CTL Blog

Inclusive Zoom Meetings, Part 1 - The Tech Before the Meeting

June 16, 2021 | 4 Minute Read

This guest post is by Celine Greene, Senior Instructional Technologist in the Center for Teaching and Learning.

We want to host online meetings where everyone feels welcome by creating and managing sessions that allow for individual comfort, choice, and equal access. This is achieved in part by attending to the logistics of the selected meeting platform. In this series, I've chosen to focus on the Zoom platform, though many similar settings are found in other online meeting applications.

The Tech: Meeting Settings

For assistance with verifying or changing your Zoom meeting's setup, see the Zoom Help Center. In a JHU Enterprise account, some settings will be predetermined or locked by your account type. For questions about a locked setting in a University account, see Johns Hopkins Zoom FAQ or contact zoom@jhu.edu.

Audio Type (Phone and/or Computer)

Even though joining by computer may be recommended or encouraged for your meetings, it is usually best to allow participants to join with Telephone and Computer Audio. This allows participants the option to join (or rejoin!) the meeting by calling in on a phone line if someone unexpectedly loses or simply has poor internet access. Acknowledging our resources are not all the same, nor even always consistent, is an important part of being inclusive.

Note: JHSPH LiveTalks, which are special Zoom meetings accessed through the CoursePlus LMS (learning management system), require using only computer audio because of the captured analytics in these sessions.

Allow Participants to Rename Themselves

Choose to Allow participants to rename themselves. This setting empowers your participants in many ways – from displaying their preferred names, adding preferred pronouns, and even adding their associated department, office or other identity. Honoring the individual by acknowledging and respecting preferred names and pronouns is important.

Participants' Video and Audio

Choose to Mute all participants when they join a meeting and to not require Participants video to be on at the start . With the in-meeting security options , you can allow participants to later unmute themselves and to start their video.

It is a best practice to unmute a microphone only when talking in an online meeting, especially since our environments are not often quiet. Any extra noise can cause cacophony and be a distraction. The default of participants' being muted when joining the meeting corresponds to this best practice. Furthermore, sharing webcam video puts an increased demand on bandwidth and may make some people uncomfortable. This may be due to disparities in work or learning spaces, trauma triggers from seeing ourselves, cultural norms, and more.

When we leave sharing video and audio as an option, we give participants the right to exercise personal choice and control in managing their experience. Additionally, we allow for a comfortable meeting space with fewer threats and distractions.

Closed Captioning (also referred to as Subtitles and Live Transcription)

Turn on the Closed captioning option to allow the host or other appointed individual or service to generate closed captions. Additionally, select the option to Enable live transcription service to show the transcript on the side panel in-meeting and/or subtitle.

When the live transcription service is enabled in advance of the meeting, the in-meeting Live Transcript option can be selected and Auto-Transcription enabled (if another way of captioning isn't being used). The transcript can then be shown or hidden according to each participant's personal preference. The transcript benefits anyone with a hearing impairment or those joining from a noisy environment. It also helps participants who might be distracted due to cognitive reasons, environmental factors, or unintended interruptions. Live transcription provides access as an accessible alternative to auditory information; it also optimizes individual choice and provides a reinforcement toward engagement.

Secure Your Meeting

Follow Zoom's advice for securing your meeting by turning on the Waiting Room , Require a passcode when scheduling new meetings, and Don't use a Personal Meeting ID (PMI) for public meetings. A safe and secure meeting room lends itself toward fewer distractions and a more comfortable environment for all participants.

To Be Continued

There's more to learn! Please look for the upcoming post, "Inclusive Zoom Meetings, Part 2: Meeting Preparation Beyond the Tech". And to round out this series on making Zoom meetings more inclusive, I will conclude with considerations when the Zoom meetings are taking place.