Videochat Features to Help Teachers Manage Virtual Classrooms
With many K–12 schools moving to a hybrid learning model this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, Zoom is adding new features designed to help teachers manage virtual classrooms. The free Zoom for Education plan includes more control over virtual classroom views. Teachers will be able to customize their classroom’s gallery view to make it easier to find students and “go around the room” in order, or place a spotlight on a group of students who are presenting to the class. While Zoom typically gives control over muting or unmuting audio to participants, another new feature will let teachers selectively unmute student audio, as long as all parties opt in. This could be helpful for younger students who may not know how to use the microphone or during music lessons if students are holding instruments. To increase accessibility, teachers can “pin” up to nine students on screen in their custom personal view, so those who use sign language will still be visible even if they aren’t triggered in speaker view. And students who are deaf or hard of hearing can pin both their teacher and a translator on the screen simultaneously. For small-group work, students will be able to select a breakout room and move between rooms. And music teachers can go into Advanced Audio and select the option to enhance “original sound,” which will raise audio quality.
Across the world, equity and accessibility have become two of the thorniest issues districts face as they continue to offer learning in remote and hybrid learning environments. In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, some states delayed online learning because they realized all students could not access it.