Virtual Communications

Facilitating Student Participation on Zoom

Zoom includes a number of features that can facilitate student interactions with the instructor and interactions among the students. You can see which students want to contribute to class discussion with the “Raise Hand” tool, and allow for text-based information exchange with the in-meeting chat. You can also solicit more detailed non-verbal feedback from students during a meeting by enabling buttons that allow for students to vote yes/no, ask for a break, and more.

This page will cover the following Zoom functions:

  • Hand-raising
  • In-meeting chat
  • Non-verbal feedback

You may want to share the “Zoom Guide for Participants” with students in order to inform them about using various Zoom functions in order to participate in class.

Two other Zoom features that facilitate participation are Breakout Rooms and Polls. Breakout Rooms is a feature of Zoom that divides students into groups for small-group discussions. Find out how to use this feature on our “Breakout Rooms in Zoom” page. The built-in polling function can let you ask your students various multiple-choice questions within the Zoom meeting. Learn how to use Zoom Polls on our FAQ page.


When interacting with about 10 or fewer students, it is possible to see all your students at once in Gallery View. Therefore, you may be able to have students simply physically raise their hands in their videos in order to signal to you that they want to share something.

However, once the number of participants in a Zoom session increases, it will become more difficult to see who has their hand raised; further, you may not be able to see everyone’s video at the same time in Gallery View. This is when Zoom’s “Raise Hand” function can be useful.

Ask your participants to use Zoom’s “Raise Hand” feature by clicking the “Participants” [1] button and then pressing “Raise Hand” [2].

In order to see who has raised their hand, you need to open the “Participants” tab in the menu bar at the bottom of your Zoom window. The students who have raised their hands will have a blue hand-shaped icon next to their names, and will move to the top of your participant list. There will also be a blue hand icon on the top left-hand corner of their video windows.

Once you have addressed a student’s question, you can lower their hand by hovering over their name and clicking “Lower Hand.” Students are also able to lower their own raised hand.

You may also use the raise hand function to visually take stock of the number of students who would answer “Yes” to a certain question.

If multiple students have their hands raised, you can lower all hands by clicking “More” [1] in the participants tab and then clicking “Lower All Hands” [2].

In-meeting chat

The in-meeting chat allows you to exchange messages with students during a meeting. This is a convenient way to field questions, share links to resources, send files to students, and build community. You can control whether chat is only between you and your students, or whether students can also chat with each other publicly or privately.

To access the in-meeting chat, click the”Chat” button in the Zoom menu bar. A chat window will open to the right.

You can send messages to everyone in the meeting, or just to individual participants. Other participants will not be able to see the messages exchanged between you and a single participant. Remember that when you save the chat transcript all messages in which you are included will be in the transcript, including messages that were privately exchanged with a single participant.

To change the chat options for participants, click on the three dots on the bottom right-hand corner of the chat window. You can disable chat completely for participants (“No one”), only let participants chat with you (“Host only”), only let participants send public chats (“Everyone publicly”) or allow both public and private chats (“Everyone publicly and privately”).

Non-verbal Feedback

The non-verbal feedback option in Zoom is an additional feature that you can enable for your meetings which allows students to signal “yes” or “no” to various questions or let you know about how the Zoom session is going. You can enable this feature by going to your Zoom settings.


Zoom settings page with a "1" marking the "Settings" button in the lefthand navigation menu and the "2" marking the "Nonverbal feedback" toggle button

Once enabled, you and your participants will be able to see several icons in the Participants tab in your Zoom meetings. The first four icons are “yes,” “no,” “go slower,” and “go faster.”

Zoom meeting window with participant window open. The "1" marks the "participant" icon on the zoom controls toolbar and the "2" marks the nonverbal feedback buttons available in the bottom of the participants window ("yes," "no," "go slower," "go faster," and a "more" button for more options).

Clicking on the “more” button brings up further icons. They are “like,” “dislike,” “clap,” “need a break,” and “away.”

Zoom participant window with an arrow pointing to the "more" button next to the nonverbal responses at the bottom of the window, which is selected to reveal a pop up menu or additional nonverbal feedback options (thumbs up icon, thumbs down icon, clap icon, a coffee mug icon, and an analog clock face icon.

When a participant has clicked on one of the nonverbal feedback icons, you will see the icon next to their name as well as a count of the number of people who pressed the button. You can clear students’ responses by hitting “clear all.”

Participant window with an arrow indicating the "yes" checkmark icon next to a participant's name and the "1" count above the "yes" checkmark icon at the bottom of the participant window where all of the standard nonverbal feedback icons are arrayed. The "clear all" icon is at the far right of the icon bar.