Attention Class

"Zoom Webinars: providing options for online synchronous interactions."

Bridging the gap between traditional classroom and asynchronous learning experiences.

By Rashad Muhammad, Instructional Designer, and Gwyn Shelle, Instructional Technology Specialist

Have you ever been excited about attending a webinar or web meeting only to have a terrible experience? Sure you have, let me refresh your memory. Microphones weren’t muted; there were dogs barking, babies crying, extremely aggressive typing, or trains running in the background; and at least one know-it-all who felt compelled to make commentary under the guise of asking questions. Regardless, if your negative experience incorporated one, two, or all of these characteristics, we have all wanted an online experience with more controls in place. This article highlights the benefits of Zoom Webinar as a tool for classroom and community engagement.

Approximately three years ago, MSU adopted Zoom Meeting as the university-endorsed online meeting software replacing Adobe Connect. Compared to Adobe Connect, Zoom Meetings offer improved usability, platform compatibility, video quality and performance, a conference line that bridges phone calls into video meetings, and improved video output. In fact, Zoom Meeting was an improvement in almost every area except providing a controlled classroom experience. If you have ever used Zoom Meeting to manage a class, then you have probably found the open nature of the tool more harmful than helpful. Part of the reason Zoom Meeting feels so awkward for managing large presentations is that is it is the wrong tool for the job.

Designed to manage large presentation style meetings in a way that allows input and collaboration without compromising the presentation, Zoom Webinar is an online meeting solution that is designed to provide more control over audience participation while maintaining the focus on the presenter. Currently, MSU employees who are interested in utilizing a webinar solution for their courses or outreach initiatives can purchase a Zoom Webinar license from the MSU Tech Store.

When should you use Zoom Webinar over Zoom Meeting?

The major distinction between these tools hinges on the nature of the dialogue. Webster defines webinars as, “a live online educational presentation during which participating viewers can submit questions and comments.” In this type of engagement, participants are expecting to primarily consume the content and submit their questions via the Q&A box, chat, or specific intervals. In contrast, Zoom Meeting is meant to facilitate fluid conversations between individuals. While Zoom Meetings and Skype work well for smaller face-to-face meetings, these tools becomes more problematic in larger settings.

Zoom Webinar Features

Participant Management features:

  • Ability to quickly create an online registration form along with branded email confirmations/reminders
  • Schedule registrations that you can either manually or automatically approve
  • Schedule registration-less Webinars
  • Practice sessions
  • Dual screen support to show panelists and presentation at same time

Engagement features:

  • Promote attendee to panelist giving them audio & video capabilities
  • Polling
  • Attendee raise hand
  • Q&A dialog box with live or text answers
  • Chat that can be enabled for attendees and panelists

Participant Analytics:

  • Increased reporting and user analytics
  • Integrations to work with your CRM and marketing systems


How do these features help MSU?

With the additional control mechanisms in a Zoom Webinar, presentations can be received with fewer interruptions or distractions, while still allowing participants to virtually raise their hands to receive speaker permissions, communicate with each other via chat, and ask questions of the Presenter. Here are some of the ways that this is accomplished:

  • Zoom Webinar is presentation focused. Attendees will only see the active speaker’s view or their shared screen.
  • Reporting and analytics help the presenter monitor participation by tracking the amount of time in the webinar, questions answered, and poll responses. Prior to the event registration, reports can monitor expected attendance and send out additional marketing if needed.
  • Zoom Webinar speaks to what Gartner analysts Jan-Martin Lowendahl and Glenda Morgan call “…an increasing strategic focus on ‘outreach collaboration,’ where institutions are trying to breach boundaries to increase their relevance for industry” ( Lowendahl, J.M., Morgan, G. 2016). To this point, Zoom Webinar adoption encourages colleges and departments to proactively seek out these kinds of outreach collaborations by providing the capability to do so.
  • Additionally, using online meeting software in online classes helps to create an active learning environment. According to Marjanovic (as cited by Martin and Parker, 2014), “…synchronous virtual classrooms have an advantage over traditional courses during lecturing. During an interactive synchronous lecture, students can type questions and comments without interrupting the presenter” (Martin, F., Parker, M.A 2014).

Increasing webinar usage helps to create dynamic options for university outreach. Webinars are effective tools for marketing and sharing information. The registration features in Zoom Webinar provide tools for event registration management while capturing important demographic information for meaningful follow-up discussions. Organizations like MSU Extension are already using this tool to provide programming for its constituency.

For more than 100 years, MSU Extension has followed the land grant mission of connecting research-based information with their stakeholders. MSU Extension strives to improve lives of those in their community by offering a variety of educational programs through methods such as face-to-face training, online courses, webinars, social media, and a strong web presence. The use of technology has given MSU Extension staff the flexibility to provide timely information when people need it and to reach broader audiences. The integration of Zoom tools has significantly improved communication between MSU Extension staff, which are located across the entire state, as well as increased their outreach abilities.

The Zoom webinar tool is used extensively within MSU Extension programming for outreach to communities locally, nationally, and internationally. Specific examples include:

  • Community-based education
  • Staff webinars: Administrative updates and professional development
  • Interview presentations with potential candidates
  • Broadcasting live events

In the past year, MSU Extension has offered 110 Zoom webinars with approximately 9,000 attendees on topics relating to agriculture, health, youth development, gardening, and natural resources.

Similarly, we believe that other colleges and organizations on campus can apply this model to their marketing and outreach initiatives. Webinars provide a way for prospective students, experts and researchers to engage with the university.


With over 50,000 students, MSU has a diverse landscape of learning needs and challenges. Incorporating webinar solutions online into the ways that we engage with students, researchers, and the broader global community adds a personal touch to a world that is increasingly becoming more distributed and isolated. If you would like to discuss ways that you can incorporate Zoom Webinar into your work, feel free to contact the Instructional Design and Development team to request a consultation or call (517) 432-6200.




Lowendahl, J.M., Morgan, G. (2016) Top 10 Strategic Technologies Impacting Higher Education in 2016.     Gartner,Inc, ID: G00294732 19-21

Martin, F., Parker, M.A (2014) Use of Synchronous Virtual Classrooms: Why, Who, and How?. MERLOT Journal of   Online Learning and Teaching, Vol. 10, No. 2, June 2014, p.194, 201

Webinar. (n.d.). Retrieved October 6, 2017 from