April 2, 2020

Making UW Zoom safer for teaching and learning

This email was sent to all UW Zoom Pro users.

Dear UW Zoom Pro users,

Like the rest of the UW, UW-IT is committed to creating and maintaining environments for learning where students and instructors feel safe. Everyone in the UW community is breaking new ground as all courses have moved to a remote model. UW-IT is working hard to achieve a balance between safety and ease of use for Zoom as we respond to rapidly evolving opportunities and challenges.

Adapting Zoom to an educational mission

Why does Zoom present challenges that other instructional technologies do not? The simple fact is, tools such as Canvas and Panopto are designed to be used only by those who have a UW NetID. Zoom was designed for video conferencing with people inside and outside the UW community, without the constraints that are typically woven into educational software. Adjusting the settings of Zoom so that it better meets our educational mission is an evolving effort in order to minimize the potential for misuse.

Changes to Zoom default settings

To prevent further possible misuse, UW-IT has disabled by default three Zoom features that have been the access points for violation of classroom settings: Annotation, Whiteboard, and Chat.

  • Annotation allows participants to use annotation tools to add information to shared screens.
  • Whiteboard allows participants to share the whiteboard during a meeting.
  • Chat allows participants to send chat messages to other users within a meeting. Participants can send a private message to an individual user or to an entire group.

If these features support your pedagogical objectives, you can easily turn them back on.

What you can do to further protect your use of Zoom

If you do turn Chat, Annotation, or Whiteboard back on, we strongly recommend that you also turn on two other features: Only authenticated users can join meetings and Waiting room. Learn how to protect your use of Zoom.

We will continue to monitor how Zoom is being used and, working in partnership with Zoom, take steps to ensure that Zoom class spaces are safe.

UW-IT and the Zoom service team