Last updated April 23, 2024

If you have not heard of Zoom for online teaching then where have you been? 🙂 Zoom is one of the leading video communications platforms and it can be used for video calls to friends, and family, but is also a wonderful platform for online teaching, and if you wish, as an online coworking space.

In this post, I want to give you 7 essential tips for using Zoom for online teaching. These tips and tricks though are great Zoom meeting hacks, if you use Zoom for teleconferencing.

Tips for using Zoom for Online Teaching

1. How to Easily Mute All Others Instantly

If you are teaching online (or using Zoom for meetings), there are numerous times when you will want to mute all other participants.

You can do this by pressing ‘Manage Participants’ and then, on the next screen, clicking ‘Mute All’ at the bottom of that screen.

But what if you are sharing your screen and do not have the ‘Manage Participants’ option visible at that time on your screen?

The easiest and quickest way to ‘Mute All’ is to use a keyboard shortcut!

All you have to do is press the ‘Alt’ and ‘M’ at the same time if you use a PC (it’s control+M if you are using a Mac computer).

If you then want to ‘Un-Mute’ everyone then use Alt + M again to reverse the mute.

Zoom mute all shortcut
Pressing Alt + M at the same time is a quick and easy way to mute all in Zoom.

2. By Default Have Video Turned Off When Entering a Meeting

You do not have to use this Zoom hack but my advice is to change the settings for your video so that your video is turned off until you choose to allow the video!

By default, when you first load Zoom onto your computer, unless you change the video settings, it will be set to your video camera set to show you automatically as soon as you join a meeting.

The chances are that when you join a meeting on Zoom, you will be ready and prepared to be seen on video.

As a failsafe though, I think it is a much better idea to choose at what point to let the video of you show in the meeting so that you can be sure that you are ready to be seen.

Zoom video settings to disable video unless selected

To change the default setting, just to go ‘Settings’. To get to settings just click the cog.

Next, click ‘Video’ on the settings page, and then under the ‘Meetings’ heading, tick the box where it says ‘Turn off my video when joining meeting’.

3. Using the Annotation Option in Zoom for Online Teaching

One feature when using Zoom for online teaching that I find incredibly useful and that many of you may not be aware of when using Zoom is the ‘Annotation’ feature.

Imagine you are sharing your screen (letting others in the online meeting see your screen) and that you want to highlight something so that everyone can easily see what you are trying to show them. With the annotation features, you can use a tool such as the ‘spotlight ‘ tool.

To see the annotation tools, you first want to click ‘Annotate’ in the Zoom bar at the top of your screen.

Using the annotate feature in Zoom
Selecting and using the annotate feature in Zoom.

Once you have clicked ‘Annotate’ you will see the annotate tools and these include ‘draw’, ‘stamp’, spotlight’, and ‘eraser’.

The one I want to show you for now is the ‘Spotlight’ tool.

Annotation options in Zoom teleconferencing
Once you select annotation you see these options.

So, if you click the ‘Spotlight’ tool, you will then see, when you hover your mouse over something on the screen you are sharing, that a spotlight will show and help you to highlight to everyone what you are pointing at.

The best way to get used to the annotation tools is to spend 5 minutes playing around with the various tools.

using the annotation highlight tool in Zoom
See the highlight tool working in Zoom above.

4. Enter Online Classes or Meetings With the Microphone Turned Off

When you enter a meeting or online class, whether as the teacher or as a student yourself, it is a much better idea to enter the meeting with your microphone turned off (muted) and then turn the microphone on once you are sure you are ready.

Where to mute the microphone when starting meeting on Zoom
Where to mute the microphone when starting a meeting on Zoom

Why you might ask?

Well, two main reasons. Firstly, you might be moving around and making other noises as you get settled and join the class and you do not want to introduce any unnecessary noise to the class or meeting.

Secondly, it is not uncommon to be setting up and connecting to a meeting and for us to be talking to someone else as we do so, such as if we are finishing a telephone call or chatting with someone in the same workspace.

Choosing exactly when to be included in the audio aspect of the meeting can save some unwanted embarrassment.

Start microphone audio in Zoom

When you do want to have your audio (microphone) included then just click the ‘Join audio’ at the bottom left of the screen.

You can also press Alt = A to unmute your microphone!

5. Password Protect Your Online Classes in Zoom for Added Security

A serious issue when using Zoom for online teaching, as with anything you do online, is always going to be making sure that security is in place and that you are protected online.

With security in mind, one thing I recommend always doing if you are holding a private class (meeting) is to password-protect it!

You want to avoid what is known as ZoomBombing. ZoomBombing in effect is hackers taking control of your shared screen and putting their own images on your screen for your class to see (often disturbing images).

To ensure that you password-protect any private lessons and classes you create online, start off by clicking ‘Schedule‘ on the main interface (see image below).

Set up a meeting with Zoom

Once you have clicked to schedule a new online class (called a meeting in Zoom), you will see the meeting schedule that you see in the image below.

What you need to do is make sure that the ‘Require meeting password’ is checked and that you enter a password.

You will then want to make sure that everyone who will be involved in your online class is given the password.

Schedule meeting with Zoom

Another thing you can do to make your online classes are more secure, as an online teacher, is to go to the ‘Advanced Sharing Options’ (see image below).

Controlling video sharing in Zoom classrooms
Controlling screen sharing in Zoom classrooms

In the advanced sharing options, you can then select ‘Only Host’ under the ‘Who can share?’ section.

Selecting only the host as the person to share, will ensure that you can avoid anyone maliciously taking control of the shared screen.

Setting host only sharing for Zoom online classes

6. Avoiding Others Entering the Virtual Classroom Before You the Host

It is also a very good idea indeed to make sure that you, the host, are the first person to enter the virtual classroom, to ensure that the classroom is correctly managed.

If you were to allow others to join the classroom (or meeting) before the host joins, there is a greater opportunity for issues to exist in the classroom particularly if you are holding training for anyone with the meeting link to join.

If you are holding a password-only classroom meeting and every student is known to each other, then you can potentially leave this tip if you wish.

So, in the options when usaing Zoom for online teaching, you first schedule the meeting, click on ‘Advanced Options’.

Avoiding others entering the virtual classroom before the host in Zoom for online teaching

Under ‘Advanced Options’ you will then want to make sure that you LEAVE empty the ‘Enable join before host’ box.

By default, this will already be unchecked so, if you have just downloaded and started using Zoom, you most likely will not need to change any settings.

It is worth checking though as making sure that you as the host are first to enter the digital classroom provides you with an added level of security in that you can better control the digital classroom from start to finish.

7. Use Breakout Rooms in Zoom for Online Group Activities in Your Digital Classroom

‘Breakout Rooms’ can be essential if you want to provide teaching online because it means that you can quite easily create small groups of students to work together and this is especially good if you are using training course materials.

To run activities in your online classes that involve smaller groups working together (i.e. if you want to split the class into groups of 4 students in each group) you can do this very easily in Zoom for online teaching, using ‘Breakout Rooms’.

It’s a wonderful feature that makes teaching online just as easy for doing online ice breakers and online team-building games and other training activities online.

Classroom lesson plans

Breakout rooms are very easy to use and are a wonderful feature.

When I first started using Zoom as a freelance trainer, I wondered how I would be able to take training materials such as ‘Introduction to Mindfulness‘ and how to then provide this course online.

The issue I thought would be finding a way still to use group activities in the classroom but, with Breakout Rooms, the solution already exists.

You can even pre-assign breakout room names and pre-assign (if you wish to) students to these rooms for when they will work in small groups during the online lessons.

Final Thoughts

Zoom for online teaching is a great option for virtual teaching and you can generally manage things even more easily, in many respects, than you could in an offline classroom.

Assigning people into small groups has never been easier, for example.

If you are using Zoom for online teaching, you might finally want to consider providing these topics as online classes:

Online teaching guide PDF
Dr Valeria Lo Iacono