How Your Association Can Use Zoom for Professional Development

During this prolonged coronavirus crisis, associations are having to ramp up their digital engagement with members and customers. This is a lot easier to do if your members and customers are already familiar with your online platforms—which is why we might always remember this time as the season of Zoom.

A few months ago, Zoom had 10 million users. Now it has more than 200 million since we’re all so desperate to see people outside our homes. As you’d expect, there have been hiccups along the way. Zoom is working out some serious privacy issues on the fly and helping people figure out how to prevent zoombombing.

Your members and attendees are becoming familiar with Zoom since they’re using it for work meetings, virtual happy hours, game nights, and remote schooling for kids. Even if they don’t have firsthand experience with Zoom, they’ve likely seen its familiar gallery in news streams and on TV. Even cooking shows are moving to Zoom. The stars of Food Network’s The Kitchen used it to chat with each other from their home kitchens on their recent Quarantine episode.

Given the chance, people are more willing to give Zoom a try these days—perhaps FOMO is working its magic again. Your association can jump on the bandwagon by using Zoom for professional development.  

Why everyone loves Zoom right now

Traditionally, in online learning programs and webinars, learners see the instructor’s face in recorded or live videos but they can’t see each other. Zoom adds the missing face-to-face element to online learning: instructors and learners can all see each other. What a difference this makes in an online learning experience!

In our last post, we described how NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement uses the Zoom integration with TopClass LMS for their live instructor-led virtual courses. Learners do coursework on their own in the LMS and meet for two live Zoom sessions. They use Zoom breakout rooms for team discussions and exercises that allow learners to practice new competencies.

Zoom for professional development

What you can do with Zoom and your LMS—if your LMS is TopClass

Because of TopClass LMS’ end-to-end integration with Zoom, you (the admin) can create a Zoom session right from TopClass—it automatically gets created in your integrated Zoom account. You never have to access Zoom outside of TopClass to create virtual instructor-led sessions, meetups, webinars, or other educational events. Any changes you make in TopClass are automatically updated in Zoom.

The learner joins the Zoom session from within their course in TopClass LMS by clicking the “launch” button. Thanks to single-sign-on, they’re automatically signed into Zoom—they don’t have to log in. Zoom opens in a separate tab, as it needs to run separately, so the learner has Zoom in one window and TopClass in the other.

After the session, the admin clicks a button in TopClass to pull back attendance records from Zoom, and TopClass automatically awards the appropriate credits or certificates to the learner.

Tips on using Zoom for professional development

Because so many associations, educational institutions, and corporate training programs are relying on Zoom right now for adult learning, we expect to see many best and next practices emerging in the coming months. Until then, we’ve gathered some of our own.

Prepare everyone for Zoom instruction

Play with all the features and settings offered by your Zoom plan so you know what it can do and where you might encounter issues.

Provide training for instructors and for moderators who handle back channel issues. NIGP has new online instructors sit in on courses led by experienced instructors so they can see Zoom in action and get a little practice using it.

You could also assign moderator roles to trained member volunteers. They get to audit a course (sort of) and receive a promo code for another online learning program.

Don’t assume learners know how to effectively use Zoom. Encourage them to watch a training video that takes them through different screenshots and tools. For example, review the mute/unmute functions, video settings, viewing other participants, chat function, breakout sessions, and raising their hand.

Make your expectations clear. Should their camera be on or off? Do they have to raise their hand before talking? How will questions in chat be addressed? Will everyone be required to participate? In any particular order?

Tracking attendance and attention

When moving to online instruction, make sure your programs still fulfill the requirements of credentialing or licensing agencies. Do you have to track attendance and/or participation during programs? Zoom used to have a feature called “attention tracking,” but, on April 2, Zoom removed it in response to user security and privacy concerns. Some associations use Zoom’s polling tool to ask questions throughout the session as a way to confirm attendance.

If you must verify photo identification or take formal attendance, Julie Stelter, chief learning officer at Walden Group, suggested in an ASAE Collaborate discussion that you have a moderator (or “producer”) troubleshoot technical issues, take attendance, and ask for photo IDs. “The instructor is there to engage with the audience. This requires his/her full attention… A producer can help you [the instructor] keep the goal of the training focused on helping the learner apply the knowledge in the workplace.”

Zoom for professional development

Engaging learners during Zoom sessions

Zoom’s polling and chat features are commonly used by instructors to interact with learners. However, the chat box only shows the user the chats they were present for. If the instructor wants to share links, they shouldn’t rely on the chat box alone. They should also post them in the LMS.

The most popular feature of Zoom are its breakout rooms. Think of them as session tables where discussions and exercises take place. Limit each room to nine people max, if possible. Between live sessions, conversations can continue in LMS discussion forums.

You can easily invite guest speakers to Zoom sessions. Instructors can also hold office hours on Zoom using a personal meeting room.

Other ways to use Zoom

Associations are discovering all kinds of ways to use Zoom for education and networking.

•    Post-course accountability group meetings
•    Mastermind meetings
•    Study group sessions for credentialing exams
•    Book clubs
•    Happy hours
•    Lunch and learns
•    Hackathons or brainstorming sessions

Zoom resources

New articles about Zoom are published every day. But, the best resource for using Zoom is Zoom. They created a special COVID-19 resource page for their millions of new users that includes links to:

•    Live daily demos
•    Webinars
•    Video tutorials
•    On-demand training sessions

The page also features articles about privacy, educating over Zoom, remote working, and hosting virtual events.

The academic community is creating crowd-sourced documents on using Zoom to teach online—here’s one from the University of Oregon and one from Harvard. Alexa Kutler, a project manager at the Creative Computing Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education created a guide to hosting virtual events with Zoom.

Right now, many associations are adopting Zoom because virtual is the only option for getting members together. This shift to virtual is a move in the right direction. If, when all this is over, you keep virtual events and online learning in your educational portfolio as a supplement to in-person events, you will expand your audience, provide a more accessible, convenient, and affordable option to your market, and generate additional sustainable revenue.


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