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Teams vs Zoom: which is better for online workshops?

  • 7 min read
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Over the last few years, we’ve seen a change in the use of online tools amongst enablers of change. Obviously at times it was the only way of running activities safely. But now we’re in the new normal and thinking about how to effectively engage farmers as part of our role, so we’re wondering, what’s the best online platform for workshops? Especially with farmers? Is there any data on this and what’s it telling us? In this episode, we’re going to compare Teams and Zoom, as well as a couple of other platforms that might be worth checking out for online workshops.

Now, we have to start by saying that both of us had quite a bit of experience in the online space long before COVID-19 hit. John had been running online webinars with a worldwide audience for a number of years (using Webex, GoToMeeting and Zoom) and Denise had been using Zoom for some time for meetings with colleagues across the Tasman. This was a great thing when everything needed to switch to online because we were pretty comfortable in the online space! Since then, we’ve had the chance to test out a range of different technologies but we find ourselves coming back to Zoom and Teams and so that’s why we thought we’d start there.

Zoom, in case anyone needs a recap, is officially Zoom Video Communications, Inc. But it’s commonly known as Zoom. The company was created in 2011 and they launched their software in 2013. Zoom provides video based communications via the cloud. We’re already fans, so it won’t be a surprise to hear that we think it’s a pretty neat tool! Zoom has two main online platforms: meetings and webinars. Zoom meetings are designed to be a collaborative event where all the participants are able to screen share, turn on their video and audio, and see who else is attending and participate in the online chat. Zoom webinars are a little more one-way communication, where only the host and designated panellists can share their video, audio and screen. The attendees are automatically muted but the host can unmute them at any time. Attendees can interact via Q&A, chat, and answering polling questions, so there is still a bit of two-way communication. There is a free version of Zoom, but you only get 40 minute meetings with this option!

MS Teams, called Teams, is part of the Microsoft suite of tools offered as part of Microsoft 365. It replaced Skype for Business, which was discontinued in July 2021. It’s also a video based communication tool, although with the addition of file storage and file sharing options. Many large organisations use Microsoft software as their preferred supplier, and since Teams is included for the same price, it makes sense they’d want their staff to use it. Like Zoom, Teams meetings are designed to be a collaborative event where all the participants are able to screen share, turn on their video and audio, and see who else is in attendance as well as participate in the online chat. 

So what are the similarities between the two? Both tools have a similar video based call screen, you can do breakout rooms and chat. There’s access to whiteboards and polls. Both tools are integrating other apps into the platform as well. Both can be accessed via the web or our smartphone or tablet. Both have a host, the person who organises and sets up the meeting and the host has options that other participants don’t have, such as managing breakout rooms. 

But what are the differences between these tools? Well, you’ll probably hear our bias coming through, as we think Zoom is a little more agile. Zoom varies the bandwidth used, depending on the internet connection. We think this means Zoom is a little better in rural situations where internet access can be variable! Zoom doesn’t require any set-up. It’s click and go. Teams seems to prefer having Microsoft 365 up and running before it works seamlessly. For Teams, the host is the person who set up the meeting. In Zoom, the host is the person who has the Zoom account. But for both, the host drives the technology. However, in Zoom you can designate co-hosts in the meeting who can then take on some roles, like helping set up breakout rooms and running polls. Teams doesn’t seem to be as flexible in this aspect yet. You can only manage it by making sure you have the meeting set-up organised beforehand but it’s not as straightforward. In addition, Teams seems to work better for people within the same organisation, but it’s harder for those outside the host organisation, such as farmers. Be aware though that Zoom won’t let a host run breakout rooms if you are on your phone or tablet! 

One thing we’ve found handy is that we can tick a box in Zoom to say the meeting can go ahead without the host, so if we’re not there everything doesn’t have to stop. Teams require the host to be there to let people into the meeting, or someone from the host organisation. However, there are other options beyond Teams and Zoom. John has used GoToMeeting and Webex in the past. Again these are reasonable platforms but you do need to download the software before you begin. We prefer using an option where it’s just click and go!

Denise has used Google Meet and it works well. Google Meet is a bit of a cross between Zoom and Teams. You need a Google account to organise and host a meeting, but you don’t have to have one to join a meeting someone else has organised. You can do all the usual things, share your screen, use a whiteboard, send people into breakout rooms and integrate other apps into your meetings. You can add co-hosts who are then able to help run the meeting. Denise knows of organisations here in NZ using Google Meet with farmers and they seemed pretty happy with how it had gone. The resolution on videos doesn’t seem to be very good but it works!

What does the research say about using these platforms? Well interestingly, while there’s quite a few studies out there on use of social media and online training with farmers, there’s actually not a lot on using online workshops in extension, let alone which platform. There’s a lot of research focused on effective online learning with students. This understandably got even more attention during and after COVID-19, and Zoom gets mentioned quite a bit there! Maybe we need to do an episode on this sometime. But basically there’s nothing to add from the research at this point.

So what’s our take? What’s our experience been? While both work well for online workshops we think Zoom is easier, both for the host and participants. However, the privacy concerns that were raised at the start of COVID-19 with Zoom have meant that some organisations have banned it, even though its security has improved. We’ve found that banks for example won’t allow their staff to join via the Zoom platform. So if you’re running a workshop, you need to consider who the audience is and whether they can access the technology. But our experience is that Teams seems to be harder to access and less flexible than Zoom for someone new to the technology and even those who aren’t. Both have challenges but we think Zoom is better! 

Well, what do you think? What’s your experience with Zoom and Teams? Now you’ve heard our thoughts, we’d like to hear yours! Add a comment below the blog post and tell us whether you’re team Zoom or Teams? Include any tips and further ideas as we’re keen to learn! We don’t want this to be just a one-way conversationjoin in by sharing your thoughts and ideas with us! 

Thanks folks for joining us on this Enablers of change episode. Remember to subscribe to our newsletter if you’d like to know when new episodes are available. And if you liked what you heard, please tell your friends so they too can join the conversation!

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