How Appropriate is Zoom for Online Learning?

How Appropriate is Zoom for Online Learning?

Zoom has grown exponentially since December 2019 when the outbreak of Covid-19 prompted businesses and schools to switch to work-from-home or remote learning. In April 2020, Zoom announced that it had over 200 million daily active users, a 2000% increase from 10 million daily users during pre-pandemic days. Now, Zoom has entered the lexicon of netizens with some referring to ‘Zoom’ as a verb or labelling Gen Z youths as ‘zoomers’ (the equivalent of ‘boomers’).

As a video conferencing platform, Zoom serves an array of purposes from cabinet meetings to webinars to online lessons. With users turning to Zoom for such a broad range of activities, it is important to consider the pros and cons of using Zoom for teaching. How appropriate is Zoom as a vehicle for online learning?

The following is what we will be covering in this article:

  1. Advantages of Zoom for online learning
  2. Disadvantages of Zoom for online learning
  3. HeyHi’s online whiteboard as an alternative to Zoom for educators

Advantages of Zoom for online learning

1. Annotate on screen share

As educators, you may require your students to present their work to the rest of the class for a live review. On Zoom, the most common method to do so is through screen sharing. 

On other video conferencing platforms, students send a PDF or image of the worked solutions to the teacher. The teacher then screen shares that piece of work and annotates it in an online lesson. This process can be tedious and may result in time wasted fumbling around with the technical controls. 

Fortunately, Zoom enables educators to directly annotate on students’ screen share. This feature is convenient as teachers can interject and begin marking up the screen in response to the work that students share. 

User annotating on Zoom's screen share for online learning
User annotating on Zoom’s screen share using a tablet. Photo by Zoom.

2. Easy for participants to join: no password required 

When scheduling Zoom sessions, teachers will typically send the link to a scheduled Zoom session to students. Students can then easily join the Zoom lesson without signing in with a registered Zoom account. 

If teachers wish to speed up the administrative process for students to participate in the online lesson, they can also opt to disable password protection. This function is useful when managing a meeting that comprises over a hundred participants.

3. Collaborative whiteboard

Zoom also has a whiteboard function that educators can activate for an online lesson. The whiteboard on zoom offers users the basic options of a pen tool or a text box. However, Zoom’s whiteboard lacks a highlighter tool, a function that some may view as essential for reviewing and annotating students’ work. 

Zoom’s online whiteboard is collaborative and it enables students to collectively brainstorm ideas or create a mind map summarising their learning outcomes.

Zoom's whiteboard demonstration for online learning
Demonstration of Zoom’s online whiteboard. Gif created by the writer with imgPlay. 

4. Gallery view is more conducive for large group meetings

An iconic feature of Zoom is its gallery view. Most video conferencing platforms feature calls where the active speaker (i.e. the person who is speaking) is broadcast to everyone’s screen. However, Zoom enables the user to toggle between the active speaker and gallery view. 

By giving users the choice to view all the participants in the call, the gallery view is more intimate and thus better resembles physical meetings.

Zoom's gallery view
Gallery view on Zoom. Photo by Zoom.

Disadvantages of Zoom for online learning

1. Security concerns if the host does not enable password

Since hosts can toggle on and off the password function for Zoom calls, participants of a non-password protected Zoom call are at risk of ‘Zoombombing’. Zoombombers are people who enter Zoom calls uninvited. 

Without enabling the password feature, a link is all that participants need to join Zoom conferences. Considering how Zoom’s links are generated in the form of with nine digits at the back, it is relatively easy for internet trolls to chance upon an online class. 

For instance, the Singaporean government ceased the use of Zoom for online lessons after zoombombers entered the online Zoom class of 13-year-old students and began sharing lewd content. 

With this flexibility in security features, parents may not feel at ease with their children using Zoom for online lessons. Even if teachers are required to set a password for every Zoom lesson, the freedom to toggle it on and off may still result in instances where teachers slip up on enabling password access.

2. Non-expandable whiteboard

Previously, we discussed how Zoom offers teachers the ability to mark up the screens of students. However, this system also poses a problem when teachers run out of space to annotate. 

If the student scrolls away from the screen’s original position, the markings on the screen do not move along with the content that is shared. Therefore, annotations have to be erased before the lesson continues. 

When teachers run out of whiteboard space, everything that has been written on the screen will also have to be erased. Teachers cannot shift to a different section of the whiteboard or create a second whiteboard to continue writing. 

HeyHi’s online whiteboard as an alternative to zoom for educators

Zoom is an excellent video conferencing platform that caters to general purposes. However, the broad use of Zoom may not be the most conducive to students’ learning needs. Here, it is our pleasure to introduce you to HeyHi’s online whiteboard, a platform that has been designed specifically with educators and students in mind. 

Similar to Zoom, HeyHi has video conferencing functions as well. What sets HeyHi apart is its interface. When students enter an online lesson on HeyHi, they immediately see a gridded whiteboard that occupies much of the screen. The video images of their teachers and classmates are positioned on the right margin of the screen. 

This deliberate placement ensures that the video images of participants are less conspicuous as opposed to Zoom’s active speaker and gallery view. With this design, students are likely to be more focused on the concepts that are illustrated on the online whiteboard, not the faces of their classmates and teachers.

HeyHi’s online whiteboard. Photo by HeyHi.

As mentioned earlier, a major plus point for Zoom is that users can annotate on the screen share of other participants. However, these annotations do not move as the screen changes and will have to be erased as the class moves along. 

HeyHi solves this problem with an expandable whiteboard. Instead of sharing their screens, students can upload PDFs or images of their work to the online whiteboard. Teachers can then annotate on these static images. When teachers run out of whiteboard space, they can shift to another section of the board with the swipe of a finger. 

Students will no longer have to rush to copy notes as the teacher annotates on the online whiteboard. Instead, students can devote their attention to learning since the whiteboard can be downloaded by students for review at the end of the lesson. 

HeyHi's Online Whiteboard. Online learning: user shifts to a different section to continue writing
User shifts to another section of HeyHi’s online whiteboard to continue writing. Gif created by the writer on imgPlay.

On HeyHi, the system allocates meeting IDs and access codes that cannot be disabled by the host. The system also regularly prompts hosts not to reuse their existing sessions. While it may be a hassle for some, remember that HeyHi was designed with educators in mind. These features are additional layers of protection for students to learn in a safe and secure online environment.


This article has listed some of the advantages and disadvantages of using Zoom for online lessons:

Advantages of Zoom

  • Annotate on screen share
  • Easy for participants to join
  • Collaborative whiteboard
  • Gallery view is more conducive for large group meetings 

Disadvantages of Zoom

  • Security concern if teachers do not password-protect their online lessons
  • Non-expandable whiteboard

Zoom is a powerful tool for hosting video conferences with large groups of people. Zoom’s popularity attests to its functionality for remote work. However, we believe that a video conferencing platform with an educational slant is more ideal for online lessons. 

With an expandable whiteboard and mandatory security features inbuilt, HeyHi’s online whiteboard is better suited to fulfil your teaching needs. If you are interested in giving HeyHi’s online whiteboard a try for your next online lesson, you are more than welcome to request a demo or even experience the user interface for yourself!

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