Boosting Student Interaction in Zoom Classrooms

Due to certain barriers imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic this year, students and teachers alike have been encouraged to utilize Zoom to replace face-to-face classes. With the rapid transition to online technology, many instructors are still unfamiliar with many of the features of Zoom that can help boost student interaction. Instead of trying to present slides or lecture to a screen full of blank-faced students, boost student interaction by following a few good tips. 

An important first step of setting up your Zoom classroom is to establish the classroom rules of engagement again. Just like at the beginning of a semester, you must re-instruct your students how they should interact in class. You can ask your students to keep their eyes up and focused on the class as you are teaching. Instruct students to keep their audio muted until they have a question or are called upon. Ask students for their input about what would make the online classroom experience better for them. In this transitional period, it is important to be able to take some time to adjust to one another. 

Use the start of the meetings to encourage people to chat and ask casual questions about the course. Since the first few minutes of each meeting may consist of students joining in late, use the time to build camaraderie between your students. Remember that some of your students may be self-isolating and the class time they have may be some of the limited interaction they get with others. Be willing to sacrifice some lecture time to make sure that the students are comfortable with how the class is going. Also, after the official class time has ended, encourage students that may have additional questions, or just want to talk, to hang around in the meeting longer. 

Ask students to use the “raise-hand” feature in the meeting if they have a question. This will notify the instructor to call on that student. Gauge the conversations in the chat between the students and address it as needed. Polls can be used to ask questions to students, and to test student interaction. If you have quick questions, for example, ask students if they can see your screen or how they feel about the material thus far. Consider asking your students to respond with thumbs up while in the chat.

Use the breakout-room tool to split the class up into smaller groups for better discussions. It can be impossible to have good discussions with a large class size, but by using breakout-rooms, you can boost student interaction by encouraging them to speak with only a few people rather than in front of the entire class. You, as an instructor, can move from group to group during the session, so you can check in with the students in small groups as well. Make your TA, if you have one, your co-host so you have another person to move in and out of the breakout rooms. If you are using this tool, make sure your instructions are clear. Students need direction for working in a breakout room or when holding live discussions. Also make sure that the students know how long they will spend in these groups as to not cut off any discussion preemptively.  

Overall, it is good to remember that you and your students are all in this together and that this new learning format is a new experience for everyone involved. Record each Zoom session to allow for asynchronous learning opportunities for students who have valid reasons to be excused from each class so that they are not missing out on any learning opportunities. Remote learning should not mean exclusion and social isolation. Remind students that their learning should still be a top priority, even in these trying times. 

Author: Quinn Johnson, Tech Assistant


Hogan, K. A., & Sathy, V. (2020, April 8). 8 Ways to Be More Inclusive in Your Zoom Teaching. Retrieved from