We were lucky enough yesterday to get some insights from Tom Bartindale. He’s a faculty member from Monash University. He worked on a tool called ZOOM sense which is free to use.

We meet him on Monday, March 8, 2021, at 6 pm Eastern time. He was a great sport in letting us ask some infrastructure questions and we got some clarity on feasibility for some of the features we were thinking about.

If you want a quick demo of what it is check the video below

Why were we intrigued by it

  • Allows you to monitor the actions in the breakout room
  • You can understand who is talking in the breakout room and get some quick analytics on it
  • You can message breakout rooms from the main session room
  • It gives a quick and nice overview of how breakout rooms are performing without you being in them

Why were we hesitant to try it

  • The logistics of setting it up was daunting. Firebase and a windows VM with a docker file
  • Each sensor required to run on its own instance of windows docker VM. So you can only allocate as many breakout room sensors as much Ram your VM had
  • To have a meeting planned to use it. There was a bit of preparation that needed to be done after the setup as well. To set up a meeting you needed to set it up from the Zoom account that was tied to the ZOOM Sense setup.
  • It was hard to scale this project for multiple users. (at least to us)

What did we get out of it?

The talk deferred us away from using it but it did provide some early warning signs that we are super grateful for. We highly appreciate the time that Tom was able to give us.

For example

  • User IDs are not persistent for the participant as they enter and exit a breakout room
  • UserIDs change when the host user changed
  • The ZOOM SDK can’t run on more than one instance in the same OS environment
  • You can’t see what happens in a breakout room unless you are in that breakout room. (Zoom SDK limitation)

Tom was generous to walk us through the architecture of the platform and the pitfalls that we might encounter from their encounter. This is was gold since the Zoom documentation isn’t that clear on what it can and can’t do.

How did we hear about this?

Vanessa Echeverria a post doc that worked for Professor Ken Holstein in the HCI department at CMU told us about our current work that involved Zoom sense. We got introduced to Professor Ken Holstein through our advisor Jessica Hammer.

Our recommendation

If the ZOOM user has the tech and IT infrastructure to do this go for it!! We just found the overhead a bit too much to bear for a semester-long project.


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