Greg Walsh


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Zoom isn't an Educational Tool

Thursday February 18, 2021

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minutes


I read this article today and can't help but agree with the premise. However, educators' frustration with Zoom and Google Meet aren't because of any technological failings on the part of those companies, instead the problem is the design of those technologies.

When I first started teaching online in 2005 at UMBC's ISD program, we used a education-focused tool called LiveClassroom within Blackboard. It ran in Java and was visulally lacking but it worked well enough to teach our classes. It had nice break out rooms and students could interact with non-verbal feedback tools. Unfortunately, Blackboard cancelled that tool after aquiring it.

Cut to 2012 when I moved to UB's design programs, we used WebEx which is very much not an educational tool. It's just a meeting tool with minimal feedback tools necessary for the facilitating the inherent power dynamics in a classroom and did not have breakout rooms to facilitate the small-group learning necessary for design work.

We eventually went to Zoom and I've been happy enough with it. But, it's not a learning tool and I've had to do a lot of work to integrate into my co-synchronous classes.

The new wave of startups are slicing and dicing the same market of students and teachers who are fatigued by Zoom University, which — at best — often looks like a gallery view with a chat bar. Four of the companies that are gaining traction include Class, Engageli, Top Hat and InSpace. It signals a shift from startups playing in the supplemental education space and searching to win a spot in the largest chunk of a students day: the classroom.

I'm excited to see how these tools work out (especially Class).

Tired of Zoom University? So is edtech – TechCrunch