Know Zoom’s Limitations

Zoom is arguably one of the best web conferencing platforms available.  But it was designed more for live, one-off meetings than for recurring classes or lectures.  Some of the things that you might want to do in a teaching platform like Adobe Connect, Blackboard or Canvas you simply won’t be able to do in Zoom. 

For example:

  • Student notetaking: Unless your students have large screens or external monitors, taking notes during a Zoom meeting requires that they frequently switch back and forth between Zoom and whatever program they use to take notes.  There is no other workaround other than the students connecting to the Zoom meeting on a device separate from the one the students will be using to take notes.
  • Pre-loading content: In a traditional learning management system like Blackboard, you can access your course site before the semester begins, change the site’s layout and appearance, upload documents and assignments, and more. You cannot do any of those things in Zoom.  Zoom is simply a live web conferencing platform that lets you share your web camera and screen with others.
  • Testing/Exams: While Zoom has a polling tool, it does not have a testing or exam tool. If you want to give your students a graded assessment, you will need to use an external tool like Blackboard.
  • Attendance Reporting: Zoom can create a report showing who attended a particular Zoom meeting, but that report is hidden.  Go to https://usc.zoom.us/account/my/report, search for a meeting within a one-month window, and then click on that meeting’s number of participants in the “Participants” column.
  • Breakout Rooms: Zoom offers breakout rooms (see above for instructions on how to enable them) and you can either create them and assign students to them live during class or you can pre-assign participants to breakout rooms before class begins.  Unfortunately, there is no way to pre-populate your breakout rooms with content or instructions before class begins. In addition, when your class meeting ends the breakout rooms that you create in Zoom disappear and will not appear in your next class meeting.  Unfortunately, we are not aware of any workaround.
  • File-Sharing: While you can share files using the Chat box, Zoom meetings are not really meant to be file repositories.  The largest file you can share is 512 MB. Tip: If you want to create a file repository for your course, use Blackboard or SharePoint.
  • Polling: If a poll contains multiple questions, your students must answer all of the questions and then click submit before Zoom will record any of the students’ answers. In addition, only single choice or multiple-choice questions are allowed.  Tip: for more advanced polling features, use Qualtrics or Poll Everywhere.
  • Whiteboarding: Zoom’s Whiteboard (see Sharing a Whiteboard) is an effective tool for summarizing key points during discussions, but the button students click to download a screenshot of the whiteboard is hidden. While the whiteboard is on the screen, the students have to click the View Options pull-down list at the top of the whiteboard and then click Annotate. Only then will they see a Save button