CTL Blog

Inclusive Zoom Meetings, Part 3 - The Tech During the Meeting

July 07, 2021 | 6 Minute Read

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

This post continues the technology and facilitation guidelines identified in the introduction to this series on "Inclusive Zoom Meetings." Together, these writings outline small steps we can take in making our Zoom meetings more inclusive by being open to individual choice and inviting voices, by reducing frustrations and barriers before they might otherwise be encountered, and by honoring our participants where they are – from their personal comfort to their varied resources and environments.

The Tech: In-meeting Practices

Video Settings

From the "in meeting" video settings, make certain to check "Always display participant names on their videos". This can avoid awkwardness and unintentional disrespect in calling someone by an incorrect name or pronoun, especially if they've personalized either. Using preferred names and pronouns shows respect and reinforces your commitment to a comfortable, nondiscriminatory meeting environment.

Record Zoom Session

Record the meeting so it can be shared along with an accurate transcript or captions after the session. If there is a portion of the meeting that is highly sensitive, while there is an option to pause the recording, you also can be conscientious in limiting with whom and how the recording is shared. The sharing settings can be established using your own cloud storage options or, for Zoom licensed accounts, through the Zoom cloud. Zoom cloud recordings can be passcode protected and even require registration (through the "View recording on demand" share option).

In sharing a meeting's recording, you demonstrate mindfulness and your commitment to inclusion by providing several benefits to intended and prospective participants. A recording with accurate transcript allows the meeting to be perceivable (a principle of digital accessibility, also falling within the guidelines of Universal Design for Learning). It allows individuals to reflect and review the communication in their own time (asynchronously) and without distraction. A recording provides an accurate record of what transpired, which is important for anyone who couldn't attend synchronously or for those who may have been interrupted due to personal or environmental distractions, including lost internet connections. A recording can also serve as an artifact to share with a greater audience.

Turn on Transcription/captioning

The Live Transcript option is not automatically displayed; it will only be shown to the Zoom host when the live transcription service has been enabled in the meeting settings, prior to starting a session. Unless there is an assigned captioner or third party CC service, the host must still select the option to Enable Auto-Transcription. Meeting participants will then see the option to "Show Subtitle" to display closed captions (a live transcript) in their Zoom toolbars. In their own Zoom application, the host can either choose to show or hide the transcript subtitles, as can each participant.

When opting to view the full transcript, a participant will see the entire meeting's auto-transcription text no matter when they joined the meeting. This is beneficial to anyone who joins the meeting late or has to step away for a few moments. The full transcript includes everything from the time the feature was first turned on in the meeting. If the transcription is disabled at any point, only that "disabled" portion of a meeting will not show as part of the live transcription's text. (Note the entire meeting will still be transcribed when a Zoom cloud recording is processed.)

Live captioning can assist those with hearing impairments. It also provides a means of engagement and further clarification, which is particularly useful for individuals who may have difficulty comprehending the meeting. This could include a person whose primary language is not the same as that being used in the meeting, or even someone joining from a distracting environment. By giving participants the option to show or hide the transcription subtitles, Zoom allows for personal preferences important to limiting extraneous cognitive load. Live captioning, or auto-transcription, provides a time-sensitive, accessible alternative to auditory information as well as reinforcement to meeting comprehension and engagement. By having it on in every meeting, no one has to feel out-of-place asking for it nor exert any extra effort.

If non-presenters do not mute themselves, mute them when appropriate

If one or more participants do not mute themselves when they aren't talking, a reminder can be stated or typed in the chat. However, if the participant(s) still don't mute themselves, the meeting host or co-host can mute individual or all participants.

It is usually a best practice to unmute a microphone only when talking in an online meeting. This especially holds true when there are a greater number of participants than might be found sitting around a small conference table. The reason is three-fold. First, any extra noise – such as dogs barking or construction in a neighborhood – can cause cacophony and be a distraction. Second, when you can't visually scan everyone's webcam video, it is difficult to pick up on non-verbal cues that someone is about to start talking; thus, chances are greater for troublesome conversation, such as people talking over each other. And lastly, when everyone else's microphone is muted, it helps the attention and focus remain on the person who is talking.

When a meeting host takes responsibility and action to mute those who forget to mute themselves, a more positive environment is created for everyone. Additionally, this shows consideration to all participants including the person currently talking.

Share files through Zoom chat

If you need to share a resource (a file or hyperlink) during the session, make certain it is digitally accessible. And share it through Zoom chat so participants don't have to increase their demands on technology nor be distracted by switching to a different program or platform mid-meeting.

Uploading an accessible file to or pasting a link in the Zoom chat allows everyone an opportunity to get the resource at the time you're referencing it. Whenever possible, though, the resource should already be distributed as part of the meeting preparations to make certain everyone has access. Also make sure to communicate how the resource can be accessed even after the meeting; this is especially important to anyone who only learns of the meeting later (such as when a recording has been shared to a wider audience). Sharing accessible resources at the time they are needed – before, after, or during a meeting – demonstrates care in prioritizing equitable access. Coincidingly, keeping participants' attention on the Zoom meeting application and not different technologies keeps the focus on the meeting.

To Be Continued

We've covered a lot in this series of Inclusive Zoom Meetings. But there is one more piece we need to consider: the facilitators' responsibilities during the meeting, even beyond the technology. How do we make people feel welcome? How do we model the behavior we expect of the participants? How do we make sure we are presenting in an equitable, accessible manner? How can we learn from our experiences? And what other resources can we explore to learn more? Answers to these questions will be addressed in my next post!