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Using Zoom as a Virtual Classroom Tool

At the beginning of the COVID 19 emergency, the University procured Zoom Pro licences for all academic and professional staff in UCD. The tool was initially to be used for online meetings, with Collaborate Ultra being the recommended tool for online classes.

In August 2020 (as part of the UMT response to the recommendations from the Final Report Working Group on Prioritised Resourcing to Support Teaching, Learning and Assessment in the Autumn Trimester) the UMT stated that Zoom can be used as a virtual classroom tool but the University approved tool is still Collaborate Ultra.

For information on accessing your UCD Zoom account, as well as a review of UCD account settings, please review IT Services information page.

UCD IT Services Zoom resources

Reasons to use Zoom vs Collaborate Ultra

As stated, Collaborate Ultra is still the approved tool for online classes in UCD. Collaborate Ultra is fully integrated with Brightspace and easily accessible to students and instructors via their modules online. Recordings are stored securely and can be easily accessed. Collaborate has in-built functions for chat, polling and breakout groups as well as a whiteboard feature and the ability to provide guest access for people external to the module (e.g. guest speakers). In essence Collaborate performs exactly the same functions of Zoom, however there some areas where the two tools differ.

Persistent Breakout Groups

It is possible to manually create groups in Collaborate Ultra, however, this process relies on drag and drop of participants to groups during a session and this action will need to done each time you hold an online class. Zoom allows you to create breakout groups from a csv upload prior to the start of a session. It also allows you to recreate those groups in subsequent sessions. This is particularly useful if you have assignment groups that you wish to work together in an ongoing basis in your online classes.

For information on how to set up pre-assigned breakout groups, take a look at the guide from Zoom.

Pre-Assigned Groups in Zoom

For general information in Breakout Rooms, take a look at the guide from Zoom.
Breakout Rooms in Zoom

Issues with Pre-assigning Breakout Groups in Zoom

Please note that issues have been reported with using pre-assigned breakout groups in Zoom. If you are using the student's email to populate the .csv file, then the success of this action relies on students being logged into a Zoom session with their UCD Connect account. The .csv upload is also reportedly sensitive and requires exact formatting as per the template. Between both of these considerations there is no guarantee that the pre-assigned groups in your Zoom session will fully work. It is likely that you will still have to manually manipulate students into groups in those sessions.

Tufts University in Boston have created a useful guide to try to mitigate the issues you may have using Zoom. Please note that as per their instructions, there is no way to ensure that all students will enter your session with the correct account and that the breakout groups will be successful for all students.

Tufts University - Zoom Pre-assigned groups guide

Gallery View

Currently it is only possible to view 4 screens simultaneously in Collaborate Ultra’s gallery view. This is problematic for some instructors who wish to view multiple screens or the whole class at the same time. Zoom allows up to 49 screens to be viewed in gallery view (depending on the CPU capability of your machine). If there are more than 49 participants in a session, they will be split into separate pages, that you can navigate between in a live session.


It should be noted that not all students will be able to, or be comfortable with sharing video in a session. Also, instructors cite wanting to view the expression of students during a live class in order to gauge their reactions and understand if they are engaging in the online session. While the gallery view will allow you to gauge reactions to some degree, the larger the class, the smaller the thumbnail of each student video becomes. This strategy may work well in a class of 20, but it would be far harder to see student reaction with a class of 40.

For more information in changing the display options in a Zoom session, take a look at the option information here.

Display options in Zoom.

Considerations when using Zoom

If you choose to use Zoom there are certain considerations that you need to take into account relating to security concerns and storage of Zoom recordings in accordance with GDPR rules.

Zoom Recordings

Zoom recordings for UCD accounts can be stored in cloud servers located in any one of three geographical sites; the US, Canada and Europe. It is not possible to determine which site is used for the storage of Zoom sessions from UCD accounts therefore, in order to comply with GDPR regulations, if you chose to record your online class you must remove the recordings from the default cloud storage as soon as possible. You should download the recording from Zoom’s default cloud storage and then upload it to the College of Business Media server and make it available to students in the module from this location.

Details of how to do this are available here.

Security Considerations

Currently, Zoom does not support end-to-end encryption of information in online sessions. In essence this means that the online classes you host using Zoom are less secure than those hosted using other tools, such as Collaborate Ultra.

Tool Comparison - Online Class and Virtual Meetings

The Business eLearning team have created a handy tool comparison table, to assist you in choosing the appropriate technology for your online class / virtual meeting needs.

To view the comparison table, click here: https://buselrn.ucd.ie/tool-comparison

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