Students and teachers alike worked hard staying connected during the uncertain times of remote learning amid a pandemic. Zoom, an app that seemingly appeared out of nowhere, aided the community with this difficult task. When school, hangouts, and the world moved into a digital space, Zoom was one of the most popular options for staying in touch.

Although it is not the only option for video conferencing, Berkeley Heights Public Schools opted to use Zoom, an app founded by California-based Eric Yuan in 2011. Zoom differs itself from its competition, such as Google Meet, Skype or Facetime, by promoting an easier to use interface and better cost-efficiency. 

For the most part, teachers used Zoom to teach lessons remotely or foster discussions. Catherine Birstler, a math teacher, said being able to meet students on video was beneficial. “Some things are just more easily explained face-to face as opposed to emails.” 

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Video conferences also aided teachers in making sure students were comprehending the material. “I enjoy being able to hear my students' questions and thoughts in real time,” Birstler said.

Having this ability demonstrates how communication is more efficient when using Zoom, rather than just Google Classroom or Email. 

Birstler is not the only teacher whose teaching has been bolstered by Zoom. Richard Shea, a math and computer science teacher, also used Zoom to stay connected with his classes.

“It’s been very helpful to show students screens of their own code running in my Comp Sci classes and also to live stream me solving problems in math class,” Shea said.

The many features Zoom has to offer, including a chat feature and breakout rooms for small group work,  allowed teachers to teach from the safety of their homes, without having to change much about their classes. 

On the other end, students had mixed feelings about using Zoom for classes. 

Finding a benefit in using Zoom, Kate Salimbene, a freshman, said, “I enjoy Zoom because the teacher is able to explain assignments and teach the class under the conditions.” 

Real time communication decreases confusion over new lessons, tasks, or projects, which allowed classes to run much smoother. 

However, students like Nicole Emma, a junior, found some drawbacks to using this program. Emma, who used Zoom in most of her classes, had experienced some difficulties with the conferences. 

Emma experienced a problem that wasn’t a simple fix. She said, “My WiFi has been bad and Zoom has crashed a few times.” 

As it requires a working connection, Zoom is only helpful when the Internet cooperates. Other issues on the students’ end included noisy backgrounds, pesky siblings, and devices that never seemed to work.

Additionally, teachers noticed some negatives to using Zoom. Birstler and Shea have both had unwanted guests join their Zoom calls. 

Birstler said, “In those cases, I removed the extra person from my end of the meeting.” 

Once Zoom became aware of apparent security problems, such as these instances dubbed “Zoombombing”, the security restrictions became more strict. Teachers gained more ability to control who came into their classroom and when just by enabling some features, such as the Waiting Room, where potential participants hang out until they are admitted into the room.

With the use of Zoom, schools were able to run as normal as possible given the situation. Teachers could still hold class discussions, show how to solve problems, and answer questions in real time. It helps classes run more efficiently and removes a barrier of confusion.  It was just what the community needed to stay connected.