Think back to when most college students across the country were on campus? I know, it feels like a lifetime ago. But as recently as the Fall 2019 semester, I recall walking through the school cafeteria and observing several groups of students that were clearly studying together. And there were even more students working together on group projects and studying together in the library. So how do we recreate these environments that allow for students to collaborate and work together and learn together now that most colleges are now in some form of online format? One solution may be Study Hall over Zoom.
Study groups are common among undergraduate students when it comes to preparing for exams or simply reviewing course material. In more informal study groups, students take the initiative to organize these meetings with at least a few classmates. But educational research suggests that various forms of informal, small- group learning are effective in promoting greater academic achievement, more favorable attitudes toward learning, and increased persistence through Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) courses and programs (Springer et al, 1999; Wilson & Varma-Nelson 2016).
I regularly encourage the students in my first semester general chemistry (GChem 1) class to study together or work together in small study groups outside of class. However, if there is not a medium or place available for students to meet to study together, then it is unlikely that students will form informal study groups despite my encouragement. Hence, this is my motivation to start the Zoom Study Hall.
So for clarification, I do not have to be present on Zoom for students to attend the Zoom Study Hall– I do not even have to my computer turned on. I found this out by accident when one evening I forgot to "open" the Study Hall meeting on Zoom by the time the Study Hall meeting was set to begin. When I finally did open Zoom, there were already 4-5 students in the meeting and were all busily working away and discussing ionization energy trends. So by not having to open Zoom or even turn on one's computer for the Zoom Study Hall to be available for students, this does not make any more work or responsibilities for the instructor. In fact, I inform my students that I as the instructor will not be present during the Zoom Study Hall, but rather it is a time and "place" for the students to meet up and work or study together. So although I do not attend every Study Hall session, I occasionally drop in from time to time and have noticed that more students attend the Study Hall on dates when assignments are due or during the week leading up to an exam.
To set up this style of Zoom meeting, simply make a weekly re-occurring meeting that lasts the entire semester. You can set up the meeting to require participants to register for the meeting, but this is not necessary. What is important is to remove Waiting Room and Passcode as an aspect of the meetings. That way students can attend the meeting without the instructor or host having to be present.
I have also found that when struggling students would like to meet one-on-one with the instructor (me), I can just tell the student to meet me during the Zoom Study Hall and for the student to pick a date that works for them. I don't have to create another Zoom meeting and send the meeting link to the student, only for the student to lose or misplace the meeting link. Instead, the link for Zoom Study Hall remains the same for the entire semester and is on the homepage of my LMS course page– which is easier for students to find on a regular basis.
And I think I will still continue to offer the Zoom Study Hall whenever it is that college campuses return to face-to-face operations, allowing students an easy time and place to meet up and study together– all from the comfort of their own home.
Springer L, Stanne ME, Donovan SS. (1999) Effects of Small-Group Learning on Undergraduates in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology: A Meta- Analysis. Review of Educational Research. 69(1), 21-51; DOI:10.3102/00346543069001021
Sarah Beth Wilson and Pratibha Varma-Nelson. (2016) Small Groups, Significant Impact: A Review of Peer-Led Team Learning Research with Implications for STEM Education Researchers and Faculty. J. Chem. Ed. 93(10), 1686-1702; DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.5b00862