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This is an open lesson from the course Teach Your Course Online. Feel free to share this lesson.
[Video pre-roll] Of course, the moment something becomes super popular, it becomes a target.
And that’s what’s happened with Zoom. No doubt you’ve seen stories, in the news, of trolls jumping into Zoom meetings and doing inappropriate things (like showing your attendees porn or yelling profanities, defacing screen shares, and so on).
That doesn’t have to happen. If you have Zoom set up right, it’s actually next-to-impossible for that to occur. But some of Zoom’s default settings (most of them, actually) are set for convenience and trust (in a business setting), not set with safety in mind.
So, to keep you and your students safe, let’s make sure that we go through your settings on Zoom, and they’re all properly set.
Here’s a note about the Meeting option in Zoom, versus the Webinar option. It’s very likely that you are going to be holding meetings for your classes — not webinars — so the settings I’m going over in this lesson are for those meetings. Webinars are very different beasts — they’re already locked down — and likely not appropriate for sharing with participants on-screen (them sharing their screen, their sound) that you’ll want to do (in both directions) with your students. You’ll want to encourage that. So know that what I’m about to share with you is for Zoom Meeting settings only, not Zoom Webinars.
Another note: I’ll be showing you here how to set things across your Zoom account, so that the settings we choose will apply whenever you create a new meeting. Many of these settings will also appear in the meetings settings themselves (each meeting has their own set of settings), so you can adjust them if you happen to be holding something that isn’t a class.
And then one more note: if your particular class requires a function of Zoom that I’m going to advise you here to either enable or disable (like, say, disabling file transfer) — you might be teaching a writing class where you pair people up (your students) and they trade their documents back and forth for peer review (just as an example) — feel free to modify my suggestions to suit what your class needs. Just be aware of the potential for abuse.
So here we go.
[Screen share: Zoom] Log in to your account at Zoom.us, and then click on MY ACCOUNT, and it will drop you right into your settings. Look for the ADMIN section on the left side of your screen (it’s below the PERSONAL section), and then click on Account Management below that, and then on the Account Settings submenu. I’m only going to show you the settings (there’s a lot of them) that matter for meeting safety (and I will skip past the other 5000 settings).
There are actually six groups of settings, all on this one page:
We’re only going to need to deal with settings in the first three groups. When we first land on this page, we’re in the Schedule Meeting section.
First, you can set your video with the Host video option however you want. I leave mine off — so that I can turn it on when I choose, not when the meeting starts. But do make absolutely sure that the Participants video option is disabled. Set this way, when users join your meeting, they won’t have the ability to use video (at all, not just for showing porn) unless you specifically turn on their camera.
Then, we’ll scroll down to Join before host, and disable that. This is pretty important, as it will prevent any interaction among your attendees — at all — before you show up to begin the meeting. Early attendees will get a message telling them that “the host hasn’t started the meeting yet, stand by.” Again, this setting will be locked and will apply to all meetings you schedule.
Next, a good rule of thumb when teaching a class is to only allow the users you expect (students and maybe guests) to join your meeting. Scroll down to the Only authenticated users can join meetings setting, and enable that. This is a very powerful option for keeping out the trolls.
Enabling that option will make a new setting appear below it: Meeting Authentication Options. Here is where you’ll create an option for your classes. You can use the default option of requiring an attendee to simply be signed into Zoom, or you can go one step further. You can enter the domain of your school, if all your students are using Zoom accounts with school domain email addresses (say your students are like email@example.com). That way, no one without a school address — AND a Zoom account tied to that address — can attend class. Now this may not be the case at your school, but you likely already know if it is or not. Once you’ve gotten that option created (either one of those), click Save to make that a requirement. And, again, this won’t show up unless you’ve enabled that previous option.
For another layer of protection from outsiders, you can actually add a password that your students will be required to enter before they can join your meeting. To do that, you enable Require a password when scheduling new meetings, and your students will know via the emailed meeting invite what that meeting’s password will be. And yes, they can share that email — and that’s something that you’ll need to discourage, should it happen.
If you go with a password, disable Embed password in meeting link for one-click join. (Since) it’s convenient, but it’s really easy to share those meeting links (and that won’t keep a lot of trolls out).
Scrolling further down, enable Mute participants on entry. This is a big one. Enabling that allows you to take action, should a troll start spewing hate or want to disrupt your session. It’s also good social behavior — to train your students on — for an in-person meeting online in the future.
That’s it for the settings in the Schedule Meetings section. And now we move down into the In Meeting (Basic) section.
The Chat option should be enabled (so your students can chat), but Private chat — that option is a tough one. We want there to be conversation going on between students about classwork and the like, but the private chat can be a dangerous place (as bad links can be shared, without you seeing it). Doing the rest of what I’m sharing with you should make this something you can consider leaving on. But if it’s abused, then you want to disable Private chat.
Then, be sure to enable the Auto saving chats setting, so that you don’t have to remember to do that manually at the end of your class. The chat will be saved as a text file on your computer, automatically, by Zoom. And (as we discuss in another lesson) it can be a treasure trove of signals and teachable moments.
The next item, Play sound when participants join or leave, should be enabled (at least in the beginning). This will likely be more than just a cue, for you to determine who just joined or who just left (so that you can monitor for outsiders). It also becomes a best practice that your students will want to cut down on (because it can be annoying to hear that, and that becomes a deterrent for it).
Then we have another big one: disable File transfer. If this is left on, anyone can send anything to anyone else in the class (including spam, inappropriate content and malware). So don’t let that happen. Disable File transfer.
Next, if you have a teaching assistant or a student intern that you can trust (to kind of handle things, should you need to kick someone out of the meeting), you want to go ahead and enable Co-host. You can then appoint somebody, at the beginning of class, to be your Co-host.
A bit below that is the setting you’ll use to kick someone out. It’s labeled Allow host to put attendee on hold. That’s just a nice way of saying that you can use that to boot a troll from your class. Enable that.
Further down the page, you’ll find some very important items: settings to control screen sharing. This is where outsiders (if they’re not set properly) can come in and commandeer your attendees’ screens with whatever they want. The safest setting is disabling Screen sharing altogether — but that’s pretty hard to do, depending upon your course content. A safe approach to enabling Screen sharing is to only allow the host (you) to share your screen, by choosing Host only under Who can share?, and then enabling Disable desktop/screen share for users. It’s weird (you’re enabling a disablement, it’s kind of a positive negative), but that’s the safer setting.
If you’re concerned that someone might deface shared screens with Zoom’s annotation tools, disable Annotations.
And if you want to prevent two or more trolls from working as a team (from taking over your class), you can also disable Remote control.
And the last item in the In Meeting (basic) section is the biggest one of all. You want to be able to prevent people you do remove from the meeting, from getting back in. So… disable Allow removed participants to rejoin.
There are three settings that you want to look at in the In Meeting (advanced) group. The first is the Virtual background setting. You might want to disable that, because what that does is give users the ability to replace what’s behind them with any image whatsoever (and I mean ANY image… or video, or… whatever). So you might want to turn that off. The second is the setting called Identify guest participants in the meeting and webinar — this will add a little “guest” label to the name in the name list (in the attendee list of the participant) — in case they weren’t actually invited to your session. It helps you figure out who they are, so you’ll want to enable that. You won’t really have to worry about this if your students don’t share their links, so discourage them from sharing links…but just in case.
And the third item you’ll want to strongly consider is to enable Waiting room. The meeting’s waiting room is sort of a backstage area or green room, that all users will be placed in (rather than the meeting itself) before the meeting starts. They will see a notice that says Please wait, the meeting host will let you in soon. Not the best grammar, but it gets the point across. You have the option to put All attendees in the waiting room until you admit them, or just the Guest attendees. If you choose to make just the Guest attendees wait, then what Zoom calls “internal attendees,” which means users in your organization, will be put in the meeting automatically (not the waiting room). You can also enable those internal attendees to admit Guests into the meeting as well, even if you’re not there. And you also have the ability to customize the look and feel of the Waiting room notice that users see, changing the headline, the title of your session and even adding your logo. If you change this setting in any way, be sure to click the Save button to finalize your choice.
When you start the meeting, it’s easy to admit attendees to the meeting. Just click on Manage Participants on the bottom toolbar of your screen, admitting the ones who you recognize and leaving the ones that you don’t in the waiting room. You can admit participants one at a time, or you can admit everyone at once.
Hey, you want some good news? There’s absolutely nothing to set in the last three sections, Invitation Email Branding, Email Notification and Admin Options.
Now that you have things set, you want to familiarize yourself with how to remove someone from a session, how to appoint a co-host and so on. The biggest ones are muting attendees who are disruptive, and removing attendees from the session. All of these things are accomplished with a little submenu that shows up when you right-click on the attendee’s name in the attendee list, and choosing whatever you want (appoint as Co-host, Mute or Remove, etc.). If you do remove someone — and you’ve set the options the way I’ve listed them here — they won’t be able to get back in to your session.
You might want to even consider holding a mock session with a few student volunteers, to help you familiarize yourself with the procedures (having one be a troll and one being your helper).
I know this all might sound a bit heavy-handed and very detailed — to do all these things to keep your class safe. This is a great example of the age-old competition between security and convenience. It’s not convenient or easy to do all this work. Nor is it convenient or easy for your students to remember to do things, like put passwords in, just to join a meeting. But if you want things to be as safe as possible, these are the best practices for your Zoom sessions.
I hope that all helps, and I will see you in the next lesson.
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