Optimise Zoom events with additional tools

Optimise Zoom events with additional tools

(from the series “Good online didactics with Zoom”)

In article 02 of the series, we recommended useful functions and supplements for digital teaching that are provided in Zoom and Stud.IP. Sometimes, certain aspects of teaching should be focused on in addition. In the following, we will therefore present some additional, supplementary tools for teaching with Zoom. They are assigned to the application fieldsPreparationMotivation in the sessionAccompaniment during the semesterAccompanying working groups.

Vorbereitung der Studenten zur Moderation der Zoom-Sitzung

Since a lecture and the knowledge transfer in Zoom cannot have the same scope and the same density as in face-to-face teaching, the learners should prepare for the appointment with the help of specific instructions and guidelines. As a guideline, it is recommended that as much as possible is learned in preparation on one’s own, which does not necessarily require an introduction and derivation by the lecturer in the Zoom lecture. This applies all the more when one considers that students in the digital semester often attend several Zoom sessions per day. This sets limits to longer, attentive listening and watching in a single session from the outset.

Lecture recordings as well as videos or other media can be used for this purpose. These materials can then be used to complete tasks or discuss questions in advance. Video production can stimulate learning in different ways, which should also depend on the personal style of the teacher: In teaching videos of the “Writing Hands” type by Stefan Freitag from the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences, for example, gestures are included to support digital learning through a personal presentation style. In addition, screencasts or podcasts are also very suitable for preparing for a zoom session by anticipating knowledge acquisition.

In addition, questions of understanding can be clarified well in advance with the feature-rich, yet clear and easily accessible discussion tool Mattermost (more below). It also allows students to engage with the new content of a lecture week together around the Zoom session.

Keeping students’ energy up over a session

With the more intensive preparation of students for an appointment and the resulting possible reduction of content for input during a Zoom session, time is also gained so that surveys can be used to activate students in the course of a digital teaching unit and to obtain feedback on learning status or satisfaction with the event if required. In addition to the survey function in Zoom (see the 2nd part on good online didactics with Zoom), student simulations can be captured with other tools that offer more functionality.

Queries with Mentimeter can be designed in a differentiated and varied way. After the preparatory registration of the teacher, the students switch to the browser page of Mentimeter during a zoom session. Here, after minimal explanation, simple to complex queries can be carried out in an appealing design. The survey tools PINGO and the use of Clicker in online teaching are also available as further variants.

However, using Mentimeter requires the host to change the window presented, which can be avoided with Zoom Surveys – so it is a matter of weighing up what you personally find suitable for your teaching.

Another option to increase attention is the use of a digital hand drawing with a tablet and GoodNotes. The presentation can be supplemented in a zoom session with handwritten inserts by the lecturer(s). This can also be used to highlight aspects that are particularly important to you personally.

With the digital hand drawing, another possibility is given to prepare recurring teaching talks with the students in a concise form or to document them live. At the same time, the flow of a presentation can thus be interrupted every now and then by a change of media and interaction.

Accompany Zoom events throughout the semester with digital tools

If the learners are to work out and structure scientific content step by step over many weeks, or if they have to organise their cooperation over the semester and reflect on their learning path, other tools are particularly helpful: The TU’s own Etherpad is suitable for collecting textual content of any kind in a free or less structured way. For example, it can be used to jointly and provisionally interpret initial experimental results. Online whiteboards, on the other hand, can be used to present and combine different media formats of the participants, such as texts, pictures or drawings, in an orderly manner. The learning management system ILIAS, on the other hand, is particularly suitable for the long-term, very systematic monitoring of recurring, individual exercises; ILIAS can also be used if assessments are to be carried out and documented via the tool at the same time.

The use of Mattermost is also recommended so that students can prepare for Zoom appointments with the teacher through longer-term ongoing exchanges. The tool offers a good interface for clearly displaying different discussion threads that extend over weeks or months side by side. Particularly important points, cross-references, etc. can be visually marked.

By having cross-semester discussions in Mattermost to support a longer learning process, tasks and problems can be gradually narrowed down and made more precise. For example, construction tasks can be discussed and designed step by step. This can also be supported by inserted sketches and drawings as needed:

Communicate with and advise student working groups through Zoom

Special support for students over a longer period of time is required when student working groups are digitally active in problem-based learning formats, project work or independent research-based learning. In these cases, Zoom dialogic can be used for communication between teachers and smaller groups of participants.

Other digital tools that support work organisation, communication and documentation between students in group and project work can be used profitably. At TUHH, good experiences have been made with the collaboration tool HumHub in addition to Padlet. HumHub has already served in the successful implementation of modules, HOOU projects and qualification courses, in that groups organise their work – linked to more input-oriented appointments with the lecturer – independently for specific objectives.

Personal style and need count!

As with the selection of functions that are already integrated in Zoom (see Part 2 on good online didactics with Zoom), and when using established software (e.g. Stud.IP, ILIAS), the following also applies to special applications in digital teaching: only add what is still missing for your idea of teaching and what suits you personally! If, for example, you find it less easy to use a survey in Zoom and interpret it spontaneously in order to be able to assess whether the students’ understanding of the subject is improving: no problem at all, keep in regular contact via a chat function or via the forum in Studi.IP. Or choose a small, manageable method for interim feedback from the TUHH’s matching tool collection. All in all: Please don’t overexert yourself and keep an eye on the fun of what you are doing.

This is the third part of our series “Good online didactics with Zoom”. It follows the articles 01 on the introduction to the topic and 02 on the concrete design of a course with Zoom and Stud.IP. The final part 04 on feedback possibilities with Zoom will be published shortly.

01 Teaching with Zoom – didactically speaking

02 Hands on – designing a course with Zoom and Stud.IP

03 Optimise Zoom events with additional tools

04 Giving feedback with Zoom (and checking with BigBlueBotton)


  • Tovar, C. (2020). Teaching online for the first time thanks to Corona? Soft facts and hacks for a quick but thoughtful start. In Higher Education Forum Digitalisation. Dossier Hochschullehre in Krisenzeiten. Accessed 26.06.2020 at https://hochschulforumdigitalisierung.de/de/blog/5-tipps-online-lehre.

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