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Best Practices for Securing Your Virtual Classroom 

Best Practices for Securing Your Virtual Classroom 

Zoom has helped schools and teachers around the world quickly shift to remote virtual learning, and we want all of them to have the same productive — and secure — learning environment as their traditional classroom settings.

Zoom comes pre-stocked with numerous security features designed to control online classrooms, prevent disruption, and help educators effectively teach remotely. Here are some best practices for securing your virtual classroom using Zoom.

Lock your virtual classroom

Did you know you can lock a Zoom session that’s already started, so that no one else can join? It’s kind of like closing the classroom door after the bell. Give students a few minutes to file in and then click the Security icon at the bottom of your Zoom window. In the pop-up, click the button that says Lock Meeting.

How to lock your classroom

Control screen sharing

To give instructors more control over what students are seeing and prevent them from sharing random content, Zoom updated the default screen-sharing settings for our education users. Sharing privileges are now set to “Host Only,” so teachers by default are the only ones who can share content in class.

However, if students need to share their work with the group, you can allow screen sharing in the host controls. Click the arrow next to Share Screen and then Advanced Sharing Options. Under “Who can share?” choose “Only Host” and close the window. You can also toggle sharing privileges under the Security icon in your window or change the default sharing option to All Participants in your Zoom settings. 

How to manage screen sharing

Enable the Waiting Room

The Waiting Room feature is one of the best ways to protect your Zoom virtual classroom and keep out those who aren’t supposed to be there.

This feature is on by default for K-12 education users. When enabled, you have two options for who hits the Waiting Room before entering a class:

  1. All Participants will send everyone to the virtual waiting area, where you can admit them individually or all at once.
  2. Guest Participants Only allows known students to skip the Waiting Room and join but sends anyone not signed in/part of your school into the virtual waiting area.

The virtual Waiting Room can be enabled for every class or for individual classes at the scheduling level. If you forget to turn it on, you can quickly enable the Waiting Room from the Security icon. You also can send people already in the meeting back to the Waiting Room. Next to an individual name in the Participants panel, just select More to the right of their name and Send to Waiting Room and they’ll be removed from the live meeting and placed into the virtual waiting area.

Visit our support page for more information on adjusting your Waiting Room settings.

How to enable the Waiting Room

Lock down the chat

Teachers can restrict the in-class chat so students cannot privately message other students. We recommend controlling chat access from the Security icon (rather than disabling chat altogether in your settings) so students can still interact with the teacher as needed.

How to control chat access

Remove a participant

If someone who’s not meant to be there somehow manages to join your virtual classroom, you can easily kick someone out from the Security icon or from the Participants panel. Mouse over a participant’s name in the Participants panel, and several options will appear, including “Remove.” Click to remove them from your virtual classroom, and they won’t be allowed back in.

How to remove a participant

Report a user

Teachers and other hosts can report users to Zoom’s Trust & Safety team, who will review any potential misuse of the platform and take appropriate action. Find this option within our Security icon, where you can attach screenshots and other documentation as needed.

How to report a user

Suspend participant activities 

If your class is getting disrupted, hosts and co-hosts can pause the meeting to remove and report the offending party and prevent further disruption. Click the Security icon and select “Suspend Participant Activities” to temporarily halt all video, audio, in-meeting chat, annotation, screen sharing, and recording, and end Breakout Rooms. You can resume the class by re-enabling the individual features.

How to suspend a meeting

Renaming participants

You can disable the ability for any Zoom participant to rename themselves at the account, group, and user level in your settings. Or if class is already in session, you can toggle this capability in-meeting under the Security icon.

How to restrict renaming

All of the above features can be found with the Security icon on your meeting toolbar. Here’s a video overview of those options:

Security options when scheduling a class

The cool thing about Zoom is that you have these and other protection options in-meeting and also when scheduling a class. Here are a few of the most applicable:

  • Passcode-protect the classroom: Create a passcode and share with your students via school email so only those intended to join can access a virtual classroom.
  • Require registration: This shows you every email address of everyone who signed up to join your class and can help you evaluate who’s attending.
  • Restrict annotation: This feature prevents students from annotating on shared content. It also will show the names of individuals annotating if it’s allowed.
  • Use a random meeting ID: It’s best practice to generate a random meeting ID for your class, so it can’t be shared multiple times. This is the better alternative to using your Personal Meeting ID, which is not advised because it’s basically an ongoing meeting that’s always running.
  • Allow only authenticated users to join: Checking this box means only members of your school who are signed into their Zoom account with an approved email address can access this particular class.
  • Disable join before host: Students cannot join the class before the teacher joins and will see a pop-up that says, “The meeting is waiting for the host to join.

Note: For schools scheduling classes through an LMS, some of these settings might appear a little differently.

Additionally, teachers have a couple of other in-meeting options to control their virtual classrooms:

  • Disable video: Turn off a student’s video to block distracting content or inappropriate gestures while class is in session.
  • Mute students: Mute individual students or all of them at once. Mute Upon Entry (in your settings) is also available to keep the clamor at bay when everyone files in.
  • Attendee on-hold: An alternative to removing a user, you can momentarily disable their audio/video connections. Click on the attendee’s video thumbnail and select Start Attendee On-Hold to activate.
  • Hide profile pictures: Under the Security icon, teachers can hide profile pictures of any participants that don’t have their video on. Only their names will be displayed. You can also set this option as a default in the In Meeting (Basic) section of your Zoom settings.

Important reminders for teachers

A quick reminder to never share your Zoom classroom details (meeting ID and passcode) on any public forum, such as social media or even your school’s public website. Meeting disruptors search the internet for publicly posted meeting IDs. If you learn that a student or someone else has posted your meeting information online, please change the meeting ID before the next class.

We also encourage you to NOT post pictures of your virtual class on social media or elsewhere online. While it’s fun to share in the excitement of connecting over Zoom, we are particularly committed to protecting the privacy of K-12 users and discourage publicly posting images of students, especially minors, in a Zoom virtual classroom.

Get Zooming securely

We’ve compiled several great resources to help teachers and administrators — even the most technology-challenged ones — get quickly trained on Zoom and pick up some best practices for educating over Zoom. You can also get additional tips on protecting your Zoom Meetings on our security webpage.

And we invite you to learn about the additional benefits Zoom’s Education plans can provide for virtual learning and remote education.

Editor’s note: This post was updated from the original March 27 version to include the most up-to-date information on securing your online classrooms.

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