Zoom has rapidly become a critical technology for the HGSE community in our shift to support fully-remote operations. It’s a great solution for web conferencing and virtual meetings with rich feature sets and advanced capabilities. As our comfort levels continue to increase and Zoom becomes even more integrated with our virtual learning activities and remote work, it’s important to consider the quality, security, and capabilities of our Zoom meetings and webinars. We’ve compiled a list of essential Zoom facts and resources you may find valuable, as well as an overview of simple features to ensure your audience and content is protected.
- Where’s My Account? Zoom accounts are automatically provisioned/created the first time you use your HarvardKey to sign in to the Harvard Zoom (https://harvard.zoom.us) video conferencing site. The only requirement is for you to have an active affiliation as faculty, staff, or a student. It’s magic—the auto-provisioning of accounts is essentially instantaneous, so get started by signing in to create your account (step-by-step instructions here). Moving forward, be aware that if you are using your @gse.harvard.edu email to sign in to Zoom with a password that ultimately does not prompt your for HarvardKey authentication (e.g., signing in to https://zoom.us instead of https://harvard.zoom.us or Canvas), your account is not authenticated to the Harvard Zoom offering (i.e., you will not be protected by Harvard’s default security configurations and may have trouble joining certain restricted meetings).
- Web, Desktop, or Mobile? Zoom offers you three convenient ways to connect, and each have their benefits. While the web client (i.e., running Zoom through your web browser) allows joining a Zoom meeting or webinar without downloading any plugins or software, the Zoom desktop client is automatically installed and kept up-to-date on all HGSE-issued computers; if you are using the desktop client on a personal system, you can update at any time by clicking on your profile picture and selecting “Check for Updates”. While the desktop version is a bit more robust (i.e., extended feature sets) and is generally preferred over the web client or mobile app (iOS and Android), all access methods are great options to have if you need some flexibility.
- Look & Sound Your Best. As a general rule, you’re encouraged to use internet audio (i.e., calling in using your phone is discouraged), and a dedicated microphone or headset may provide a better experience for participants rather than using the integrated/built-in microphones and speakers in your laptop. It’s also considered best practice to turn on your video (if available), and generally, the video quality using the built-in webcam of your device is more than acceptable (see Harvard University IT’s additional tips to Look Your Best on Video Calls). In situations where someone may need to connect to a meeting using their mobile phone, the Zoom app for iOS and Android is excellent. In most cases, the cellular data network will deliver better audio and video quality than a cellular voice connection.
- Test, Test, Test! Practice, Practice, Practice! Testing your Zoom “readiness” is super easy. Zoom provides a test site to ensure your speakers, microphone, and video camera (if available) are working correctly. So take some time to practice with Zoom and have a little fun! With the exception of some international call-in numbers, Zoom is free for you to use, so practice with the tool in low pressure/casual situations to increase your comfort level and try out new features.
- Manage Your Profile. Your Harvard Zoom account has additional options to “enrich” your profile. Some available options include adding a picture (presented when your video is turned off or unavailable) and changing your name from your HGSE 3+3 (e.g., jjh123) to John Harvard. Just click on your profile picture, go to “Settings”, and click “Edit My Profile”. You can also add one of these HGSE virtual backgrounds by first downloading the image(s) you want. Then, while you are in a meeting, click the up arrow (^) next to the camera in the bottom left. Select “Choose a virtual background” and upload a photo of your choice.
- Create for More Control. Participants will have the best experience, and you will have the most control over the meeting’s audio, visual, and security settings, if you create your own Zoom meetings. You also have the ability to create up to five concurrent meetings in the same Zoom account and designate alternate hosts.
- Meeting Sizes. All HGSE users have the ability to create a meeting with up to 300 participants. If you have a need for more attendees, please contact GSE-IT One Stop in order to have a larger meeting created on your behalf on a case-by-case basis.
- Security. Zoom has an incredibly robust set of security options that allow users a great amount of control over their class or meeting. Harvard has enabled two of these important security features in the Harvard Zoom offering by default to minimize the risk of unwelcome intrusions (e.g., “Zoombombings”): required meeting passwords and disabling screen sharing (permission is set to host-only by default). As a host or co-host, you are also strongly encouraged to enable Zoom’s enhanced privacy features to add an additional layer of security, including adding a waiting room for guests (i.e., anyone not signed in to Harvard Zoom using HarvardKey), muting participants on entry, and locking your meeting to prevent uninvited users from getting in. To learn more about these options and detailed instructions for how to enable them, see Harvard’s Zoom Security and Privacy resource page.
- Recordings. Zoom recordings should be stored “in the cloud” and not on your local computer. This is a recommendation to prevent recordings from being lost as well as to best secure the video within the privacy of the Harvard Zoom cloud. You can certainly keep a recording local to your computer, if you prefer. Please note that if you are recording a meeting, the activity in breakout rooms will not be recorded under one common recording—you’ll need to ask a member of the breakout room to create a local recording to be shared after the meeting, as necessary. For more information on how Zoom recordings work and steps you should (or are required to) take depending on your use case (i.e., meetings v. student classes), please review Harvard’s Rules and Best Practices for the Recording of Classroom Sessions and Meetings Conducted via Zoom.
- Get Help. Zoom Customer Support is excellent. Their customer support center is available 24x7 and they maintain a wealth of excellent resources to guide you through almost any scenario. While HGSE has dozens of staff (IT, PPE, TLL, library, and others) who are willing to assist, please note that many of us may not have used every available feature set.
- Teaching & Learning with Zoom. Harvard University IT has compiled additional resources and step-by-step quick start guides for Teaching with Zoom in Canvas, as well as Learning Remotely for Students with Zoom.
- Training and More! For more information on the topics outlined here, steps for troubleshooting issues, and in-depth Zoom training depending on your role at Harvard, be sure to check out Harvard University IT’s site on Using Zoom at Harvard.