When we piloted Zoom in the spring and summer of 2015, I didn’t realize that it would become a part of my daily routine and for many others at Drew. Zoom is a web conferencing platform that has become quite popular on our campus, especially with our Theological School. We had used several conferencing platforms over my 15 years at Drew and none of them really had any traction. The Doctor of Ministry program was using Breeze, then when Adobe bought them out it became Connect. My own technology department was using WebEx, with other folks around campus using Skype. When Drew became a Google Apps for Education School, Google Hangouts was an option, but Zoom has pushed them all to the side.
The question is why? Why did this one catch on when others couldn’t get a foothold?
The biggest advantage Zoom has is its ease of use. Zoom is very straight forward:The user creates a meeting, and Zoom generates an invite. Copy and paste the invite into an email and everyone with the link has access to the web conference. The fact that it’s just a link is a big advantage. If you’re an invited participant you don’t need to have a username, login or password. You just need the link. There is a download that the user must make to install the software, but Zoom even makes that relatively painless. he file participants need to download is highlighted in bright orange and the process takes all of 20-30 seconds.
Zoom meeting invitees can use a desktop computer with a webcam and microphone, a laptop, or a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet to participate in a meeting. These can be any platform, including Windows and Mac OS. A stable network or wireless internet connection or cellular data is also required. If necessary, participants can call in from any phone to participate using audio only, just like an “old-fashioned” speakerphone call.
Once you join the videoconference, Zoom asks you how you are going to connect your audio. Join by computer or phone? Most people use their computer, but you have the option to call in and listen. If you have a smartphone or tablet you can download the app and use the built-in camera to participate in the meeting just the same as if you were at a laptop or desktop with a webcam and microphone. We have tested all of these options and they work very well. Users can also test their own systems before joining a meeting
In the past 18 months, we’ve used Zoom for classes where students and faculty were all off campus, we’ve brought guest speakers into classes and even Drew professors from off-campus engagements into the classroom. We’ve done meetings both large and small, high and low profile. I guess the best way to measure how well it’s been received on campus is that we’ve increased our licenses by 50% since last semester to handle the growth in use.
Zoom has not only gained traction where others had problems, it’s starting to grow roots.
For more information, please see Drew University Zoom Video and Web Conferencing.