Because of the coronavirus pandemic, several businesses are operating and communicating via video conferencing. The educational sphere is no different, and the app Zoom has quickly become the face of virtual schooling. Although this app receives praise for bringing education to the students during a global pandemic, it has several disadvantages for primary grade teachers.
The disadvantage of using Zoom for teaching primary grades is that it isn’t designed for schools. There are issues using slides during breakout sessions, security issues make it susceptible to hacking, and the video quality (and connection) are unpredictable. Google Meet is a better alternative.
This article will cover all the disadvantages of using Zoom for teaching primary grades. At the end of the article, we’ll provide you with some Zoom alternatives that are better suited for virtual teaching and learning.
1) You Can’t Create a Typical Classroom Environment
One of the major disadvantages of using Zoom to teach primary grade pupils is that you can’t really achieve that classroom feeling. Although the software has several features that almost replicate a face-to-face classroom interaction, it lacks essential tools that help you build the ideal classroom environment.
Like in a classroom, you can hear your pupils’ voices and see their faces via zoom. You can see their gestures and even communicate with them via live chat. But if you want something more interactive and conversational, zoom teaching is not the answer.
The software doesn’t offer the level of connection and engagement you would get from apps designed to support online teaching and training workflows. Without a doubt, it is an incredible tool for businesses. However, it is more unidirectional and speaker-centric. You can’t use it to create that democratic, non-authoritarian environment you want in a classroom.
One software that’s more suited for teaching in the classroom is Blackboard Collaborate. It offers several compelling features that can make you feel like you’re physically present with your students, including breakout rooms, whiteboard/annotations, polling, and a hand-raising option where students can signal when they have a question.
Although Zoom also has similar features, they are not incorporated with the student and teacher in mind. For example, Zoom’s whiteboard is not expandable, affecting both the teacher’s and student’s experience. In contrast, Blackboard Collaborate has a layout auto-adjust feature that makes adding and editing content more manageable.
Blackboard also integrates well with other learning management solutions such as Moodle, Sakai, Desire2Learn, and Pearson Learning Studio to make teaching more immersive and engaging.
2) It Is Quite Heavy on CPU Usage
Regardless of whether you’re on Mac or Windows, Zoom puts a lot of strain on your system resources. It uses a very high percentage of CPU to handle your video and audio processes. Some users have also reported that it consumes a large portion of their Random-Access Memory (RAM) so much that their computer heats up to extreme levels.
Zoom also uses a high percentage of CPU even when it is not running. Entry-level and low-graphics computers will take a bigger hit because they typically have a low graphics card, a small Ram range, and a slower CPU. Other video conferencing tools are not as resource-heavy as Zoom.
This heavy CPU operation makes it unsuitable considering that you’ll be teaching several students, and your computer will be running multiple videos feeds at the same time. Many times, you’ll have a computer that runs very hot, system slowing down or becoming unresponsive, or intolerable audio and video quality.
3) The Mobile App Is Not As Good as the Desktop Version
Although there are some similarities between the two, Zoom’s software version has some features absent in the mobile version. In the desktop app, you get access to the complete range of host controls more than the mobile app.
For example, you can only use the “breakout rooms” feature on the desktop app (Windows and Mac OS). Because not everyone has access to a laptop, this is a significant disadvantage of Zoom. Even if you have your own laptop, you can’t teach effectively from the mobile app if you’re out of your house.
Without features like starting breakout rooms, creating and editing polls, full control of participants, pausing a shared screen, and editing sent messages on the mobile app, teaching with your smartphone can be uncomfortable and less effective.
4) You Don’t Have Access to Slides in Breakout Sessions
Every teacher knows that to facilitate an interactive and collaborative learning environment for your students, you need to encourage group activities. These projects can include non-competitive and team-building games to help your students listen better, work together, think creatively, and communicate more effectively.
Fair enough, Zoom has a feature that allows you to replicate small group activities and discussions. The “breakout rooms” feature lets you split the meeting into separate sessions and assign each pupil to the rooms. You, as the host, can switch between rooms anytime to engage with the groups. At the end of the group discussions, you can then bring the whole class together again.
While this feature is excellent, many people report not having access to their slides in the breakout rooms unless they preload them. As a result, they have to create a Google slide and give their students its link. Some teachers have also had issues moving students to preloaded breakout rooms.
5) Customer Support Is Almost Non-Existent
Many users have reported that Zoom is lacking in the customer service area. Their automatic answers aren’t in any way helpful, and when you attempt to call in, you’re placed on-hold and eventually answered by their answering service.
Some users also mention sending several unanswered emails. Others complain that sometimes the representatives may take up to 2 to 3 days to respond to a ticket. When they do respond, their solution is usually generic rather than targeting the user’s specific problem.
For anyone who isn’t used to how the software works, poor customer support means you’ll have to figure out whatever problem you encounter with little or no help from the company.
6) The Initial Setup Can Be Overwhelming
If you’re not tech-savvy, you may find yourself fumbling around with Zoom and trying to figure out how it works. Your students don’t need to create accounts when joining your class. However, as the instructor, you need to create an account, install the software, and set up your camera and microphone. As a result, it may take a bit of learning to understand how it works.
7) Connectivity Issues With Low-Speed Internet
There’s nothing more frustrating than being unable to connect with your students because of an unstable connection (on either end). Many users have reported that regardless of the app they use, whether desktop or mobile, Zoom always lags, disconnects, or buffers if the network connection is weak.
For Zoom to work smoothly and use all the features, you need at least 3 Mbps internet speed (upload and download speed). Also, Zoom meetings consume a relatively large amount of data. For example, a high-quality 1:1 video call consumes about 540 MB to 1.62 GB per hour. For a larger meeting like a class, you can expect to use more data. A group video call will use anywhere between 675 MB and 2.4 GB per hour.
The disadvantage here is that not everyone has access to a stable or high-speed internet connection at home, so they have to experience distorted calls. Sometimes, you’ll have to move around a lot until you get better network coverage. Even when you have public Wi-Fi available, the connection slows down if many people use it simultaneously.
Another disadvantage of this is that each class has an allocated time limit. So, if there are network issues in-between, you won’t be able to cover the topic or syllabus as much as you want.
8) The Subscriptions and Add-Ons Are Too Pricey
Zoom has a free basic plan that allows an unlimited number of meetings. However, group sessions are limited to only 40 minutes, and you can’t record the meetings. While most of its services are reasonably priced, you may still need to subscribe for another service or use an add-on before you can use it for a large classroom.
These add-ons and extra subscriptions make it a bit more expensive compared to its alternatives. The time-constraint, which automatically shuts down the class after 40 minutes, can limit how much you want to engage your students. So, unless you’re only teaching a small group of students for a few minutes, Zoom may not be suitable for your classroom.
9) Zoom Has Too Many Security Issues
One of the most common problems reported by users is Zoombombing. Zoombombing is when an unwanted or uninvited user gets access to a Zoom meeting and interrupts it. Cybercriminals mainly use it to perform malicious activities on the host of the meeting, like stealing personal information or Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks.
As mentioned earlier in the article, your students don’t need to create accounts to use Zoom. All you need to do is schedule the meeting, send the link to them, and they can join the class without creating an account.
Every Zoom meeting uses a unique ID number around 9 to 11 digits, which is how your students gain access to your class. However, this unique ID is not so “unique” as hackers and pranksters can easily guess it. Besides being very annoying for a stranger to join a class of six-year-olds, it can also compromise your data.
This security issue is probably the most significant disadvantage of Zoom for teaching. In fact, the app has been discontinued in some schools in the U.S. because of this issue alone. Some countries and organizations have also banned Zoom because of its security vulnerability. And since Zoom meetings are not end-to-end encrypted, they can easily be decrypted by a third-party service.
A situation where a class is hacked into by scammers can be nerve-wracking for any teacher—not forgetting that you have a family living with you too, which makes it a bit difficult if you’re teaching from home.
10) The Audio and Video Quality Could Be Better
Although Zoom’s video and audio quality isn’t terrible, it still leaves a lot to be desired. Sometimes, the video quality is unpredictable, and you don’t know whether it will be blurry or out-of-sync.
You may experience voice lags during a zoom class. The mobile version is mainly known for its poor audio quality. Poor video quality can also make you want to turn off the video and use only the audio. However, this creates a bit of a disconnection between you and your students when you can’t see their faces.
11) Poor Whiteboard Functionality for Teaching Primary Grades
Zoom comes with a whiteboard feature that can be useful for teaching primary grade students. It helps to replicate a physical whiteboard somehow, as you can directly write on the screen (like you would a marker on the board). This feature is particularly great if you want to illustrate critical points in the class or utilize board work in your teaching.
However, it is more of a text box and a pen tool than an actual whiteboard. The virtual whiteboard is not expandable, so you have to erase everything on the screen whenever you run out of available space. You can’t move to a different section on the screen or create another whiteboard to continue the lesson.
The whiteboard’s limited nature will also affect the student’s learning experience as they cannot shift away from the screen’s initial position. If they do, the annotations on the screen won’t move along with the shared content.
Zoom Is More Suited for Virtual Meetings
Zoom is primarily built for virtual meetings and events. It offers a wide range of services and functions that allow businesses to communicate and work remotely. These features include live chats, video & audio conferencing, webinars, collaborations, meeting analytics, screen sharing, and events recording.
While these features are great, they don’t exactly cater to teachers’ and students’ needs in virtual learning. It is missing several tools that facilitate classroom interaction and management.
Although Zoom is a great app, many of its features are designed for businesses to operate and communicate. And while some of its features like breakout rooms and whiteboards are good for teaching primary grades, it may be better to combine Zoom with physical classrooms or other apps.
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- HeyHi: How Appropriate is Zoom for Online Learning?
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- Top Hat: Zooming In and Zoning Out: Combat Zoom Fatigue in Education
- Teach Thought: 20 Alternatives To Zoom For Online Teaching And Remote Learning