Video conference systems (Zoom, MS Teams & Co.)
To make digital teaching synchronous, the UHH faculty has four conferencing systems at their disposal: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and two offerings through the German Research Network (DFN), Adobe Connect and Pexip.
Basically, they are all characterized by the fact that they network a large number of participants via video communication and enable streaming of (PowerPoint) presentations and sharing of files with the participants. The main differences are access, server stability and additional options for designing learning scenarios. Below you will find an overview of the individual tools.
Since January 2019, UHH has been actively participating in the newly designed video conferencing service (DFNConf) of the DFN-Verein. This service now allows joint video conferences to be held across a wide variety of video conferencing systems and terminal configurations. Previous restrictions and incompatibilities due to different systems of the participants are now a thing of the past. In addition to the previously offered room systems in the RRZ, in the main building of the UHH and sporadically in faculties, departments and other institutions, there is now also the possibility to participate in videoconferences web- and app-based directly from the workplace or via smartphones and tablets - even on the go. The DFN video conferencing service can be used by all UHH employees free of charge and without prior registration. You can access the DFN video conferencing service via your user ID (B identifier) with a corresponding request for the associated password, as you know it, for example, from using the KUS portal at UHH. More information about the conference service can be found on the RRZ website (in german).
Zoom is one of the most widely used cloud-based web video conferencing systems and is characterised in particular by its scalable number of participants, stable server connection and ease of use. Zoom allows video conferences with up to 1000 participants.
How does access work?
This service is available free of charge to members of the UHH. The host only has to log in via the UHH portal (in german) with his user ID, create a room and pass on the invitation link to the guests. After starting Zoom, participants can access password-protected rooms using their meeting ID or dial in by phone. The use of Zoom is only permitted using the University's Zoom service, which is offered via the entry page (in german). This is the only way to ensure that communication takes place via servers operated at the University's RRZ and that the content remains confidential.
- Zoom login
- Further information on Zoom can be found on this page of the RRZ (in german).
- Further information on Zoom can be found on this page of the RRZ
Presidential instruction on the use of Zoom and the provision and making of recordings of these meetings ("Dienstanweisung zur Nutzung des Videokonferenzsystems Zoom", updated on 02.11.2020 (PDF in german, Download) and an update dated 30.07.2021 (PDF in german,Download).
The application in Zoom
After downloading and installing the Zoom client Zoom clients (external link, in german), please select “Log in with SSO”:
In the field that appears, please enter “@uni-hamburg”:
Afterwards, the classic UHH login page appears, where you then enter the user ID along with the password:
If you previously logged in privately, you will now be asked if you want to connect your account to the UHH account, i.e. accept the “invitation”.
After confirming your registration, please open the profile page with your Zoom client.
If you are logged into the client with your UHH-provided Zoom account, the full range of features licensed to UHH will be available to you.
Tutorials and handouts for Zoom
Information about Zoom of the RRZ:
The RRZ is continuously expanding its information on the installation and use of Zoom. Among other things, the Zoom FAQ page now also includes a first handout on its use in PDF format.
- Find the RRZ's Zoom FAQ page.
- The RRZ also provides handouts for students (PDF, in in german) and teachers (PDF, in german, 2020).
Zoom for teachers: 6 didactic uses.
On Lecture2Go (in german) you can find a video by Paul Borsdorf (WiSo-Faculty), which discusses how Zoom can be used in teaching. He discusses the use of Zoom in the following areas.
- Use as whiteboard
- Use as smartboard
- Plenary discussion
- Group work
- Presentation of student work results
- Organizing office hours/consultation
- Zoom tutorials: Paul Borsdorf has started a new video tutorial series (in german) on Lecture2Go. So far, there are: “Zoom: Conducting Surveys” and “Zoom: Using Breakout Rooms”.
Set up digital background in Zoom
In Zoom, you can set up a kind of digital screen behind you that covers backgrounds such as walls or bookshelves. This protects your privacy and prevents viewers from being distracted by your interior during the meeting. Prerequisites for proper background detection are good lighting and a good camera image of you. Please note that Zoom may block this feature due to insufficient technical requirements.
UHH has created some backgrounds in the UHH design, which you can find linked below. To use them in Zoom, please click on the gear icon in the Zoom client that appears below your profile picture or avatar in the upper right corner. Now select “Virtual Background” from the left menu. Here you can add a new background under the plus icon.
- Backgrounds in UHH design (in german) in the KUS portal.
Zoom – “Meeting” vs. “Webinar”
In Zoom, you can conduct Digital Teaching via a "Meeting" or a "Webinar". Any Zoom account created using a UHH user ID can host or participate in a meeting. Zoom accounts do not have a webinar license by default; however, this can be requested on this RRZ website if needed
Difference between meeting and webinar
A meeting allows the exchange of all participants; we therefore recommend using the meeting function for seminars. For events such as lectures, conferences, talks, etc. that do not require oral participation of the audience, we recommend using the webinar function.
|Participant Roles||Host, co-host, participants||Host, co-host, discussion participants, spectators|
|Approvals||Participants can freely manage their audio, video and screen sharing||Approval of discussion participants and viewers is done by host and co-host moderation|
|Capacity||max. 1000 participants||max. 10 000 participants|
- For more differences, please refer to Zoom's info page (externer Link)
Event recordings in Zoom
- Event recordings in Zoom are only allowed at UHH when using the webinar function. For more information, please visit the RRZ website.
Attend multiple meetings at the same time
To participate in multiple Zoom meetings at the same time (only possible via the desktop version), proceed as follows:
1. Activate the function in your zoom account at the following link:
2. to join multiple meetings at the same time, you can join the first meeting as follows:
- Click the Join button in the Zoom desktop client
- Click the participation URL or go to Zoom website (in german) and enter the meeting ID.
Each subsequent meeting must be attended via the attendance URL or via Zoom Website (in german).
Practical experience of Prof. Dr. Jannis Androutsopoulos
By Prof. Dr. Jannis Androutsopoulos (Institute for German Studies)
Week 01: Preparing for (but still without) Zoom
I have gladly agreed to report from my current practical experience with Zoom and start with this. It is important to note that I have had no previous relevant experience or training.
The most important thing for today is that I do not start using Zoom right away in week 01, but plan to use it from week 02. This gives me time to prepare the students and observe the network load in the first week. The participants in my seminars and one lecture are informed accordingly through the course guides and entries in the AGORA rooms.
For the first week, I choose instead the tedious, purely asynchronous way of recorded slides and detailed explanations of deadlines, procedures and details in my seminar guides and AGORA entries. This is probably one of the biggest differences in the current situation: all kinds of things that are usually asked and quickly answered at the first meeting now have to be explained and communicated in writing. In my opinion, this is necessary and makes sense because it means that all processes remain comprehensible and transparent even without Zoom or if the video conference fails and for students who cannot work with Zoom.
In the first week, I also survey the students' opinions on whether or not Zoom should be used. This is easy to do with the DFN survey forms (external link, in german), and you can also use them to find out whether technical requirements and previous experience etc. are given.
In a nutshell: Don't give up the written contextualisation of the seminar procedures with the prospect of zooming in, but consciously maintain it and enter it on AGORA. And: It is better to start the video conferences a week later, thus giving the participants time for orientation.
Week 02: Zoom in seminars and in the lecture
After four Zoom sessions (2x BA seminars with approx. 17 and 25 participants, 1x MA seminar with 22 participants, 1x lecture with more than 50 participants logged in), I now report on my experiences so far.
Overall assessment: This is positive throughout. The system is stable, at least if you run sessions from the university (as I did this week). The sessions prove to be feasible and even lively. The students, as far as I could tell, are happy to participate and seem to get on well with the technology; I even discovered one or two features through them. Zoom is definitely a useful and valuable addition to the asynchronous preparation for AGORA. Taken together, the two platforms make a good backbone for digital teaching.
Setting up sessions: Setting up a weekly session is easy. The only correction I made afterwards - and at the request of students - is to remove the registration requirement. Initially, I had intended that students only have access after prior registration, but later I refrained from doing so in order to keep access with session number and password as simple as possible for students. In the meeting settings you have to leave the corresponding box empty. The password remains, of course.
The "invitation" with access data is filed in the AGORA room under "Announcements" and the students are notified once by AGORA message. No login problems have been reported to me.
Welcome Rituals and Zoom Etiquette: At the start of the session, I ask the floor to turn on the camera and mic for a brief welcome. My guidelines: When presenting with a split screen, I recommend cameras off, most comply. Students put mics on mute of their own accord until they are given the right to speak. In the question rounds in between or at the end of the session, as well as when saying goodbye, I encourage turning the camera back on. However, this remains voluntary. Those who want (or need) to have it off all the time are welcome to do so.
Planning a phase structure: Because Zoom seminars run quite smoothly and many students already seem to be familiar with them, there is a danger of getting caught up in one's own habits (e.g. holding long monologues!). However, you have to counteract this. In my experience, the following are important:
(a) a clear and transparent structure of the meeting,
(b) breaking down one's own input into several shorter blocks, between which questions are repeatedly asked, and finally
(c) sufficient planned time for discussion or exercises.
Scheduling several small blocks, announcing them and, of course, sticking to them is the way to organise even 90 minutes in a Zoom seminar together.
Present and keep an eye on the plenary: In seminars (not in lectures), this is possible by displaying the tile view ("Gallery view") of the participants as a vertical bar. You can scroll up and down without blocking your view of your own slides. It is good to notice attentive faces listening to you and watching you. If you practise this sideways glance at the tile bar, you can even quickly perceive and allocate spontaneous requests to speak because the current speaker tile is outlined in yellow.
It is advisable to activate the side windows "Participants" and "Chat" in the presentation mode with split screen and to place them on your own screen area in such a way that you can still observe them while the presentation is running.
Interaction and feedback: At the moment, I have two ways of doing this: In presentation mode, questions can be asked in the chat. I regularly encourage the participants to write down their questions. These are taken up and answered in the breaks, sometimes even students respond to each other in the chat window.
Note: Zoom allows private chat questions to individual participants. If you answer a private question, you have to make sure that you set the address back to "All" for your next chat contribution!
In the discussion phases, I advocate participation via camera and microphone, which simply makes the situation more lively and expressive. The students already know how to switch the camera and microphone on and off, so that doesn't cause any problems. As I said, some leave the camera off as a matter of principle, which is accepted.
Request to speak: Some of you know how to raise your hands to speak, otherwise I will briefly point it out. At the same time, I also allow hand signals via camera. This is a little more strenuous for me as the leader because I have to monitor both channels (list of participants and participants' tiles), but it is still acceptable because it gives the students a choice. It is possible that this will settle down to a single channel in the further course.
Special case lecture: During the lecture, the cameras (and of course microphones) remain switched off throughout. Interaction only takes place through chat contributions (see below).
The yellow thumb ("Reactions") is an efficient means of quick confirmation in between lectures, which students also like to send on their own initiative.
Practice rooms ("breakout sessions"): I'll be trying these out next week. Setting them up is child's play at the touch of a button. However, it is important that the groups cannot work with their own shared screen, but have to use materials stored in AGORA. Again, it tends to need more pre-planning and even more transparent communication of the exercise set-up than one would do in a face-to-face seminar.
Review and Practical Experiences with Synchronous Asynchronous Formats
My three seminars and one lecture this semester are coming to a close this week. In the last sessions, I specifically sought to talk to the students (about 50 in total in the three seminars) about forms and techniques of digital teaching in the coming WS. Here I try to summarise some insights from the whole teaching-learning process and student feedback.
(1) The combination of synchronous-asynchronous formats currently seems to have no alternative. From the students' point of view, joint virtual presence has great advantages over a purely asynchronous solution. Zoom is in fact the silver bullet for face-to-face sessions. There are various asynchronous platforms, but from the student's point of view, they should not be mixed in one and the same course without necessity.
(2) Weekly assignments: The format of weekly assignments has proven to be extremely productive. From the students' point of view, I heard that the compulsory weekly assignment helped them to "stay on their toes" and to deal with texts and questions again and again. Student objections to assignments, which have also been reported, are thus more related to the design of the assignments and not to the cyclical structure of the weekly assignment itself.
Based on current experience, I consider the following design features for weekly tasks to be useful:
- Variety: the tasks are set in such a way that their completion activates different types of texts. Sometimes they are summaries of theoretical positions, sometimes references from one's own language and media experiences, sometimes small analysis tasks.
- Alternatives: Offering two alternative tasks is well received.
- Experience activation: Tasks sometimes establish connections between the subject content and one's own experiences or enable analytical reflection on everyday experiences (in each case in the relevant subject area).
- Flexibility: I do not prescribe a minimum amount of work. The participants can write a little or a lot, depending on their interests and their own situation. This freedom was particularly well received.
(3) Breakout sessions: A better, more targeted embedding of breakout sessions seems desirable. In my case, these were unfortunately too brief, which was also due to the fact that I was not familiar with Zoom in advance. Breakout sessions should not be too short and should be integrated into the flow of the session and the week in a comprehensible way - certainly a challenge for the entire seminar design! The yield is the loosening up of the long ViKo sessions and the added value of working together in a small circle.
(4) Non-participating students: Finally, it remains to be seen how we can support and bring along those students who cannot participate in synchronous teaching because the network connection does not work (which unfortunately happens quite often) or for pandemic reasons (especially childcare at home). Students express the wish to record seminar sessions on Zoom and put them on AGORA. In my view, however, this is not easy to solve on two levels: coordination during the session on the one hand, and storage space on the other. On the latter point, support from the faculty/presidium/computer centre would be indispensable, otherwise we will run out of hard drive space very quickly.*
*) Note from the e-office: In the meantime, a presidential directive prohibits the recording of zoom sessions.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
Why Microsoft Teams?
Microsoft Teams is a collaboration platform that combines chat, phone and video conferencing, as well as other features such as file storage and polling tools.
The Whiteboard on MS Teams:
According to the regulations of the DSGVO, the function "WhiteBoard" is blocked for all users, because the data is stored and analyzed on US servers. As an alternative, the function is available in OneNote, which is included in the free Office license for UHH members.
The service can be used by all students (in german) and all employees (in german) of the University of Hamburg as part of the Office-365 license. If you would like to collaborate with your students or other persons, it is mandatory that all parties involved register an account via Office-365. You can then invite them to your workspace in Microsoft Teams. The virtual meeting takes place via web browser or dedicated app on the desktop (Windows/MacOS) or mobile (Android, iOS). One thing to note here is that video conferencing is not supported in Firefox and the macOS app performs comparatively poorly. Compared to other collaboration systems, additional organizational effort is required to start a conference. Although teaching scenarios can also be implemented with Microsoft Teams, this solution is more of an attractive option for small group collaboration and communication. It is recommended to ask all students of a course to register in advance to facilitate communication via the university structure in MS Teams.
- Microsoft-Teams-Login (external link,in german)
- For more information on Microsoft Teams, visit the RRZ homepage (in german).
Why Adobe Connect?
Adobe Connect is a conferencing solution that is widely used for webinars and meetings. Adobe Connect stands out from other virtualization solutions because of its classroom approach - meetings include a whiteboard, polling tools, and the ability to provide ad hoc nonverbal feedback. Meetings can be attended by up to 200 people.
Access is rather limited compared to Zoom and Pexip; it is usually via a dedicated app on the desktop (Windows/MacOS) or on mobile devices (Android/iOS/Blackberry). Access via the web browser is only possible by means of the prior installation of Flash. After the host has logged in with his B-Kennung, they can open a meeting room and send an invitation text to the guests. They can then join the meeting via the invitation link without prior registration.
High occupancy on weekdays
The DFN reports (external link, in german) that peak utilization of server capacities can be observed during the week from 9 to 11 am and from 1 to 4 pm. This means that during these periods there may also be occasional bottlenecks when creating new meetings and restrictions when connecting to ongoing or scheduled meetings; DFN therefore recommends allowing meetings to take place outside these time slots if possible.
- Adobe-Connect login (external link, in german)
- The eLearning network (HUL/DLL) offers training on the use of the software. For more information, please visit the UHH e-learning portal (in german).
Pexip is a video conferencing solution that is characterized by a clear range of functions and, as a result, simple implementation and operation. The meeting size, however, is very limited with regard to the possible number of participants of 23. Alternatively, Pexip meetings can also be streamed. In contrast to dialing into a meeting room, there is no limit to the number of viewers when streaming. The streaming module also includes text-based two-way communication (chat), so that interactions between presenters and viewers are still possible.
The access to the event is very diverse. On the DFN website (external link, in german) you can get to know the access ways. After the host has logged in with his user ID, they can open a meeting room and send guests/listeners an invitation text. They can participate in the password-protected video or telephone conference via browser, app (Android/iOS), telephone or Skype for Business without prior registration.
Current special feature
It should be noted that the video quality resolution has been limited from Full HD(1080p) to SD (480p) to compensate for the current demand.
High occupancy on weekdays
The DFN (external link, in german) reports that peak utilization of server capacities can be observed during the week from 9 to 11 am and from 1 to 4 pm. This means that during these periods there may also be occasional bottlenecks when creating new meetings and restrictions when connecting to ongoing or scheduled meetings; DFN therefore recommends allowing meetings to take place outside these time slots if possible.