Zoom and BlueJeans for Synchronous Course Meetings

Which Synchronous Tool is Right for My Course?

There are two main options available across campus.

Currently, everyone at Penn has access to BlueJeans and Zoom (If you are already familiar with BlueJeans or Zoom and your current platform meets your needs, you can stay with the platform with which you are most comfortable. Canvas integration is available for both Zoom and BlueJeans.

Many of the items below are influenced by school/department-wide settings. If you would like to use a particular feature, log in through your school to confirm your settings are appropriately set. Zoom | BlueJeans

Zoom versus BlueJeans

  • Some users find Zoom controls and settings more intuitive and easy to use.
  • Most users prefer Zoom’s capabilities for breakout rooms which make possible small group work in classes. However, recent BlueJeans updates added some helpful features that better allow the host to communicate with participants while they are in breakout rooms.
  • Users at Penn report fewer issues with lag on Zoom.
  • Zoom includes more collaborative whiteboarding and annotation features, allowing participants in the whole class or groups to collaboratively annotate on the same screen.
  • BlueJeans has seen fewer security concerns and may be more appropriate for courses that include particularly sensitive information, such as information protected under HIPAA. However, Zoom has made substantial security updates and, with certain settings, may be suitable for sensitive data.


Zoom Options and Settings

In Zoom, the individual who starts and manages the meeting (the instructor) is the Host, and can manage how and when Participants (students) can engage with the course. The Host can also set individual participants as Co-hosts, who have more controls than Participants but not full Host controls.

Learn how to get started with Zoom here.

Be sure to sign up for and log into Zoom though Penn to access all of the options.

Troubleshooting pre-assigned breakout rooms in Zoom? Please look here for tips.

Zoom General Settings

  • Canvas integration. Scheduling and recording your Zoom sessions through the Canvas integration makes it easy for students to find class links, and automatically places recordings in the Class Recordings section of Canvas.
  • For an overview of available settings, please look here.
  • Video and audio from students, with the ability for each student to mute as needed. As the host, you can also mute student audio temporarily, if there are issues with background noise. If you prefer, you can manage participant settings to mute students automatically upon joining the meeting to minimize accidental disruptions; students will be able to unmute themselves later.
  • Screen sharing. Attendees can share slides, documents, images, etc. with the entire class. The host can also set participant settings to enable participant screen sharing, so students can share their work or resources with the class. Screen sharing controls can also be adjusted through in-meeting security settings.
  • Recording your class meetings. You can record your live session to your computer or to the cloud. When using the Canvas integration, any recordings of course Zoom sessions will automatically appear in the Course Recordings section of your Canvas site. Zoom is primarily a communications platform, not a place to permanently store recordings. Please look here for options for storing and sharing videos created with Zoom.
    • Recordings may be helpful for students who are unable to attend synchronous sessions,  but may make students reluctant to discuss ideas openly. If you hold discussions during synchronous meetings, consider other options for getting students caught up as well, such as make-up assignments.  You may also wish to record only part of a meeting, such as the introduction or summary. If you decide to record every session, you can set Zoom to record automatically.
  • Add co-hosts. The co-host setting (follow the "user" and "using co-host in a meeting" on this page) is a great option for TAs. Co-hosts can record sessions, mute other participants, and move between breakout rooms.
    • Co-hosts can only move between breakout rooms if they are assigned a breakout room at the start. Consider creating a special breakout room just for TAs; your TAs can then move from group to group, or return to the TA group to discuss and ask questions.
    • It can be difficult to communicate with others in a different room. COnsider a back-channel form of communication between you and the co-hosts, such as texting a chat platform such as Slack or Piazza.
  • Add a virtual background. A virtual background allows participants to replace what's going on in their actual background with an image or short video. This can be helpful for student privacy (and can also be an ice-breaker!) If you are open to virtual backgrounds, you may find it helpful to tell students that directly, and even add your own virtual background, so students realize it's OK in the class environment.
  • Security features. During a meeting, the host can control screen sharing, chat, and annotations. The host can also block participants and remove them from the meeting, or lock the meeting to prevent new participants from joining (co-hosts also have these abilities). Consider enabling the waiting room to help prevent non-students from joining the session.

Zoom Student Participation

  • Live chat. Students can respond to questions, ask questions, add ideas, or link or upload files, without needing to use their mic. The chat remains throughout the class, so student comments persist and can be referenced later.  The host can allow students to chat with entire class, only with the host (the instructor), or privately with other students as well. Chats can be saved as a text file as notes from the class discussion.
  • Student reactions and raised hands. Raised hands and reactions allow the host to quickly see student feedback at a glance.
    • Participants can briefly (5 seconds) show a "thumbs up" or "applause" reaction, which will appear on their video and next to their names in the participant list. These reactions can be useful for brief check-ins.
    • Students can select "raise hand" to ask a question or ask to speak. This feature makes it easy to see who would like to join a discussion, and can help with organizing conversation in the class. Raised hands will appear on the participant video and next to the name in the participant list; raised hands will also float to the top of the participant list.
    • For additional options, the host may enable "non-verbal feedback", such as simple yes or no responses.
    • As with all features, be clear on how you would like students to use these options in your class. Would you like students to select "raise hand" to join discussions? Do you want students to select a reaction when you ask a yes/no question?
  • Whiteboarding and annotation. Meeting attendees can share a whiteboard as their shared screen, for live annotation. Attendees can also annotate any shared screen, including but not limited to websites, documents, and images. Keep in mind that writing freehand in the virtual space can be very challenging without a tablet and/or stylus. For more whitboarding options, please click here.
  • Breakout rooms for small groups. To allow students to talk to each other in smaller groups or pairs, the host can create breakout rooms. This is a great option for encouraging all students to engage in the material during class. You can create breakout rooms randomly, or manually if you'd like to shape the group composition.
    • The general meetings space is called the main room; participants not assigned to a group will stay in the main room. The host will stay in the main room until they join aa breakout room.
    • Participants in groups can chat, share screens, and annotate as they would in the full meeting, but only the group participants can see their groups' materials.
    • The host can move between these breakout rooms to guide students and answer questions. Students can ask for help from the host, and the host can broadcast a brief message to all groups. The managing breakout rooms guide contains information on how to create, manage, and join breakout rooms.
    • Students must be using  a desktop or mobile app to join a breakout room; joining by browser only will not work. Students do not need a pro account; the free basic Zoom account will work fine.
    • If you are recording to your computer, the recording will only capture the room a host is currently in. If recording to the cloud, the recording will only capture the main room (none of the breakout rooms), even if the main room is empty.
    • The host can also pre-assign breakout rooms before the class session starts, but both you and your students should make sure you are using the email address associated with Penn's zoom account. Please check here for troubleshooting. Pre-assigning groups is especially helpful for large classes!
      • Polling. Polls are another way to gather student feedback and evaluate student understanding during class. Zoom polling is not as flexible and robust as a system like Poll Everywhere, but it does allow you to set up questions ahead of time and send questions to students.


      BlueJeans Options and Settings: Coming Soon