Another dot in the blogosphere?

Institutionalised Zoom

Posted on: March 10, 2020

Every vendor of remote meeting or video conferencing software is taking advantage of the opportunities offered by COVID-19. Their potential clients want to move quickly to e-learning or e-meetings.

The “e” in this case is emergency first. As I will explain below, it is not necessarily electronic or enabling.

I was a distance and online educator when I worked on a Masters and then a Ph.D. in the USA. Last month, I conducted an online session for those affected by the Leave-of-Absence policy in Singapore. I have used different tools and platforms for online classes, so I watch videos like the one below with open and critical eyes.

The video above is a laundry list of affordances and claims to be a teacher-to-teacher analysis of Zoom. It might as well have been a soft pitch by the vendor itself.

Far better is one of my favourite teacher-techie’s (Richard Byrne’s) short explanation on how to get started with Zoom.


Video source

Byrne focused on the free version of Zoom and thus modelled a strategy that teachers with low or no budgets can follow.

One of my education partners had mandated the institutional use of Zoom. This means we have access to more features. Unfortunately, it might have administratively crippled it instead of pedagogically enabling it. How so?

Consider Exhibit A. The video conferencing toggles are off by default and I cannot change it in my own settings dashboard because the administrator.

Zoom features administratively disabled.

For me, this is like walking blindfolded into a physical class. I do not know if I am supposed to rely only on audio cues or if I can activate video conferencing once we are in.

Exhibit B: Another setting that makes no sense is how the integration with various online calendars is off by default.

Zoom features administratively disabled: Calendaring.

This makes little sense because an automated calendar reminder is the best way to join a synchronous session IMO. I shared this after I conducted a Google Hangouts session last month.

Exhibit C: The administrator locked the option that would allow my students to join the room before me. Like Byrne, I do not see the point of disabling this.

Zoom features administratively disabled: Join before host.

This would be like preventing students from entering a physical classroom before I do. Students who are anxious about being online for the first time need to test their connection and get comfortable first.

Should administrators and IT managers be concerned about bandwidth, privacy, and security? Of course they should. But these should not be their only concerns. Instructors, facilitators, and students have needs and concerns too.

If you are wondering why some educators choose to operate outside their institutional boxes, it is this: The top-down control is stifling. There does not seem to be room for open discussion and logical compromise. There does appear to be support for progressive pedagogy and powerful learning.

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