Introducing a Zoom How-to Video Series
This guest post is by John McGready, Senior Scientist and Teaching Peer Mentor in the department of Biostatistics.
By late August in 2020, many of us at Hopkins have achieved expert level status in attending Zoom meetings. We now remember to unmute ourselves when speaking (most of the time), turn our videos on and off, multi-task, etc…. We have also learned that these virtual meetings can be more exhausting, both mentally and physically, then those held “in-person”. Up until I taught my first class conducted exclusively via Zoom in June, I assumed that my “expertise” in being a Zoom meeting attendee would translate into being a whiz at using Zoom for teaching, and serving as the consistent Zoom meeting host. I was quickly relieved of this misconception within minutes of starting the first class meeting. As soon as the live session started, it seemed as things were progressing at a faster pace than I could handle as I was consistently losing my cursor and/or clicking on the wrong thing inadvertently, unable to re-find my annotation tools in the midst of a whiteboard demonstration, forgetting to grant my TAs cohost privileges on a recurring basis, and so on. By the end of this two-week class sequence I could handle things in Zoom, but my approach was inconsistent and hackneyed. I had learned how to get by, but didn’t necessarily learn how to things properly or efficiently. Nevertheless, I found Zoom in general to be an excellent tool for teaching in real time online, and, on the whole, had an excellent course experience — one much better than I had expected prior to starting the class.
Now, let’s flash forward from June to late July when I was appointed by my department to be a “Teaching Peer Mentor”, a position assumed by 1-2 faculty members in each School department and sponsored by an initiative from the Deans’ office. In this role I am responsible for assisting the faculty who are teaching formerly on-campus course offerings with transitioning to the online milieu. An informal needs assessment revealed that these colleagues were interested in a series of short “how-to” videos on how to do specific tasks in Zoom such as annotating their lecture slides, taking screen shots of specific annotations, assign students to break-out rooms, and recording Zoom sessions. As someone who had previously recorded and edited only rather basic narrated lecture videos in Camtasia, I was excited by the opportunity to get more experience and education about video making. What I didn’t realize initially is how much I had to learn about Zoom (and there’s still plenty for me to learn), and how despite Zoom being a “simple” application at its core, there are a lot of nuances. As such, some of the resulting videos are longer than I initially expected, and required the talents and generosity of colleagues to be active participants in semi-scripted Zoom sessions. While I expect to add more videos to this series as the first term progresses, I hope this initial set will be helpful to some members of the School community as we continue to operate in a virtual framework. To reiterate my closing sentiment from the prior paragraph, Zoom is a powerful tool for teaching online, and I hope that you have a positive experience with it as well.