Using Zoom for Office Hours

Whether your course is held completely online, face-to-face, or somewhere in between, offering your students the opportunity to meet for office hours remotely rather than just in person is a great way to offer additional flexibility and help meet your students’ needs. With its robust Canvas integration, Zoom is a solid choice for virtual office hours. Using Zoom for office hours is mostly the same as setting up a meeting for a virtual class session, though there are a few additional options you may wish to consider. 

Enabling the Waiting Room 

For office hours, we highly suggest enabling the waiting room in your meeting settings. When the waiting room is enabled, it means that each attendee will have to be manually let into the Zoom meeting by you, the host. This gives you more control of who joins the call and when, and you can prevent a student from “popping in” and accidentally intruding on a private meeting. 

Security options for Zoom meetings
The waiting room is one of the options you can select in the “Security” section of your meeting settings. You can require both a passcode and the waiting room, if you desire.

Setting Up a Recurrence 

If you have office hours at the same time each day and each week, you can set up a recurring meeting just like you would for virtual sessions. Let’s say you have office hours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You would set your recurrence to “weekly”, check Tuesday and Thursday, set the start time as 11 a.m., and set the duration to two hours. The start and end dates of the recurrence would be the first and last days of the semester. When you set up your office hours through the Zoom Canvas integration, this will also populate the Canvas calendar with these meeting times. 

"When", "duration" and "time zone" settings for Zoom meetings; the meeting is set to start at 11 a.m. for a duration of 2 hours. Recurrence is checked and set to "weekly", with Tuesdays and Thursdays checked. The end date is set to May 9, 2022.
Sample office hour recurrence settings based on the scenario described above.

But what if your office hours don’t occur during the same time slot each day, such as 8 to 10 a.m. on Mondays and 1 to 3 p.m. on Thursdays? You could set up two recurring meetings, one for Mondays and one for Thursdays. In this case, you will want to make sure your two meeting links are clearly labeled with the day of the week so students don’t mix them up. You could also set up a single recurring meeting and ignore the fact that the meeting time for one of the two days is incorrect—the link will still work outside of the designated time slot, but it does mean that it will also list the incorrect time on the Canvas calendar and in Zoom. 

In these cases, another solution is to create a recurring meeting with “no fixed time”, which can be set from the “recurrence” dropdown menu when adjusting your meeting’s settings. This will create an open-ended meeting link that won’t expire for 365 days. Note that “no fixed time” meetings will not show up on the calendar in Canvas, though you could still manually add your office hours to the Canvas calendar and your Outlook calendar. 

The "recurring meeting" box is check in the Zoom settings and the recurrence dropdown is set to "no fixed time"
Recurrence settings can be managed under the “Time Zone” section of your meeting settings in the Zoom Canvas integration.

Questions? 

For most technical questions, please contact Zoom support or the UWGB Help Desk. If your questions pertain to the Zoom Canvas integration, your best point of contact is dle@uwgb.edu. Lastly, if you have general questions about how you can use Zoom to support your teaching, we always welcome you to email the CATL inbox (catl@uwgb.edu) or schedule a consultation with a CATL member.

Using Zoom for Facilitating Small Group Activities

Small group activities are a key part of face-to-face learning, but they are also particularly useful in virtual classroom learning environments. Many active learning activities like think-pair-share and collaborative document annotation work well in Zoom using a feature called breakout rooms 

Breakout Rooms Overview 

The Breakout Rooms button on the Zoom controls toolbar
The Breakout Rooms button in the Zoom meeting toolbar. If you don’t see this button, click the three dots (…) on the right side of the toolbar and then select “Breakout Rooms” from the options.

Breakout rooms are used to split Zoom participants into smaller groups and place them in separate sessions where they can only hear and see their fellow group members until they return to the main room. During this time you could have students discuss a question, brainstorm solutions to a problem, or read an article with their small group. As the host, you can join and leave any of the breakout rooms as you please, which may be useful for checking how students are doing or clearing up any questions the group may have. 

Like any small group activity, breakout rooms work best when they have a clear purpose. Before you consider using breakout rooms in your virtual class sessions, consider the intention of the activity. Provide your students with clear instructions on what they are supposed to do during their breakout group time. It might be helpful to give students a concrete goal for their discussions as well. For example, you could have the groups nominate a notetaker to jot down important points from their conversation and then verbally summarize their group’s discussion when they return to the main room with the entire class.  

Creating Breakout Rooms 

Once you have decided on how you want to conduct your group activity, you can use that information to inform what settings you’d like to use for breakout rooms. First, you will want to learn about the basics of creating and managing Zoom breakout rooms. You have three main options for assigning students to breakout rooms:  

  • You can manually assign students to breakout rooms. 
  • You can automatically (randomly) assign students to breakout rooms based on the number of rooms you want (Zoom will show you how many participants per room in the bottom left corner of the pop-up window). 
  • You can let students choose which breakout room they want to join.  
"Create Breakout Rooms" pop-up menu
The pop-up window you see after clicking on the “Breakout Rooms” button, along with the three options for assigning participants.

Once you have selected which method you will use to assign students to their breakout rooms, you can click the blue “Create” button in the bottom-right corner of the pop-up window. This will set up your breakout rooms, but it will not start them yet. 

If you are using Zoom’s default settings for breakout rooms, you can click “Open All Rooms” to start the breakout rooms. Once you are ready for your students to return to the main room, simply click the red “Close All Rooms” button.  

Breakout Room Options and Features 

The breakout rooms "Options" pop-up menu
Clicking on the word “Options” in the breakout room menu will provide you more settings to customize your breakout rooms.

Zoom has a variety of features and options for breakout rooms. In this guide, we will include a few that are particularly useful for facilitating group activities. You can adjust breakout room settings before you open the rooms or even while the rooms are open.  

To open the breakout room options, click the word “Options” (or the gear icon on Mac) in the bottom-left corner of the breakout rooms menu. The first option, “Allow participants to choose room” will let students move between rooms, despite their original room assignment. The second setting, “allow participants to return to the main session at any time”, allows students to rejoin the main room where you, the host, will be unless you are visiting a breakout room. This could be useful if students need to “pop in” and ask you a question. If the third box is unchecked, students will be prompted to move to their assigned room once you open breakout rooms. If you would like students to be moved to breakout rooms automatically, you can check the third box. 

"Broadcast Message to All" pop-up text box
You can send all breakout rooms a message in chat with the “Broadcast Message to All” button.

Once your breakout rooms are open, it may be useful to provide your students with additional reminders or instructions. You can use the “Broadcast Message to All” button at the bottom of the breakout room menu to send a message to all groups, such as a warning on how much time they have left to discuss.  

You can also set a countdown timer from the breakout room settings. By default, when you close breakout rooms participants will see a 60-second countdown in which they will be prompted to move back to the main room. At the end of the minute, any remaining participants will be moved back to the main room automatically. You can adjust or eliminate this countdown from the breakout room settings as well. 

If you plan on using breakout rooms multiple times throughout a session, you can re-open the rooms at any time by clicking on the “Breakout Rooms” button in the toolbar and then the “Open All Rooms” button. This will put students back in the same breakout groups as before. If you wish to create new breakout groups (either of a different size or just to have students work with new peers), click the button that says “Recreate” instead. This will let you set the parameters for a new set of breakout rooms. 

Questions? 

For most technical questions, please contact Zoom support or the UWGB Help Desk. If your questions pertain to the Zoom Canvas integration, your best point of contact is dle@uwgb.edu. Lastly, if you have general questions about how you can use Zoom to support your teaching, we always welcome you to email the CATL inbox (catl@uwgb.edu) or schedule a consultation with a CATL memberThe best way to become familiar with breakout rooms is to practice, so grab a few fellow instructors and give it a go, or set up a consultation with CATL where we can act as your pretend students. 

Using Zoom for Class Meetings

Planning on using Zoom for a virtual classroom course? There’s a lot of great documentation out there on Zoom and the Zoom Canvas integration, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to get started. To help you out, we’ve collected some Zoom guides and repackaged them in a way that covers the basics for instructors—scheduling a meeting, sharing the meeting info, things to consider before your first meeting, running a meeting, and recording a meeting.

Scheduling a Meeting

If you’re using Zoom for virtual classroom sessions, we recommend setting up your meetings in Canvas. The Zoom Canvas integration can be accessed from the “Zoom” link at the bottom of your course’s navigation menu on the left side of your screen, and then from there all you need to do is click the “Schedule a New Meeting” button, enter your meeting details, and then click “Save.” For weekly class sessions, you’ll want to make sure that you select the “recurring meeting” checkbox when scheduling your Zoom meeting.

When you schedule a new meeting in Canvas, the Zoom integration automatically creates course calendar events and student To-Do list reminders for each occurrence of the meeting. There are a variety of other meeting settings you can set as well. This Zoom guide can help you learn more about all the meeting setting options.

The "Zoom" link in the Canvas course navigation menu.
The Zoom integration in Canvas is accessed from your course’s navigation menu on the left side of the screen.

Sharing the Meeting Info with Your Students

After you set up your meeting, we recommend sharing the meeting info in the first module of your course so it will be easy for students to find. Simply click on your meeting in the Canvas integration, the Zoom web portal, or the application, click the button or link that says “Copy invitation”, and then paste that information into a page in your first module. Another option is to copy the “join link” and add that link in the first module as an external URL (make sure to check “Load in a new tab” when adding the link). We have a recording of a “Teaching with Zoom” session if you would like to see a video walkthrough of setting up a Zoom meeting in Canvas and posting the link in your course, along with our recommendations on which meeting settings to use.

A sample Zoom meeting link in a Canvas module
Your Zoom link can be added to a module as an external URL. You can also copy the meeting info into a page and put that page in your first module.

Before Your First Meeting

If a student previously registered for a personal Zoom account using their UWGB email address, they may see the error “user does not exist” when they try accessing Zoom through your Canvas course. The way to resolve this issue is to have all your students log into the UW System Zoom web portal once before they start accessing Zoom from Canvas. The Zoom Web Portal is linked on the UWGB homepage, at the bottom of the tab that opens when you click the “Menu & Search” button in the top-right corner of the page.

University of Wisconsin Zoom web portal sign-in page
The landing page for the UW System Zoom web portal. Encourage your students to sign into Zoom here before your class’s first Zoom meeting.

Once logged in, students that previously had an account with their UWGB email will be prompted to switch their account to UW System’s license. This knowledgebase article provides more details and complete instructions that you can send to your students. After a student has completed these steps, it may take a few hours for the update to occur, but once complete, your students should have no issues accessing Zoom through Canvas.

Running Your Zoom Meeting

To start your meeting, simply join with the blue “Start” button next to your meeting listing in Canvas, the Zoom web portal, or the Zoom application. While running your session, the controls will be at the bottom of your screen. Here you can toggle on and off your mic and camera, send and read messages in chat, share your screen, start breakout rooms, and more. This Zoom article details the features of each button on the host controls toolbar.

Zoom toolbar
The host controls of Zoom’s toolbar.

One feature of Zoom that you might consider using for small group discussions and increased interactivity between your students is Zoom breakout rooms. You also might want to look into using Zoom’s polling feature during class as an easy way to keep students engaged and gauge their understanding of the content.

When the meeting is done, click the red “End” button. As host, you will be given two options: “Leave Meeting” or “End Meeting for All”. Leaving the meeting means that the meeting is still “running” and students can continue talking or leave at their own discretion. Zoom meetings need a host, so you will be asked to assign a new host if you leave the meeting in this way (unless there is already a co-host present). Ending the meeting for all will immediately end the meeting for everyone—the host, any co-hosts, and participants.

Recording Your Meeting

If you wish to record your class sessions, you can automatically set up recordings from the meeting’s settings or you can manually start and end the recording during the session. Meeting recordings can either be saved to the cloud (online storage) or locally (to your computer). We recommend saving your recordings to the cloud as they can easily be accessed and shared in Canvas through the Zoom integration and also prevent the storage on your computer from being quickly depleted.

Zoom Canvas integration
When you set up your Zoom meetings through a Canvas course, you can also view and manage your Zoom cloud recordings for those meetings from the Zoom integration in Canvas.

When you set up your Zoom meetings through a Canvas course, you can also view and manage your Zoom cloud recordings for those meetings from the Zoom integration in Canvas.

Meeting cloud recordings are unpublished by default, which means only you, the instructor, can see them. If you would like your students to be able to view the recordings from within the “Cloud Recordings” tab of the Zoom integration in your Canvas course, you can manually publish your session recordings by clicking the “Publish” toggle next to each one.

Questions?

For most technical questions, please contact Zoom support or the UWGB Help Desk. If your questions pertain to the Zoom Canvas integration, your best point of contact is dle@uwgb.edu. Lastly, if you have general questions about how you can use Zoom to support your teaching, we always welcome you to email the CATL inbox (catl@uwgb.edu) or schedule a consultation with a CATL member.

Request a Consultation

A coffee mug and a laptop on a table. On the laptop there is a Zoom meeting with blurred tiles of people's faces.

Zoom vs. Microsoft Teams – Which Should You Use?

One of the decisions many instructors will have to make this year is which video conferencing platform they will use for virtual sessions, office hours, and other meetings that may take place remotely. UWGB currently supports two platforms for video conferencing—Microsoft Teams and Zoom. (In case you missed it, UW System decided not to renew their contract with Collaborate Ultra, choosing instead to start a license with Zoom this year.) A question CATL often gets is “which video conferencing platform should I use?”. Since the basic features of video calls with Teams and Zoom are nearly identical, it mostly comes down to personal preference, but we’ve still outlined a few considerations below to help you make your decision.

Ease of Use

Zoom and Teams are pretty equitable in terms of the internet bandwidth required, though Zoom also allows attendees to call in by phone if they have problems connecting to a meeting over the internet. With both applications, you can schedule and join meetings through either a desktop application or in your web browser, as well as on mobile through their respective iOS/Android apps. Zoom has an extensive overview of which features are available on each platform and Teams has a similar comparison chart here. For both platforms, the desktop application will usually provide the best performance and the widest range of features.

In terms of interface, Teams and Zoom are similar but have some key distinctions. Teams’ call features are found in a toolbar along the top of your screen that remains fixed. Zoom has a toolbar that is at the bottom of the screen by default but can be dragged to other locations, such as when sharing your screen. Both toolbars are equipped with features like chat, nonverbal feedback cues (such as virtually raising or lowering your hand to be called on), and breakout rooms. If you would like to explore the features of each of these programs further, here is Microsoft’s help portal for Teams, and here is Zoom’s help center where you can browse thousands of articles, videos, and user threads to find the answers to your questions. You can also contact the UWGB help desk for further support or browse the UWGB IT knowledge base.

Canvas Integration

Compared to Teams, Zoom definitely has a more robust Canvas integration. Teams’ integration allows you to schedule a meeting with the Rich Content Editor in Canvas, but not much else. With Zoom, you can schedule your class sessions, view upcoming meetings, and review recordings all from within Canvas. Note that there are some advanced meeting settings that can only be adjusted from the Zoom web portal, such as creating polls before the start of the meeting.

If you plan on sharing session recordings with students, the workflow is also much more streamlined with Zoom than with Microsoft Teams. With Zoom you can publish recordings in Canvas with one click, whereas with Teams you will need to find the recording in your OneDrive and then copy the share link for the file.

With both Zoom and Teams, we recommend copying the meeting join link and sharing it on a page or linking it in a module near the top of your course home page so students can find it easily inside Canvas.

File Sharing and Collaboration

While Zoom is perhaps the winner when it comes to simple video conferencing, if file sharing and collaboration are integral to your class, that’s where Teams really shines. Microsoft Teams is built for project management and collaboration, so making a Team for your class might be useful if students will need to regularly share and collaborate on documents or projects together. As a Microsoft product, Teams is also integrated with applications like PowerPoint, Word, and Excel, making it very easy to share documents like these inside and outside of video meetings.

Still Undecided?

If you’re still not sure which tool is better for your course, we always welcome you to schedule a consultation with a CATL member. We can discuss how you plan on using video conferencing in your course and help you decide which one might be better suited for meeting the needs of both you and your students.

Request a Consultation

A broken chain

Avoiding Broken Links in Canvas

Has this happened to you? You open an email from one of your students that reads, “I can’t access the required reading file in week 3 of the Canvas course?” Concerned, you open your Canvas course. You check your week 3 module; it’s published and so is your “Required Readings” page. Strange. You open the course page and click on the link to the reading file; it downloads. Even stranger. Your student still insists that they cannot access the file. What is going on???

Instructors working in Canvas can occasionally encounter scenarios like the above where a link, image, or file in their Course works for them but does not work for their students. These errors can be very tricky to diagnose and are often caused by something sneaky going on “under the hood” in Canvas. Thankfully, Canvas has a tool that instructors can use to hunt out bad links in their course. This post introduces Canvas’s course link validator tool and explains how it can be used to proactively detect broken links in your courses. It will also provide a few tips for fixing these issues once they’ve been detected and best practices for avoiding these issues altogether.

Detecting Broken Links

Your secret weapon in this fight against broken links is the course link validator. The course link validator, which can be accessed from the Settings page of your course, scans all content in a course for links that may not work for any of several reasons. It will detect and report links to unpublished content, links to content in another course, and links to external websites that just don’t work. It’s a great idea to run the link validator right before you are ready to publish your course and run it again each time you make a large change or addition.

After running the link validator, Canvas will display a list of each piece of content in your course that contains at least one link that may need your attention. These problematic links are further sorted beneath a description of the cause of the error. In the example screenshot of link validator results below, the validator found five broken links in this course:

The results of a link validation check in Canvas.

  • One embedded image in a quiz question that will not work for students because the embedded image is stored in another course.
  • Three links within a single page that students cannot access because each link points to an object in another course. This page has a link to a page in another course, an embedded image stored in another course, and a link to a file stored in another course.
  • A link in a different page that points to an assignment in this course that has not yet been published.

These results illustrate two of the most common causes for confounding broken links in a course:

  1. Links pointing to unpublished files or other unpublished course content
  2. Links pointing to content that is in a different Canvas course

Both of these issues create links that appear to work fine for the instructor but do not work for students. Without a tool like the course link validator, it would be very difficult to detect these issues!

Defeating Broken Links

Whenever the link validator detects a broken link in your course, it’s time to spring into action and heal those links. Mending links that are broken because they point to unpublished content is straightforward: find that content in your course and publish it! Fixing links that point to content in other courses is trickier.

First, you need to remove the bad link. To do this, find the course content that contains the bad link and edit it. Then remove the bad link or embedded image:

  • For broken links, find the course content that contains the bad link, click edit, click the link in the editor, then click Remove Link.
    The Remove Link option in Canvas
  • For broken embedded images, put your text edit cursor after of the image and backspace to remove it.

Once the bad link is removed, use the Canvas editor’s tools to create a new link that points to the course file or course page, or embed the image from your course images. If that file, page, or image you are linking to doesn’t yet exist within the course, you’ll have to upload it from your computer or import it from the other course. Recreating the link in this fashion will point it at content that is contained within the same course, ensuring your students get to where they need to go!

Why Broken Links Happen

These sneakily broken links are typically the result of a teacher trying to share something with their students that their students are not allowed to access. Naturally, teachers are afforded much wider access to a course than students. The most confusing broken links commonly point to either unpublished content or content in another course. Students can’t see unpublished content or content in the teacher’s other courses, but the teacher can!

One item type in a Canvas course that can unexpectedly cause access problems with its published status is course files. Unlike most other content in a Canvas course, you typically don’t have to manually publish course files; most files you upload to a course will be published upon upload. However, files or even entire file folders can be unpublished in your course Files page. When that happens, students will receive access denied messages after attempting to click a link to that file. To resolve this issue, the course instructor must publish the file or folder in the course’s Files page.

Links to content in another Canvas course can sneak in whenever course content is manually copied from one Canvas course and then pasted into another course. The result of copying and pasting between courses creates links to files, pages, and images that point to an outside course. When students try to follow these links, Canvas sees that they are not enrolled in that course and sends an “access denied” message. To prevent this type of broken link, never copy and paste links or images from one Canvas course into another. Instead, use Canvas’s copy and import tools whenever you need to duplicate content from one course to another.

An Access Denied Error in Canvas

Try it Out!

Whether or not you have been bitten by broken links in the past, we encourage you to run the link validator in your Canvas courses. If the validator finds any issues, take a look at those pages in your course and either remake those links or publish any unpublished link targets. You can check to see if your fixes were successful by rerunning the validator and using student view to try the links as the test student. If you’re ever unsure of how to fix an issue reported by the link validator, please don’t hesitate to contact Canvas 24/7 support via the “Help” button in Canvas, email UWGB’s Canvas support team at dle@uwgb.edu, or request a CATL Consultation for one-on-one training on finding and fixing broken links!