Zoom: Interactivity & Active Learning Strategies

Decorative: Zoom logo -- and hotlink to Zoom Help Center


The image above is also a hotlink to the Zoom Help Center.

A. "Key Moves for Online Interactivity" (post; doc) details "tips and strategies to apply the same principles we care about in our classroom teaching (interactivity, inclusion, efficiency and organization) to our teaching on Zoom."

  • "[W]ays to increase interactivity and inclusion in your Zoom classroom ... [are part of] the 'grammar' for our new 'language' of teaching online."

1. This post contains the following sections:

  • Some Teaching Challenges of Working in Zoom
  • General Strategies & Tips for Interactivity
  • 10 Active Learning Strategies Adapted for Zoom (how each works & how to adapt it for Zoom)
    • Brainstorm
    • Concept Map
    • Gallery Walk
    • Graffiti Board
    • Practice Problems in Small Groups
    • Jigsaw
    • Minute Paper or Quick Write
    • Responsive Lecture
    • Statement Correction or Intentional Mistakes
    • Strip Sequence or Sequence Reconstruction

2. For other active-learning activities to adapt to Zoom and online learning generally, see the following:

B. Some Teaching Challenges of Working in Zoom

1. Community

  • "[S]trive to mitigate the isolation we are all feeling ... by welcoming students into an intellectual and engaging community."

2. Participation

  • "[T]eaching through Zoom may make students less willing to participate."
  • "Speaking in front of a large group of muted people can be particularly intimidating."
  • "[W]e lose some of the social cues from verbal and nonverbal feedback we are used to when we speak up in front of many muted (and sometimes faceless) people."

C. General Strategies & Tips for Interactivity

Each of the these strategies and its corresponding tips is developed fully in the post (and doc).

  • Polling
  • Cold Calling and Warm Calling
  • Group Discussions and Breakout Rooms
  • Screensharing and Videoconferencing from Home

D. 10 Active Learning Strategies Adapted for Zoom

1. Brainstorm

a. How It Works

  • "Multiple students call out answers to an open-ended, creative, or reflective question for which many potential correct answers exist." 
  • "Open-ended questions are by definition those which have multiple possible responses, such that inviting answers from a large group can yield more than an expected set of responses."

b. How to Use It on Zoom

  • "In Zoom, try brainstorms by asking students a question and asking them all to submit their brainstorming via chat."

  • "[U]se gallery view of all your students and do a 'whip around,' in which you ask a question that each student needs to answer in sequence."

  • "As you go from student to student, getting each student’s answer, students can also 'pass' if they don’t have an answer they want to share with everyone at that moment.

2. Concept Map

a. How It Works

  • "[S]tudents working in groups are provided with a list of terms."
  • "They ... arrange the terms on paper and draw arrows between related concepts, labeling each arrow to verbally explain the precise relationship between the two terms connected by the arrow."
  • "Concept maps are particularly useful to help students make connections between seemingly abstract concepts or concepts learned at different times during the semester."

b. How to Use It on Zoom

  • "In Zoom, you can ask students to make concept maps by providing them with a list of terms and then breaking the class into breakout rooms." 

  • "Ask the students in each breakout room to share a whiteboard and collectively make a concept map that describes how all the terms you’ve provided are related." 

  • "When the students are done, ask them to take a snapshot or a screen capture of their white board, which they can either use to study later and/or submit for credit." 
    • "If you ask students to submit their concept maps for credit, ask them to write all their names on the whiteboard with their concept map."

  • Or, "ask them to make [a concept map] using Google Slides, in which they can write the terms in text boxes and draw lines with arrows connecting each term and use text boxes to describe the relationship between the connected terms."

    • "Google Slides may be easier because a group can save their shared slide deck and you can provide them with all the terms in text boxes in advance, so they can just start by arranging them in their slide and drawing arrows between the related concepts."

3. Gallery Walk

a. How It Works

  • "The instructor writes several different questions or prompts on large pieces of paper at different locations around the room."
  • "Groups of students write down responses to a particular question, then rotate to the next question and add responses."
  • "At the end of the activity, each group summarizes and shares the responses to their last question."

b. How to Use It on Zoom

  • "Rather than write multiple questions on different pieces of paper organized around a room, write your questions as [mycourselink/D2Ldiscussion board questions."

  • "[A]sk students to rotate through each discussion question and respond."

  • "Ask them to spend 1-2 minutes at each discussion forum before moving to the next."

4. Graffiti Board

a. How It Works

  • "Using pictures, words, or phrases, groups of students respond to prompts that the instructor wrote on large pieces of paper."
    • "Instructor prompts might be to approve or critique an experimental approach or a math proof or to find the error in a computer code."
  • "Students might rotate to new 'graffiti boards' and contribute additional responses."
  • "Provide enough time for students to each rotate to multiple graffiti boards, so that each prompt receives multiple student replies."

b. How to Use It on Zoom

  • "[U]pload files or images that you want students to respond to rather than responding to a verbal question [as in a gallery walk]."

  • "Ask students to rotate through each discussion post image and respond."

  • "Ask them to spend 1-2 minutes at each discussion forum before moving to the next."

5. Practice Problems in Small Groups 

a. How It Works

  • "After teaching students about a particular skill or concept, ask them to spend 3-5 minutes working to solve a practice problem, or a question from last year’s problem set, in groups of two-three students."
  • "Students can work at their tables or up at blackboards, and you can collect their answers through a multiple-choice poll or by asking for a volunteer to be ready to share the answers from each group."
  • "Assigning student roles in a group, such as a reporter, or a skeptic tasked with asking critical questions, and rotating these roles can encourage participation from more students."

b. How to Use it On Zoom

"Breaking students into groups to work on practice problems is easily done in Zoom."

  • "Provide students with a worksheet (either a PDF linked to from your [mycoureslink/D2L] page or by sending them a link to a Google doc that has the instructions and problems they are to work on)."

  • "[B]reak them into breakout out rooms ... of 4-6 students."

  • "[H]osts and co-hosts and shuttle between the breakout rooms to monitor student progress and answer questions."

6. Jigsaw

a. How It Works

  • "Small groups of students each discuss different, but related topics."
  • "Students are then shuffled such that new groups are comprised of one student from each of the original groups."
  • "In these new groups, each student is responsible for sharing key aspects of their original discussion."
  • "The second group must synthesize and use all of the ideas from the first set of discussions in order to complete a new or more advanced task."
  • "A nice feature of a jigsaw is that every student in the original group (their 'focus group') must fully understand the key ideas so that they can teach their classmates in the second group (their 'task group').

b. How to Use It on Zoom

  • "Jigsaws can still be done in Zoom using back-to-back Breakout room sessions." 

  • "[M]anually design which students are in which rooms for both Breakout room rounds.

  • "As students are working together during round 1, you can use that time to identify which students are present in class that day."
  • "[R]earrange the breakout groups so that the Breakout rooms in round 2 have a member from each of the round 1 breakout rooms."

7. Minute Paper or Quick Write 

"The simplest technique we can [use] while teaching over Zoom." 

a. How It Works

  • "All students are asked to spend a minute quietly writing a short answer in response to a question or prompt during class."
  • This "requir[es] students to articulate their knowledge or apply it to a new situation."
  • "This act of writing itself may even lead students to discover points of confusion or key insights and can help them build the confidence necessary to raise their hands in a subsequent group discussion."

b. How to Use It on Zoom 

  • "Before asking students to answer a question in front of the whole class, give everyone a minute to collect their thoughts by writing for a minute before asking for volunteers to share their answers with everyone."

  • "One minute papers at the end of class can also be useful, for example through a Google form."

8. Responsive Lecture. 

a. How It Works

  • "Students work in groups to generate, and rank, questions based on course material (perhaps from lecture, a reading, or an out-of-class activity) for the instructor to answer."
  • "Each group submits their questions."
  • "After class, the instructor reviews and organizes the questions, and then responds to the top-ranked question at the next class."

b. How to Use It on Zoom

  • Students in breakout groups can compile a list of questions in a shared Google doc that the instructor has access to.

  • Ask your students to spend the last minute of class each submitting a question they have to the chat channel (either publicly to everyone, or privately just to you)

9. Statement Correction or Intentional Mistakes 

a. How It Works

  • "The instructor provides statements, readings, proofs, or other material that contains errors."
  • "The students are charged with finding and correcting the errors."
  • "Concepts that students commonly misunderstand are well suited for this activity."

b. How to Use It on Zoom

  • "[P]rovide students with a statement via a shared screen or a document you place on their [mycourselink/D2L] page or as a shared Google doc with a link provided over chat."

  • "Ask your students to hit their Yes button if they think the statement is true, and the No button if they think it is false."

  • "Ask for volunteers to defend both positions before confirming the answer." 

10. Strip Sequence or Sequence (Re)construction 

a. How It Works

  • "The goal of this activity is for students to order a set of item that have a logical order, such as steps in a biological process, a series of historical events, or logical steps in an argument."
  • "[T]he instructor provides students with a list of items written on strips of paper for the students to sort."
  • "An instructor can also leave one step 'blank' and require that students fill it in."
  • "Removable labels with printed items also work well for this activity."

b. How to Use It on Zoom

  • "Sequence (re)constructions can be easily adapted to multiple choice questions."

  • "Provide students with 4 or 5 labeled steps, and make the choices of the multiple choice question different arrangements of those steps."

  • In the mycourselink/D2L Quiz tool, ordering questions can also be used for his exercise.

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