Zooming to New Heights of Student Engagement

A colorful welcome sign.

I was a college student during the Stone Age of online education…you remember it, right? The age of mile-long content pages where, if you were lucky your professor would include a link back to the top at the half-mile marker on the page! Well, online education has changed a lot since then and there are now more ways to improve our students’ experiences.  For California Community College (CCC) faculty, one way is to  “zoom” to new heights by using ConferZoom in Canvas.

ConferZoom is the CCC-branded version of Zoom, an easy-to-use video conferencing tool that is provided at no cost to CCC educators by CCCTechConnect. Using ConferZoom changed the dynamic of my online Nutrition & Health courses by providing a way for my students to interact more organically with me and each other.  We know that retention rates increase when students feel connected to their professor and/or classmates.  Zoom provides a way for this connection to occur. Since I started using ConferZoom, I have observed increased student-student and student-instructor interactions, which are key to supporting students to  complete the course successfully.

What do I do?

klatch: a social gathering, especially for coffee and conversation

At the start of the course, I have an orientation or klatch meeting, a term I adopted from my favorite online CVC-OEI/@ONE instructor, Greg Beyrer.

In my welcome letter I invite students to my klatch online Zoom meeting and provide three meeting times from which they choose one to attend: one meeting time during the weekend prior to the first day of class and two meeting times on the first day of classes. What I have found is that some students will attend more than one of the meetings. The icing on the cake is that the klatch fulfills Section B: Interaction – Instructor Contact and Student-to-Student Contact of the CVC-OEI Course Design Rubric.

Want to give it a try?

Follow these steps:

  1. Send out your welcome letter before your class begins.
  2. Include the dates and times of the orientation meetings. It is important to let students know attending one session is mandatory and they will get credit. (My orientation is worth 20 points, more than any other week one assignment.)
  3. In your message, encourage students to join from a computer with a webcam or a mobile device so you can see and hear one another. If you are aware that a student requires live captioning as an accommodation, contact ConferZoom support in advance of your meeting.
  4. When orientation day arrives, have your klatch meeting from a computer with a webcam.
  5. Launch Zoom and share your desktop.
  6. Meet and greet your students in real time!
  7. Take your students step-by-step through the basics of your course’s navigation.

You have now demonstrated to your students how useful klatch meetings will be going forward. In a coming blog post I will share how I use the recording feature to Zoom it up a notch!

Laying out the welcome mat

UsingConferZoom for my course orientation not only sets the table for my students to get a taste of what’s to come, but it also allows me to more easily create learner-centered content throughout the term, as students can ask questions and let me know what they’d like to learn about. Their input helps me guide the klatch in the direction the students deem necessary, as opposed to being completely instructor led. I also fulfill regular and effective contact in a more substantive way.

Since personal bonds are developed through shared experiences, we can easily see the significance of bringing students together live as they are entering your virtual classroom. Ensuring the session is meaningful and provides opportunities for social connections is essential. I want my students to know that I am here and available to them, both now and going forward. I also want my students to know that we are on this virtual nutrition or health “journey” together.

ConferZoom empowers me to take the anxious feelings that online students have at the start of a course and turn them into a promise of a shared learning experience. Through this experience, students are more likely to relate to me as their guide, mentor, and comforter. They also relate on a personal level with their peers. Thanks to ConferZoom, we have faces and personalities for the names we see on the screen and our shared journey toward a healthier life.

Posted in Articles, Course Design Showcase, humanizing, Rubric Section B.

Nicholle is a Nutrition & Community Health online Instructor for College of the Desert. She has completed the @ONE Introduction to Teaching with Canvas course, is a Certified Online Instructor at her college, and is an @ONE-trained Peer Online Course Reviewer.


  1. Seems like an excellent start to a class. One idea would be to have 2 students interview each other to find out basic information, then report this back to a group.

  2. Yes I have found it a very good way to start a class. It is also a great way to alleviate the first week jitters students have. But your interview idea is intriguing. How would it work? Would the students interview during the orientation? Or before? If before how would the students be expected to make contact?

  3. This sounds like a great idea. I teach an analogue class with labs. If I get to teach my class again, it will be great to integrate & edit my usual student filled questionnaire. Then have 2 or 3 students use it as an outline for some meet and greet via zoom and give them credit for it even before class begins.

  4. I really enjoyed reading about this activity because as someone who is new to online instruction, I know that this is something that I am capable of doing. I love that Nicholle gives her students different meeting times to the students. Best of all is that because one session is mandatory, and students will receive 20 points, which are more than any other week one assignment, they will be motivated to attend and be generously rewarded. This kind of pre-course interaction will help students bond with each other and their instructor and reduce their anxiety level about the class.

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