Remote platforms: which to use?

The Vanguard rounds up the pros, cons, and key differences among the school’s most popular choices.

Mary Randolph, Off-Campus Editor

Zoom
Who’s using it: most Upper School teachers, advisors, and grade deans

What you see: a gallery view, which shows a grid of
attendees, or a speaker view, which shows one attendee claiming the majority of the screen

Favorite features: breakout rooms; whiteboard; poll function

Challenges: the host’s inability to view all breakout rooms at once

Zoom is widely used across the Upper School because it had the most capabilities of the virtual platforms when the school first transitioned to virtual learning, Science Teacher Michael Chapman said. Zoom has since developed more features, like the waiting room and integration with other apps.

“For me, Zoom is the most versatile of all the platforms right now,” he said, adding that he is still learning about new ways to maximize its abilities.

“There’s a really creative way to use the different reaction buttons, like the speed up and slow down, to answer questions,” Mr. Chapman said. “You can make multiple-choice questions and use the icons as responses, or use the icons to check in about how the class is feeling about a particular topic. I like it because it is easier to implement on the fly or whenever it is needed, instead of taking more time to type in poll questions.”

Brendyn Burkitt ’22, having used both Google Meet and Zoom, agreed that Zoom’s features make it the most effective platform for remote learning on the days he’s at home.

“In my classes on Zoom, the whiteboard function has been super helpful,” Brendyn said. “The idea of going through the lesson with the teacher’s ability to annotate as they go is really cool.”

 

Google Meet
Who’s using it: History and Social Sciences Teacher Daniel McClure

What you see: a similar gallery view to Zoom, though your own camera is not part of the grid.

Favorite Features: As part of the G Suite, it’s connected to a Google account and under the same umbrella as Gmail, Google Classroom, and Google Drive, so one can access it from their email without additional software.

Challenges: It has fewer features than Zoom—no breakout rooms; no whiteboard function; no reaction buttons.

Mr. McClure, who is teaching remotely, said he chose Google Meet for his classes for its easy access.

“My students have definitely experienced technical problems in general, and what’s nice about Google Meet is that students who have challenges with laptops [can] easily log in with a phone without any additional apps, since it [is] connected to their email,” he said.

The platform’s lack of extensive features can be a positive in discussion-based classes, he added, as that students only need to focus on each other and the topics rather than the variety of features and settings.

Ava Elliot ’24 also prefers Google Meet, which she uses for her meetings with Dr. McClure, to Zoom.

“I’ve used Google Meet more than Zoom, so I’m a bit more used to it,” she said. “I like the layout a bit better than Zoom, and I think it’s just easier to use in general.”

 

Remo
Who’s using it: the advancement and admissions departments

What you see: a bird’s eye view of a virtual room with multiple tables and a stage. Attendees can see who is at each table and join one, similar to a Zoom breakout room, but they can also switch tables at any point to talk to others in the larger group.

Favorite features: The billboard function can post the meeting schedule and other information; the virtual stage allows certain attendees speak to the whole group.

Challenges: You can only customize the space (to look like a beach, for example) if you’re proficient in coding; the “tables” are limited to six people.

Parent Engagement and Event Coordinator Isabel Dau used Remo to host the Senior Welcome Reception on September 10.

“The platform creates an immersive space that allows people to connect [as] they might in real life,” she said.

Former Class President Siena Lerner-Gill ’21, who spoke at the event, said she found Remo comparable to a Zoom webinar where only set speakers are visible during the presentation.

“But [Remo] was different in that, during the rest of the time,” she said, “the presenters could mingle with the rest of the group.”

The platform could have more everyday applications for students, she added, citing class meetings as one possibility.

“The seniors have been doing random breakout rooms in Zoom to give people a chance to talk informally, but it might be better to use a platform like Remo where people have a choice in who they want to talk to and can have the experience of a more natural conversation, [as they] would in the Commons,” Siena said.

 

Aimée Seppenwolde ’21, having used all three platforms, prefers Zoom to Google Meet in a classroom setting. “Zoom is more organized and clear-cut than Google Meet, and it is more user-friendly because the controls are all on the bar on the bottom,” she said. “Remo isn’t styled in a normal, “class-like” way, and you can’t see everyone or speak with everyone at the same time. It’s as if a webinar and breakout rooms clashed into one. You pick and choose your breakout room, so to speak, and then once the meeting starts, it shifts into a webinar. I know they’re trying to create the experience that existed before, but Remo only gets us an inch closer to what would’ve been.”