Advanced Zoom Features BU

Advanced Zoom Features for Educators

As colleges and universities continue to adapt to remote teaching and learning, many educators look for opportunities to expand their technological knowledge when moving course content online. Boston University recommends educators try to provide synchronous learning experiences using Zoom.

If you are having trouble starting out with Zoom, please reference our FAQ or attend one of our remote teaching trainings. This Advanced Educators Guide—targeted to users who posses a solid understanding of Zoom basics—will outline several advanced Zoom features designed to help make the most of the powerful video conferencing platform in your courses. 

Keyboard Shortcuts

Have you accidentally left your microphone or webcam on? Did you forget to start a recording and don’t want to stop to navigate the Zoom menu? Is there too much ambient background noise in your call but you don’t know where it is coming from? Do you want to switch quickly between Speaker and Gallery view?  

Sometimes the amount of features Zoom offers in-call can be confusing for hosts and participants alike. Keyboard shortcuts are an easy way to access powerful Zoom features with just a few keystrokes. You can check out all the keyboard shortcuts through the Zoom desktop application. Go to “Preferences” then click “Keyboard Shortcuts” to see a full list. 

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Here are a few keyboard shortcuts that might be useful to you: 

Quick Invite

Do you have a student having trouble accessing Blackboard or your Zoom link? Do you need to quickly invite a guest speaker or colleague to your class? Did you forget to include someone on the original invite and the class has already started? 

As host, you can quickly invite people to your Zoom call even if the meeting has already started! When are in a meeting, type ⌘Cmd+I (PC: Alt+I) to open the Invite window.

From the Email tab, copy the URL, and send it to anyone who you want to invite to the meeting. Or click on Contacts to directly invite someone if they’re on your contact list.


You can quickly start, pause, resume, or stop recording (either locally or to the cloud) using keyboard shortcuts. 

Type ⌘Cmd+Shift+R (PC: Alt+R) to start or stop locally recording any meeting. Type ⌘Cmd+Shift+C (PC: Alt+C) for start or stop recording to the cloud. 

Type ⌘Cmd+Shift+P (PC: Alt+P) to pause/resume recording.

Screen Sharing

If you are managing multiple windows/monitors, sometimes it is easier to use a keyboard shortcut to start sharing instead of using the Zoom menu. 

To quickly start or stop a screen share, type ⌘Cmd+Shift+S (PC: Alt+Shift+S).

To pause or resume a screen share, type ⌘Cmd+Shift+T (PC: Alt+T).

Quick Mute/Unmute Audio

When you are in a call, it is good practice to keep your audio muted unless you are speaking. This helps eliminate background noise and make sure other participants have a better listening experience. Instead of clicking the Audio Mute/Unmute button all the time, you can use keyboard shortcuts to save a bit of time. 

By default, you can use ⌘Cmd+Shift+A (PC: Alt+A) to mute/unmute your audio while in a call.

Also, if you go to your Audio preferences you can click an option to “Press and hold SPACE key to temporarily unmute yourself”. This is particularly useful at making sure you are only unmuted when you want to be. 

Quickly Turn Off Video

You can also use keyboard shortcuts to quickly turn video off/on using this command: ⌘Cmd+Shift+V (PC: Alt+V)

As Host, Mute Everyone

The larger your class, the more difficult it is to make sure ambient noise doesn’t distract from the lecture or discussion. Sometimes students forget to mute their audio or are calling in via a mobile device. Other times, multiple students might be talking over each other and you need to get everyone’s attention to effectively moderate discussion. 

In any of these cases, one of the most powerful features you have as a host is the ability to mute all participants. Just type ⌘Cmd+Ctrl+M (PC: Alt+M) to mute everyone on the call at once!

Switch between Speaker and Gallery View

Zoom offers two video view options. Speaker view highlights who is speaking while providing thumbnails of other participants at the top. Gallery View instead offers a tile view of all participants (up to 49 per page). In order to switch quickly between views, type ⌘Cmd+Ctrl+W (PC: Alt+W)

Raise hand

One way to moderate discussions or field questions from students is to encourage your students to mute their microphones and use the Raise Hand feature to get your attention. Instead of digging through the participant menu, students can just click Option+Y (PC: Alt-Y) to raise or lower hands in your class. You will be able to see a small blue raised hand icon in the upper left of the student’s video (or picture/name if their video is turned off). 

Please note, as the host you cannot raise or lower your hand. This is a feature only for participants. 

Tip: If you cannot remember or are unable to input certain keyboard shortcuts, you can always customize them to suit your preferences in the “Keyboard Shortcuts” tab while in the Zoom application settings. 

Sharing Computer Audio while Screen Sharing

This is not the most challenging feature, but it is one of the more requested features on this list. 

Do you want to show a YouTube or Kanopy video during class? Do you want to play sound clips, music, or podcasts during discussion sessions? Then make sure to check off “Share Computer Sound” when you share your screen (⌘Cmd+Shift+S (PC: Alt+Shift+S)

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Tip: If you are showing videos, you may also want to click “Optimize Screen Share for Video Clip” before sharing your screen with your students. 

Enabling and Using Nonverbal Feedback during Meetings or Lectures

Nonverbal Feedback is a useful way of managing and monitoring large groups of muted students or participants. Nonverbal feedback options can be accessed via the “Participants” tab while in a Zoom call. 

Nonverbal feedback is disabled by default. Hosts must enable the feature in order to apply it to their meetings. Students or participants do not need to enable the feature, only the host does. 

To enable nonverbal feedback for your Zoom meetings, login to your Zoom account via the web portal. Navigate to “Settings” > “In Meeting (Basic).” Scroll to “Nonverbal Feedback” and toggle the setting on. 

As a participant, students can use nonverbal feedback for a variety of purposes. Participants can raise their hand to signal that they have a question or something to say. They can respond “yes” or “no” to the host’s questions. They can request that the host “go slower” or “go faster” if needed. They can provide a thumbs up, a thumbs down, or a clap reaction to a given topic. They can signal to the host that they need to take a break (coffee cup) or that they’ve had to step away from the screen (clock). 

As host, instructors can access nonverbal feedback by clicking “Participants.” Each participant who used the nonverbal feedback features will have an icon next to their name. For example, in the screenshot below, “Test” responded “Yes” so a green check mark appears next to their name: 

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The host can see how many participants responded a certain way by the number that appears above each symbol (in this example, a “1” appears over “yes”). If a student clicked “raise hand” you can lower their hand by hovering over their name and clicking “lower hand.” Hosts can also use the “clear all” option to clear all nonverbal reactions from all participants. 

Tip: Some students either don’t have access to or are uncomfortable using a webcam. You can use the nonverbal feedback features to check whether or not these students in particular (or the whole class) are following along with your lectures or discussions.  

Using Polling

One of the benefits to using Zoom for synchronous learning experiences is that instructors can utilize the polling feature to take attendance, quiz students, and provide comprehension checks mid-lecture or discussion. Check out this video tutorial by Zoom for a crash course in using polling.

To use polling, you first need to enable it. To enable nonverbal feedback for your Zoom meetings, login to your Zoom account via the web portal. Navigate to “Settings” > “In Meeting (Basic)”. Scroll to “Polling” and toggle the setting on. 

You can now create polls after you have Scheduled a New Meeting. These polls will be associated with the scheduled meeting only. Once you have scheduled your meeting, go to “Meetings,” click the meeting title and you should be at the “Manage Meeting” page. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the “Poll” tab. 

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Click the “Add” to create a new poll associated with your meeting. Enter the title of the poll, determine whether or not you want the responses to be Anonymous, and start creating the poll. Polls can consist of as many questions as you need. Questions must be 225 characters or less. Questions can support either Single Choice or Multiple Choice responses. Questions can have up to 10 possible answers. When you have finished creating your poll, be sure top click “Save.” Please note, you can create a maximum of 25 polls for a given meeting. 

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Once you have created the poll and saved it to your meeting, now you can deploy them while in the meeting. To launch a poll, click the “Polling” option from the menu bar during your meeting.

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Select the poll you would like to launch and click “Launch Poll.” Participants will be prompted to answer the Poll’s questions. Hosts will be able to see responses in real time and view how long has elapsed since the poll was launched. Hosts can click “End Poll” at any time. 

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Once a poll has been ended, hosts can share results with all participants or relaunch the poll (if necessary). 

You can download a report of Poll Results after the meeting has ended. You will be able to find this on the Manage Meeting page (where you added the poll originally). If you turned registration on in the meeting settings and the poll was not anonymous, the results will list the participants names and email addresses. If registration was not turned on, it will show the responses but the users will be listed as “Guest”. If you made the poll anonymous, it will show “anonymous” for the users names and email addresses. Check out this tutorial on how to generate meeting reports for registration and polling

Tip: A simple poll with the question “Are you here?” with the answer “Yes” is an easy way to take attendance at the beginning of your meeting. Make sure to require registration when scheduling your meeting so that poll responses will be associated with a name and email address! 

Annotation Tools 

When you are sharing your screen, you have the ability to draw, type, and add shapes on your shared content. 

To enable annotation tools, sign in to the Zoom web portal. Navigate to “Settings” > “In Meeting (Basic)”. Scroll to “Annotation” and toggle the setting on. 

When sharing your screen, click the “Annotate” (the icon is a pencil):

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Once you click that, you will see the following options: 

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  1. Mouse: Deactivate annotation tools and switch to your mouse pointer. This button is blue if annotation tools are deactivated.
  2. Select: Only available if you initiated the screen share. This allows you to select, move, or resize your annotations. You can select multiple annotations at once by click the dragging your mouse over a rectangular selection. 
  3. Text: Insert text.
  4. Draw: Insert lines, arrows, and shapes. 
  5. Stamp: Insert predefined icons, like a check mark or star. 
  6. Spotlight/Arrow: Turn your cursor into a spotlight or arrow to direct students’ attention to specific areas on screen. The spotlight is only available when sharing a whiteboard (see below).  
  7. Eraser: Click and drag to erase parts of your annotation.
  8. Format: Change color, line width, and font of your annotation tools. 
  9. Undo: Undo your last annotation. 
  10. Redo: Redo the last annotation you undid. 
  11. Clear: Delete all annotations. 
  12. Save: Save all annotations as a screenshot. The screenshot is saved locally. This is only available if you initiated the screen share. 

The host also has the ability to allow participants to annotate on their screen.This is a great way to engage and collaborate with your students. To allow your students to annotate the screen with you, click the “More” button when sharing your screen. You can “Disable Attendee Annotation” or “Enable Attendee Annotation.” You can also choose whether or not to “Show the Names of Annotators.”  

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Tip: You can also share a whiteboard instead of your screen or a specific application. This shares a blank digital page that you and your attendees can use to work on problems together. You have access to all the same options you would have if you shared your screen. 

Have additional questions? Schedule a consultation via email at


David DeCampAbout the expert: Dave is an Educational Technologist. In this role, he advises and assists faculty on a variety of platforms for classroom use, with a focus on Turnitin Feedback Studio, BU Learning Blocks (BULB), Open Educational Resources, Google Suite for Education, MediaKron, and more.