5 Features We Hope Zoom Adds Soon

Zoom has quickly become the go-to video conferencing software for online learning. But it is far from perfect, and some much-needed features would make the online learning experience a much more satisfying experience, for students and educators alike. Here is our wish list for features we would love Zoom to have.

Zoom, if you are listening…

Integration with Power Point

It is surprising that Zoom lacks the ability to directly present PowerPoint presentations. Yes, you can share presentations by sharing your screen but the transition to sharing the presentation is never seamless, and the shared material ends up getting the focus over the presenter. Similarly, while using Prezi is one approach to give the presenter the focus, by overlaying the presentation over your webcam, the experience is hardly seamless: you must juggle both Zoom and Prezi, and students must change their view accordingly to avoid the presentation being too small to read in gallery view.

What we are really hoping for is that Zoom incorporates the ability to directly present from within Zoom. A mode where you need not leave Zoom to advance between slides, with an easy option to close and resume the presentation. We’d hope that this direct integration would also lead to a “presenter/presentation view” – a much more natural and engaging experience for participants to see both the presenter, the presentation, and potentially other participants in smaller windows at the same time. 

Scrolling View Across Participants

One of the limitations when presenting to a large class on Zoom is the number of participants that are simultaneously displayed on the screen at the same time. While it is possible to increase the maximum number of participants displayed in gallery view from the default of 25 to 49, this is still not enough for particularly large classes. It can be difficult when presenting to see another page of participants.

Not being able to see all students on screen at the same time is a particularly poor experience in a class – some students get disproportionate attention, with a danger that some students feel forgotten about. While the ‘hand-raising tool‘ can be useful in such situations, numbing students who raise their blue hand to the first page, it is still a less-than-optimal experience. 

What would be a great setup would be a scrolling pan of participants,

Greater Customization on Viewing Layouts

It is fair to say, the view options in Zoom are relatively limited – either participants can select the current speaker, or they can view all participants in the gallery view. We wish that there was some in-between: a way for the host to select several individuals as prominent participants, and for these individuals to be given the focus.

Let’s take group presentations, it would be great if in addition to being able to display the PowerPoint prominently (as described above), that several individuals could be shown as speakers at the same time (and potentially everyone else in the room with smaller webcam images).

Ability to display 'answers' under individual webcams

One of the best features that Zoom has, and arguably the reason it has become the standard in the education setting, is the ability to have breakout rooms. These are a great way of bringing some engagement to the class. However, beyond these, options for having interaction within a class are limited: yes, there is the ability to use polls, the whiteboard, and chat, but the application of these is still limited. 

We’d love it if there was a way to have the option for users to type an ‘answer’ and have it displayed under their webcam image: like polls, but visible to everyone, and with the ability to type a word or two. While encouraging discussion is great, having ways of getting all students involved at the same time would help keep everyone involved in the class. 

Return of high resolution video experience

Another change that would make the whole video experience more immersive is for Zoom to increase the quality of videos. While it is possible to opt-in to high-quality videos (increasing the resolution from 640 x 360 to 1280 x 720), this setting currently only applies to one-to-one calls (a decision Zoom made to reduce bandwidth requirements as they scaled).

While it is easy to understand the decision of Zoom to reduce the resolution with unprecedented demand on their services, and not all users may have sufficient internet speed to support high resolution, it would be great to see a return of HD video calling for those users who are able to support it. Ultimately, the experience of teaching online is much more life-like when individuals can be clearly seen in high resolution. 

Summary

2020 has clearly been the year of Zoom – its usage has skyrocketed. However, despite (or maybe because of) the rapid increase in usage, the features of Zoom have not significantly changed over the past year. With both Google Meet and Microsoft Teams quickly catch up with many of the features that initially made Zoom potentially best choice for one teaching (especially breakout rooms and the ability to see many participants at the same time), hopefully 2021 will be the year we see some substantial feature improvements to Zoom. 

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