While communication tools like Zoom provide powerful ways to supplement the loss of face-to-face instruction, they can also pose unique challenges to establishing safe, welcoming, and respectful learning environments.
Recent reports of "Zoombombings" highlight the need to prevent unauthorized access to course meetings and quickly deal with disruptions, should they occur. Broadly defined, a Zoom bomber is one who engages in aggressive or disruptive behavior, whether through speech, text, or imagery, during a synchronous online meeting.
Instructors can take precautions when creating meetings to ensure only their students can access an online class sessions.
Using the Zoom integration in ReggieNet puts vital meeting information behind the University's password system, making it much less likely that uninvited guests will be able to access your live session. (see Creating an Online Meeting)
Remember, anyone who has a meeting link can access a meeting. Avoid sending invitation links or meeting ID numbers to students unless there are special circumstances (e.g., a student does not have internet access and needs to attend by phone).
When setting up a Zoom meeting, you may see an option to use your Personal Meeting ID (PMI). This is a meeting link which never changes or expires. By not selecting this option, Zoom will instead assign a random, more secure ID for your meeting.
You have the option of using Zoom's Waiting Room function, which holds students outside the meeting until you allow them to enter. This may be useful for small-size classes or online office hours. It may not be practical for larger courses. Note: The Waiting Room function must be set up when the meeting is scheduled.
Some students may show poor judgement when it comes to behavior in online learning environments. The online environment may seem, to them, much more akin to certain online social spaces in which uncivil behaviors are tolerated or even encouraged, rather than a classroom. Clearly communicate your expectations for respectful behavior during class. In stressful times, everyone can use a reminder.
Zoom's meeting tools provide several options for preventing disruptions or intervening when unacceptable behavior occurs. For step-by-step instructions on using these features, see Best Practices for Managing and Protecting A Zoom Meeting.
Note: Some functions can now be controlled in meeting using the recently added Security button. These include: Lock Meeting, Enable Waiting Room, or allowing Share Screen, Chat, and participants to Rename Themselves.
You have the ability to mute all or individual participants in a meeting. You can also prevent participants from unmuting themselves.
You can ensure that no one takes over the screen by limiting screen sharing to Host.
If a participant is being disruptive, you can remove them from the meeting.
You have the option of locking a meeting to prevent additional participants from joining. This is helpful to prevent someone you've removed from returning. Note: Students who drop out of the meeting due to connectivity issues may not be able to return to a locked meeting.
Equally important to dealing with disruptive behaviors quickly is to address the incident with the rest of the class once the moment has passed. Acknowledging the incident is almost always better than not reacting at all.
After the moment, consider what action you need to take...
What it looks/sounds like
What to do:
What it looks/sounds like
What to do:
Note: The University can help identify disruptive users. Email Abuse@IllinoisState.edu for assistance.
For additional ideas about managing difficult classroom conversations and challenging moments, listen to this podcast episode.