Guidelines and FAQ

Synchronous Instruction

Best practices for Zoom



Can I require students to turn on their video during a Zoom class session?

  • No. The Online Educators Network notes that some students may not have a webcam or may not want to share where they are located. We should also consider additional extenuating circumstances that would make it difficult for a student to use video (i.e., learning conditions, life stressors).
  • Students can participate and meet the engagement goals of the class by asking questions, inserting comments in the chat box or via audio, responding to polls, using the reaction feature in Zoom, collaborate on group projects, post to Canvas discussion forums and by attending virtual office hours.
  • During formal assessment and depending on the structure of the exam, tools are available to assist in proctoring tests. Students who have testing accommodations may choose to proctor their exams with the Testing Center. Please contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) for more information or questions.
  • Additional resources on this topic:

Am I required to record my synchronous course?

  • While you are not required, it is considered a best practice and universal design approach to learning.
  • Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, embraces one basic premise—"Teach every student”—and its framework consists of three core principles: Instructors should provide all students with multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement (Rose & Meyer, 2002).
  • This means that, whenever possible, instructors should
    • provide instructional content or materials in multiple formats,
    • give learners multiple ways to demonstrate what they have learned, and
    • use multiple strategies to motivate learner participation.
  • Consider the benefit to a student who misses a class or a student who processes information best when they review material multiple times. Adapted from Santa Clara University: Accessibility

Is recording a reasonable accommodation?

  • For some students, recording is a reasonable accommodation that would be indicated on their accommodation letter.
  • Recording is considered an “auxiliary aid” as outlined in Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Section 504 regulation states: “A recipient may not impose upon students with disabilities other rules, such as the prohibition of recorders in classrooms, that have the effect of limiting the participation of a students with disability in the recipient's education program or activity.”
  • Note that all students provided the accommodation of recording sign Recording Device Agreement which is held by SAS.
  • Auxiliary Aids and Services for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities

If I don’t record my course, how will students’ reasonable accommodation of recording be met?

  • SAS uses a variety of technological tools and programs to support students who have the accommodation of recording lectures.
  • Examples may include: Glean, Otter Ai, and Note Taking Express.
  • Students may also choose to use a digital recorder or recording apps on their smart phones.
  • Please note that all students provided the recording accommodation, sign the Recording Device Agreement which is held by SAS.

Institutions should make a good faith effort to provide reasonable accommodations while still holding FERPA to be true. This might include:

  • Separating likeness (identifying names) from video or audio recordings
  • Using instructional technology tools that support accessibility and the ADA as well as discouraging easy sharing and distribution
  • Using recorded lectures for the current class only, do not reuse live recorded sessions of class for the next semester or for a different class
  • Including recording disclaimers in syllabi and opportunities for opting out if requested: The guidance below has a variety of suggestions on language and how students can opt out of a recording and still participate in class activities.
  • Making separate audio recording and transcripts available in addition to the video recording
  • Maintaining links to instructional media and video lectures that expire at the end of the semester
  • Explicitly state to the students that they are not to share the recording links or copies of recordings with anyone outside of the class
  • For more information:
    CSU Virtual Student Learning Privacy Rights
    Harvard Law School Guidance on Teaching Remotely

Who might benefit from closed-captioning?

Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, English language learners, those with difficulty maintaining attention, learning disabilities, or autism, and those who may be impacted by sound-sensitive environments.

How do I know if I should be providing live captioning in my synchronous course?

  • Student Accessibility Services (SAS) will notify you if a student will receive live captioning for your course.
  • SAS will provide initial technical assistance and support to assist you in setting up live captioning via Zoom.
  • SAS will also provide a letter of accommodation listing captioning for the student who will receive live captioning as a reasonable accommodation.

How do I provide live captioning to a student during a Zoom break-out?

  • Instructors must assign the captioner to the Zoom break-out room.
  • If there are multiple students with the accommodation of live captioning in your class, it may require multiple captioners or students who have live captioning as an accommodation to be in the same Zoom break-out.
  • SAS can work with you to discuss options based on the structure of your class and break-outs.

How do I stream captions for my live synchronous course to support every student in my class?

  • We encourage providing captions for any live zoom courses as it aligns with our college mission and universal design best practices.
  • Student Accessibility Services (SAS) has tools and staff available to support you in this beneficial practice centered on inclusion, equity and accessibility.

Am I required to caption videos?

  • Yes. All videos must be captioned.
  • This includes videos shown during your live synchronous course via Zoom and when uploading videos to your asynchronous Canvas course.
  • The California Community College System has resources available such as the Distance Education and Captioning Grant (DECT) that can cover the cost and streamline the time commitment associated with captioning.
  • Contact SAS as early as possible to ensure the quality of service.
  • For more information and for technical assistance, please visit College of Marin Accessibility Services.

Are there any exceptions to captioning video?

  • Yes, if you link out to resources that are not contractually obligated to the College and it is not the sole repository for meaningful content that will be assessed in the class then you are not obligated to caption that material.
  • For example, you link to an article from a newspaper like the NY Times that has a video then you are not responsible for their content if no assessment is going to be built on that content.
  • If you bring the content into an assignment as part of an assessment, then you are required to caption that material.

How does this apply to content in textbook portals like MyMathLab? Am I responsible for the accessibility of third-party content portals like Cengage, Pearson, MindTap?

  • Yes. If you are using a third-party portal as your textbook or for instructional content, then you are responsible for ensuring the accessibility of that content.
  • Source: NAD v. Harvard and MIT

Some students have “periodic breaks” listed on their accommodation letter. What might that look like in Zoom?

  • Periodic breaks may involve disabling a webcam and muting oneself when needing to take a break.
  • Students will return to the zoom session but may choose not to enable the webcam when they return.
  • Students may chat with you privately in the chat window to let you know they have rejoined the class or you may provide an opportunity to re-engage by asking the whole class questions about class material.

I have a student in my class with the accommodation of “in-class aide”? What does this mean for my synchronous (or asynchronous) course?

  • In-Class Aides are considered a “personal assistant” and maybe a necessary and reasonable accommodation for a student’s full participation in an educational program.
  • Each student and In-Class Aide complete an In-Class Aide agreement outlining expectations and the “do’s and don’ts” of being an aide.
  • The document is provided to the instructor of record and also filed in SAS for each course in which the aide is supporting the student.
  • Additionally, SAS will reach out to you to identify the most appropriate approach to the inclusion of the aide in your synchronous or asynchronous course.

Is ASL Interpreting available if needed for my synchronous course via Zoom?

  • Yes. Students who are deaf and require ASL interpreting for access should contact SAS to ensure access is provided.
  • Similar to live captioning, SAS will provide initial technical assistance and support to ensure services are set up appropriately in your class.
  • In some instances, both live captioning and ASL interpreting may be requested and needed for your course to best accommodate the student.

Where can I access additional information on making my online course accessible?

  • We encourage you to review the content provided as part of the Online Teaching and Design course as there is information on universal design and making your course content accessible.
  • You may also reach out to Student Accessibility Services for technical assistance and questions.

Additional Guidance from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR)

OCR Guidance on Disability Rights and Distance Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Postsecondary institutions should be flexible and creative during the interactive process, which will help identify new or alternative accommodations and permit students with disabilities to have equal opportunities to access services.
  • Disability services coordinators should be accessible and continue to be the point person for the accommodation process at postsecondary institutions.

OCR Short Webinar on Online Education and Website Accessibility

OCR highlights accessibility in online education and our obligation to provide equal access to persons with disabilities as outlined in Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It asks that we consider the accessibility of online education as many individuals are blind, have low vision, have mobility conditions affecting hand/eye coordination, are deaf or hard of hearing, or have other conditions such as cognitive disabilities or seizure disorder where accessible technology is used and platforms must be compatible to support such use.