Know in Advance the Essential Zoom Features Unavailable to Students Using a Chromebook

Even after installing the Zoom extension and ensuring each device is running the most updated system (currently 84.0.4147.136), there are features simply not available on a Chromebook.

Many districts have chosen to subscribe to Zoom as the supported video conference platform for remote learning, even though Google Classroom includes the Meet video conferencing software as a tightly integrated core service. For districts with Chromebook implementations, this can be problematic, and with more than 40 million Chromebooks being used in education (Deno), the challenges are not inconsequential.

Many teachers will rely on Zoom’s whiteboard and annotations for their lessons, yet these two features are not available to students (or teachers) using a Chromebook.

Vital Zoom features for remote learning and protecting personally identifiable information are absent on a Chromebook. Schools and teachers must be proactive in learning which features are not functional on a Chromebook in order to prevent unanticipated surprises, interruptions, and frustration as the year begins.

Zoom specifies the Desktop Client for Windows, macOS, and Linux as compatible with most features, and, accordingly, this robust videoconferencing tool can be used seamlessly by anyone with a Windows, Mac, or Linux laptop or desktop. Noticeably absent from this list is the Chromebook, which has significantly fewer features available.

For example, many teachers will rely on Zoom’s whiteboard and annotations for their lessons, yet these two features are not available to students (or teachers) using a Chromebook. Zoom openly shares this on their website, stating, “Teachers hosting a Zoom class on the Chromebook app won’t see the Whiteboard option when sharing their screen, nor will they have the Annotate option.” They provide further clarification, explaining, “Students and other participants also don’t have the Annotate option on shared screens” (Gallagher).

Similarly problematic is the absence of any virtual background functionality. Many districts suggest having teachers and students use a virtual background to protect privacy and minimize what other students (and teachers) see of each other’s living quarters. In fact, Zoom promotes this capability on its website, explaining that the, “Virtual Background feature allows you to display an image or video as your background during a Zoom Meeting” (“Virtual Background”). Zoom’s virtual background function is not available on Chromebooks, and students who are encouraged to use their cameras during online sessions will be sharing everything in their “real life” background — including people, books, living conditions, and what video or show is on the television — with all participants.

Some teachers may plan on using the chat functions to send text, screenshots, or files to students, yet this is not available to those using a Chromebook. Others may plan on encouraging students to use emoticons (eg. “thumbs up” to indicate understanding), yet this functionality is not available on Chromebooks. Students with poor organizational skills will meet an unnecessary barrier in the absence of the “meeting reminders” functionality, and for students or teachers with impaired hearing, the absence of closed captioning on a Chromebook presents even greater disruption, one with potentially legal consequences (“Viewing Closed Captions”).

If your students use Chromebooks and Zoom, take the time to review Zoom’s compatibility comparison chart; the frustration you save may be your own!

Deno, Jim. “Improving 40 Million Chromebooks For Education”. Google, 2020, https://www.blog.google/outreach-initiatives/education/2020-chromebooks/.

Gallagher, Ryan. “How To Use Zoom On A Chromebook – Zoom Blog”. Zoom Blog, 2020, https://blog.zoom.us/how-to-use-zoom-on-a-chromebook/.

“Sending A Screen Capture, File, Reaction, Or Recording”. Zoom Help Center, 2020, https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/202920879.

“Viewing Closed Captions”. Zoom Help Center, 2020, https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/115003498783.

“Virtual Background”. Zoom Help Center, 2020, https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/210707503-Virtual-Background.

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