We will update this page with instructors and students' stories and tips for online learning.



Fellow and Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School 

Kathy Pham is a computer scientist whose work has spanned Google, IBM, and the federal government at the United States Digital Service at the White House, where she was a founding product and engineering member. She teaches a course on Product Management and Society at the Harvard Kennedy School. At a recent online live class, she paused the class and asked her students to spend a few minutes individually developing a prototype of a food delivery app. She gave the students a few minutes to do this with pen and paper, and then called on a few students to present what they had come up with. The students presented their work by showing their sheet of paper and pointing to the various app “screens” that they had developed. It was a very simple way of sharing and led to a very nice discussion about principles of product design. See picture below.



Math Teacher at Brookline High School in Massachusetts

Ms. Kostant splits her class into two groups to be able to conduct smaller sessions with each of them, and combines polling with other teaching approaches in a very creative manner. When she wants to do a quick non-anonymous poll, she asks her students to signal their response using their hands (e.g., if you think this series converges, show your hand in form of a “C”; if you think it diverges, show your hand in form of a “D”). This allows her to see how her students voted very easily and quickly by just looking at the video feeds of her students in Gallery View. When she wants to do an anonymous poll, she asks her students to chat their answer just to her, privately. This has the advantage that she does not need to give her students a list of possible answers that she would have to think of beforehand, and allows her to identify possible misconceptions that she might not have even been aware of. She can simply say, “Solve this problem and send me your answer through the private chat” and then examine her students’ answers and call on any of them to explain their response.   



Associate Dean of the Harvard College Curriculum

Rebecca Nesson, Associate Dean of the Harvard College Curriculum, teaches computer science and math courses at Harvard and uses breakout rooms to ask students to answer a series of challenging questions. At a recent class, she spent a few minutes at the beginning of class explaining the material of the day, and then assigned students to work on three challenging questions. The students had access to a PDF document with the questions, and discussed them in their groups. Because the subject was math and involved writing formulas and equations to answer the questions, students used a variety of tools (including Zoom’s whiteboard and the latex equation add-on to Google Docs). During the breakout rooms, Rebecca and her teaching assistants briefly visited the breakout rooms to monitor the discussion and to help facilitate the conversation by asking probing questions. After the breakout rooms ended and the students had returned to the main room, the class went over the answers to the 3 questions and new questions emerged. It was a very productive discussion because students had already spent time in the breakout rooms thinking hard about the questions and trying to answer them.


Copyright © 2020 Dan Levy.

Written by Dan Levy.


Zoom is a trademark of Zoom Video Communications, Inc. The author is not affiliated with Zoom Video Communications, Inc. and this guide was written without endorsement from Zoom Video Communications, Inc.