Beyond Zoom: Alternative Lecture Formats

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Are you and your students finding it difficult to spend hours on Zoom or other web conferencing tools for lectures? Beside the unhealthy aspect of sitting for long periods, it’s difficult to pay attention over time. This is exacerbated when we’re on camera. To be clear, Zoom is still useful for a myriad of teaching activities (e.g., office hours, live discussions, review sessions, student presentations) including direct instruction. It just shouldn’t be overused when there are so many alternatives to delivering content.

The human brain has an inability to pay attention, process, and store lengthy amounts of information (Baddeley & Hitch, 1974; Bruning, Schraw, & Norby, 2011; Miller, 1956; Sweller, Van Merriënboer,  & Paas, 1998). Bradbury (2017) found no evidence for the current recommendation stating students only have an attention span of 5-15 minutes. While the literature is unclear as to the most effective length, I recommend long lectures be broken into manageable chunks of 30 minutes max to allow the brain time to process the new information. Build in breaks, comprehension checks, reflection, breakout room think-pair-share, and question-answer in between the lectures to refocus students’ attention.

Innovate and your students will appreciate the multiple methods of representation and engagement— key aspects of the universal design for learning (CAST, 2018). Here’s a list of asynchronous and synchronous options for remote teaching beyond the use of Zoom:

  • MS Office Narrated PowerPoint;
  • Prerecord lecture on Zoom and add interactions via Kaltura;
  • Written lecture (alternate with weekly multimedia delivery);
  • Reuse your own work on topic (publication or production) with appropriate Fair Use and copyright permissions;
  • Virtual tours (museums, SecondLife, Google Earth TourBuilder) that are either self-guided, expert guides on site, or teacher-guided if instructor knows the virtual environment platform;
  • Digital storytelling;
  • Gaming and simulation with educator or expert as game master;
  • Invite and interview experts on the topic (live Zoom session or recorded video); and
  • Podcasts.


This list provides explanations and examples of the more unique alternative formats aforementioned:

  • Digital storytelling examples include 3D animations and explanatory text (e.g., BioDigital Human: Corona Virus Media Assets), video essays with narrated photo montage, discuss images, videos, and documents (e.g., VoiceThread) or a combination of any of the asynchronous options listed above (e.g., machinima is prerecorded adventures in virtual environments);
  • Game Jam Guide from Carnegie Mellon Press (See also related titles provided for free!);
  • What are Instructional Simulations? See examples from Carlton College’s Science Education Center; and
  • Use H5P or Google Tour Builder to create your own virtual tours or discover others readily available.

I’ll keep adding to the list so check back again. Meanwhile, see my blog post on Web Conferencing Tips for Remote Teaching. What are you doing to mix it up? Please share your best practices and unique ideas in the comment section below!


Baddeley, A. D., & Hitch, G. (1974). Working memory. In G. H. Bower (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 8, pp. 47-90). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Bradbury, N. (2017). Do Students Really Have an Inability to Concentrate During Lectures? Academic Medicine, 92(4), 428. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001584

Bruning, R. H., Schraw, G. J., & Norby, M. M. (2011). Cognitive psychology and instruction. New York, NY: Pearson.

CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from

Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus-or-minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review63, 81-97.

Sweller, J., Van Merriënboer, J., & Paas, F. (1998). Cognitive architecture and instructional design. Educational Psychology Review 10(3), 251–296. doi:10.1023/A:1022193728205

Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.


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