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Zoom releases a range of new features requested by educators

By Ryan Morris-Reade
Thu 14 Apr 2022

Zoom responds to educator requests with a debut of virtual background support for Chromebooks, video messages in Zoom Chat, Breakout Rooms enhancements, and Anywhere Polls.

At the CoSN 2022 national conference, Zoom announced a range of new features for education in response to requests from teachers and administrators. The features span Zoom's Chat and Meetings offerings and are designed to support teachers in engaging and managing students who join class remotely or submit homework assignments.

Virtual Background & Blur for Chromebooks

As Chromebooks are a popular choice for students and teachers. Virtual background and blur are now available for Zoom for Chrome Progressive Web Application (PWA) users. Zoom says it developed this capability after requests from various education customers, including Clayton County Public Schools, one of the 100 largest school districts in the United States.

"Virtual background and blur for Chromebooks are extremely beneficial to our students and teachers," says Clayton County Public Schools chief technology officer, Rod Smith.

"Many students were reluctant to turn their cameras on before this feature enhancement."

Breakout Rooms enhancements

Breakout Rooms, an education feature, also received enhancements in this latest release. Program Audio allows meeting hosts to share content with audio to Breakout Rooms, adding the ability to share videos with audio. With the LTI Pro integration enhancement, educators can populate Breakout Rooms from the course roster. 

This can be used to assign Breakout Rooms in advance, then automatically sort students into Breakout Rooms.

Additional features for Chat and Waiting Room

Some other new features include sending audio and video messages into Zoom Chat and the ability to rename participants in the Waiting Room. Asynchronous video allows users the time to consider their responses and then record as needed to provide crafted answers. 

Users can click Video at the bottom of the chat client and record up to a three-minute video message that goes directly into the out-of-meeting chat channel. Zoom says this is useful for situations such as students submitting brief video assignments. Or renaming participants before they join the meeting can be helpful in taking attendance where students may be using shared devices, creating an anonymous student group, or affirming gender identity.

Anywhere Polls

Anywhere Polls will allow polling content to live in a central repository that can be accessed from any meeting on an account, instead of being associated with a particular meeting. This will make it easier for instructors to reuse polls and be beneficial for grading. This feature will be available soon.

"We're looking forward to the Anywhere Polls feature," says HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College president and CEO, John J. "Ski" Sygielski, Ed. D.

"The polling enhancements will make it easier for large groups of students to provide feedback across the College. It will be easier than ever for instructors to replicate content for each course."

Johann Zimmern, global education strategy lead at Zoom, says, "Delivering happiness to our customers is the core of what we do at Zoom. We work closely with our global K-12 and higher education customers, taking their requests into account and involving them in feature development. As a direct result of this, Zoom developed these exciting new features for education."

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