPoint recently. This remedies one of my biggest complaints around the shared view!

      • FANTASTIC! :D 

  • Hi Bryan,

    Zoom is not a training tool, it is a video conferencing / meeting room tool.    I say this (even though its probably obvious to some) because that "context" reveals "why" Zoom works the way it does (at the moment).

    Zoom is designed to mimic the look and feel of sitting in a meeting room with other people, starting at them across the table.   At the end of the table is a whitebaord / projhector screen to view "shared" slides / content.     Hence, people in Zoom choose to look at the camera or the projector, or, try to look at both...

    You'll find most Zoom users have a fair idea how to arrange thier view of Zoom, and, yoiu have to let go of the control aspect - you dont have it.

    Connect is more like an interactive TV show, it is for delivery of "structured content" in a repeatable format.  More like a sitting in a large conference room looking at a stage than sitting in a meeting room 

    Zoom is a great tool, so is Connect, but, for mne they are designed to do different things and have (not surprisingly) different strenghts and weakness. 
    (I dont comment on webex as it dont use it very often).

    Why do you want to move to Zoom?

    • I actually don't want to move to Zoom, for the exact reasons you have stated here. This is a potential change that was done without consultation of our needs. There are still ongoing discussions, but I am doing my best to be prepared in the event this is a necessary change that needs to be dealt with. Adobe Connect, my preferred platform, was something I used extensively in my previous role up until last year. In my current role, I am using WebEx Training, while the majority of our organization uses WebEx Meetings or MS Teams. There are decisions being made from a video conf/meeting perspective, and not from a training perspective.

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