Teaching Synchronous Zoom Classes

Zoom class on a laptop and tablet


To encourage and sustain engagement in your Zoom sessions, incorporate active learning strategies, including class discussion and other learning activities, classroom assessment techniques (CATs), and community building. To translate these elements of the face-to-face classroom for a synchronous online environment, you’ll want to master a few of the more advanced Zoom features (polling, breakout rooms, and non-verbal feedback panel) as well as incorporate some Gatorcloud (cloud-based) collaboration tools (Google Docs is a good entry point). As you gain experience, you may want to expand into other strategies and a more diverse suite of tools to engage students during class sessions.  If supported by your college's administration, consider partially flipping your class and taking some of the discussion or teaching to an asynchronous space to reduce Zoom fatigue. 

students in a Zoom class

Best Practices

To help you get the most of your synchronous time with students, here are a few tips:

Zoom spelled with game tiles

Building a Community 

Co-author a Class Agreement

Create a class agreement or rules for discussion or breakout rooms in small groups and then help groups reach consensus. This agreement can set expectations for participation and group work and encourage collaboration. 

Estimated class time: 15 - 20 minutes

Hello, my name is (Introductions)

Create a welcoming space with introductions, sharing relevant details about yourself and then inviting students to share their names and a few fun facts, either to the entire class or in small groups using break out rooms. Show students how to update their Zoom profiles to add pronouns and preferred names as well as their Canvas profiles or Canvas display name. Encourage students to add a pronunciation guide to their Canvas profile. 

Estimated class time: ~ 1 minute per student for the whole class; 2 - 3 minutes per student in small groups

Annotate the Syllabus

Annotate the syllabus in small groups to encourage closer reading of the syllabus, questions about policies or assignments, reactions to topics or readings, and building relationships with peers. Adding your syllabus to a shared folder in a cloud storage solution allows students to add comments. 

Estimated class time: 15 - 20 minutes

Informal Office Hours

Join your class Zoom meeting a few minutes early or offer to stay late so students can ask you questions or troubleshoot technical issues. 

Estimated class time: 5 - 10 minutes

Continued Conversations

Create a persistent chat outside of Zoom using Canvas Chat or Microsoft Teams so students can access chats in breakout rooms and after class has ended. After class they can continue classroom discussions, ask and offer assistance, and create stronger bonds. 

Estimated class time: 5 minutes to set up (just let students know what your participation and response time will be), additional time to moderate varies.

Build in Humanizing Activities

Humanize yourself and boost everyone’s mood with a pet "show and tell" or add virtual backgrounds around weekly themes (favorite places, favorite movies, favorite writers).

Estimated class time: varies

Activating Prior Knowledge or Priming for the Session


Set up Zoom polls to gauge background knowledge or show varying perspectives on a topic. More complex questions (beyond single and multiple answer) require using a separate tool such as Google Forms.

Estimated class time: 3-5 minutes

Concept Mapping

Have students use Google Drawings to sketch how the concepts in the last session connect to other course material. Try providing a template to get them started. This could also be done on paper, which they could share with their webcam or upload as a photo from their mobile device.

Estimated class time: 10-15 minutes

KWL Chart

Provide students with a Google Doc or Drawings template to reflect on what they already know, what they want to know, and, at the end, what they learned (Know, Want to know, Learned [KWL]). You can create a Canvas assignment with multiple submissions to help facilitate reflection at the end of the module. 

Estimated class time: 5-10 minutes

University of Florida students wearing masks in class
concept map in a paper notebook

Check-Ins for Understanding or Application

Non-Verbal Feedback

Enable and monitor Zoom’s Non-Verbal Feedback panel. Address your expectations with the class around the buttons for raising hands, pacing, and breaks during your mini-lecture (and the Chat). Additionally, pause and prompt for responses with the Yes/No or Agree/Disagree.

Estimated class time: 1-3 minutes, repeatedly


Post quick questions to see if key points have landed, check common misunderstandings, or application practice. You could use Zoom polls, in addition to the traditional Canvas quiz. This video demonstrates how to download poll reports from Zoom.

Estimated class time: 5-10 minutes

woman using laptop


Pose one or several reflection questions for students to discuss individually in the large class group or in breakout rooms. You could have them self-reflect after an exam and then discuss actions for moving forward in breakout rooms.

Estimated class time: 5-30 minutes

Exit Tickets

Ask students to give a quick response to a prompt about the session. Use Google Forms to have them complete the sentence “I used to think…because…Now I know…because…” Or, collaborate on a shared cloud  document with their Aha! and Huh? moments.

Estimated class time: 3-5 minutes

Gallery Walk

A gallery walk is a collection of stations that students visit, read, and leave comments on. You can use Google Jamboard (with 1 prompt per frame or divide a board) to pose questions soliciting various points of view, brainstorm ideas, or prompt them to find an example. Finish with a student or group presenting a summary for each prompt. 

Estimated class time: 15-30 minutes

Problem Solving or Group work

Virtual Fishbowl

Assign a group of students to solve a problem, debate a topic, or engage in a discussion while the rest of the class watches and shares their reactions via Zoom chat. 

Estimated class time: 5-15 minutes

Statement Correction

Using “comment-only” permissions, share cloud documents with student groups that have statements, proofs, or other material that contain errors and ask the groups to suggest corrections to the errors. 

Estimated class time: 5-15 minutes


Have students think about a shared prompt or discussion topic, then split them up into pairs or small group breakout rooms to discuss their own views on the topic. Afterwards, have each group share their thoughts back to the wider class once the Zoom breakout rooms have ended. 

Estimated class time: 15-20 minutes

University of Florida student on a Zoom call with another student
woman using laptop near window

Peer Teaching

Ask students to prepare a short presentation to teach a topic (see also, Jigsaw.), or to recap a previous lesson for the class on a rotating basis. Additionally, students can peer teach practice problems or when reviewing exams. 

Estimated class time: 15-30 minutes of class time


Have students learn about assigned portions of a topic in small groups, and then ask those groups to create the associated portion of a Google Slides presentation to teach their “jigsaw” puzzle piece lesson to the class. 

Estimated class time: 30-45 minutes over at least 2 class meetings

Case Studies

 In Zoom breakout rooms, have the groups work together to analyze or solve their assigned case study, then ask them to present their findings to the class as a whole or to submit them in a Canvas quiz. 

Estimated class time: 20-40 minutes 

Additional Resources

Cloud Collaboration

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Further Exploration