5 Supporting Equity and Inclusion

Employing more equitable practices in Zoom doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it often simply means modifying small elements of activities, so all of your students have equitable access and voice. Many of the activities or practices listed here are easy to implement and make a big difference in including all students.

In this section:

What’s in a name?

old family photosOne of the keys to good icebreakers is to ask people to talk about something they (a) all have in common; (b) want to share; and (c) have choice in how much they want to share – What’s in a name does this in spades! Names are simultaneously personal, cultural, and public, so asking people to tell the story of their first name (or their pet’s name, or a friend/family member’s name) invites participants to share as much or as little as they want. Many times, even little details are memorable, very personal, but still safe (e.g., “my parents thought I was going to be a girl, so I didn’t have a name for the first couple days of my life,”). This activity works especially well for groups that will be working together repeatedly though one or multiple Zoom meetings.


  1. Ask students to tell the story of their name (or their pet’s name or a friend/family member’s name) to their breakout room group.
  2. Send students to breakout rooms in groups of 3-4 to discuss their responses for 4-5 minutes.
  3. Debrief (optional): Close the breakout rooms and ask a few students to volunteer to share the story of their name.

TECHNICAL GUIDES

Wait for it… – Zoom Chat

The chat feature in Zoom is a great way to encourage student involvement, especially by providing a space where students can share ideas or ask questions “in front of” the entire class but without using their voice (e.g., if they have too much background noise or don’t feel comfortable talking in front of large groups). Wait for it uses Chat to allow everyone to respond to a question simultaneously by asking students wait to press “Enter,” until you tell them. This allows equal time for everyone to formulate their own first response without the influence of others and to hear those responses, unmediated, at the same time. This can add to students’ feeling of being involved in the class because everyone’s voice is heard at once, and it’s not a problem if more than one student has the same response or idea.


  1. Pose a question you want the whole class to answer. If you use PowerPoint, Slides, Keynote, or another presentation software, display the question on the “slide.”
  2. Ask students to respond in chat, but without hitting Enter/Return, yet. “We’re going to wait a minute for everyone to have a chance to think about this and type up their response.”
  3. Tell students to press Enter/Return. Give them a few minutes to read through the responses then debrief on trends and/or address specific submissions.

TECHNICAL GUIDES

Feel confident calling students’ names – NameCoach

Calling on students is a foundational way to engage with students during class, but mispronouncing students’ names can be embarrassing for you and your students. NameCoach ameliorates this issue by allowing people to record their names in their own voice. That recording is automatically connected to the IU Photo Roster in Canvas for everyone in the class to hear. A good practice to motivate students to use NameCoach is to make a Canvas Assignment and assign a small number of points to it.


  1. (Canvas): Create an assignment in Canvas.
  2. Choose “External Tool” for the Submission Type.
  3. Select the Find button, choose “Name Coach Recorder” from the list, then click Select.
  4. Assign points,  set a due date, and/or adjust other assignment settings as desired.
  5. Access your students’ recordings in Canvas by selecting People in the left navigation of your course site, then the Photo Roster button. Click the speaker button (“Pronounce name”) next to an individual’s name to listen to the recording.

TECHNICAL GUIDES

Breakout Room Spokespeople

Breakout rooms offer students more opportunities to speak and can be more inviting than speaking in front of the whole class. When you bring the whole class back together, you’ll frequently want rooms to report out on what they discussed or the solutions they developed. One effective way to do this is for each room to designate a spokesperson. If you want to mix this up and give students a tiny icebreaker as well, ask students to designate the spokesperson based on a “random” criterion, such as “Your room’s spokesperson is the person who has the highest outside temperature right now.” This breaks the ice by giving students something non-threatening to immediately talk about and should result in rotating the spokesperson role to different students.


  1. Zoom: Give students their breakout room task.
  2. Ask students to designate a spokesperson in their breakout room who will report back out to the class. Their spokesperson should meet some objective, relatively non-personal criterion (e.g., the person who has the most pets).
  3. Send students to breakout rooms to work on the task for the allotted time.
  4. Bring students back to the main room, and ask each spokesperson to report out.

TECHNICAL GUIDES

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Zoom to the Next Level: Active Learning in the Virtual Classroom by Digital Education Programs and Initiatives - Indiana University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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