Online Teaching With Zoom: A Guide for Teaching and Learning with Videoconference Platforms is exactly what the title says it is. Aaron Johnson, associate dean of educational technology at Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado, has organized the content to give a competent instructor everything needed to make the transition to the virtual classroom during this time of working from home. And he does not beat around the bush getting the reader thereā€”no history of videoconferencing, no drawn-out theory, just the brass tacks.

Why I recommend this book

I think this is a very timely resource, and I recommend it for any instructor who is caught in the rush to convert classroom training to online, with precious little time or help to get the transition done. Johnson's aim is to present the essential idea and its implementation. In the introduction, he says "Videoconferencing software, like Zoom, is a tool. Cal Newport, professor of computer science at Georgetown University, has explained that digital tools, like Zoom, are so effortless to pick up and use that we easily forget that they are complex tools and require the same intentional use and practice."

While the language in the text is oriented to educators, the content is useful to eLearning designers and facilitators in enterprise and government settings. The author clearly has "been there" and his experience shows. Online Teaching With Zoom provides:

  • A guidebook to get you started (Johnson cautions that you will need to keep up with changes by using Zoom's support site)
  • A reference for structuring class sessions, with a focus on the synchronous video experience
  • Ideas for facilitating interaction in Zoom, including blended and hybrid formats with videoconferencing used as a teaching tool

In addition, much of the information will be useful as advice (not tool-specific) even if you are using a tool other than Zoom. For example:

  • Lighting essentials
  • Eye contact and appearance
  • Using polls
  • Using chat and the back channel
  • Sharing and collaboration
  • Security

What's in the book

The worst way to use Zoom (or any other teleconference platform) is to deliver deadpan "talking head" lectures. The book content will help you avoid that by helping you reframe what you are doing, from the classroom context to the online context. You still need to prepare, practice, and to use a producer (an assistant who will help you manage the platform, troubleshoot problems, and help with details). But everything else is covered in an incredibly practical way.

Part 1 of the book is designed to help a facilitator become proficient with Zoom and its features. This is not a technical manual; more a high-level guide to the essential elements.

Part 2 is "A Recipe for Success" and looks at the student experience of videoconferencing. This part contains classroom protocols that will help learners come to class ready to participate.

Part 3, "Active Learning in Zoom", details 30 active learning methods, key practices for adapting instruction, and 10 practices for facilitating learning in an active learning experience.

Part 4 covers an aspect of teaching with Zoom that seems to be an obstacle for some instructors, "Working With Breakout Groups". Johnson provides ways to set up groups, set expectations, and shows how to develop Zoom Preps and discussion guides. He also has a chapter that will help you develop critical skills for facilitating Zoom breakouts and large group discussions.

Part 5, "Improving Your Game", explores how to leverage the tools in Zoom to create opportunities for student feedback that you can then use to improve your teaching.

Finally, because software gets updated (and Zoom has been especially diligent in making changes that make a difference in the COVID age), there is a companion website that hosts screenshots and tutorials that would be quickly outdated in printed form. This is keyed to the chapters so that the information will be easy to find in a hurry. Johnson has placed five "bonus chapters" on the companion site. These offer a chapter on structuring Zoom sessions, plus four chapters of teaching and learning templates. The book closes with four pages of notes that include links to additional sources of information and ideas.

If shifting to the virtual classroom has you baffled and nervous, you need this book.

Where to find the book

Johnson, Aaron (2020) Online Teaching With Zoom: A Guide for Teaching and Learning with Videoconference Platforms. Available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format.