Speed Culturing with Zoom

Speed Culturing contact: Cameron Bynum, cameron.bynum@pcc.edu

Add your class to the list to help other classes connect with yours! The handout below is for Speed Culturing with Zoom. Learn about in-person Speed Culturing.

What is Speed Culturing?

It is the chance for your students to collaborate with an ESOL class at your campus to gain a global perspective on your course content in only about one hour!


Your students get a chance to talk with peers from all over the world while learning about your course content. The ESOL students get a chance to connect with non-ESOL students at PCC and practice speaking in English. It is a positive experience for both classes.

Also, students report that in a time of increased social isolation, a chance for one-on-one conversations with other students is most welcome!


When done with two synchronous classes, the activity takes about an hour and can be done at any point in the term. Week 7 or 8 of the term works well as both classes would have settled in by then and this activity can be a nice change of pace late in the term. Synchronous Speed Culturing with Zoom happens during the regular class time: ESOL classes and other classes that meet on the same day/time are matched.

Non-synchronous (or asynchronous) Speed Culturing can be done if one or both classes are non-synchronous. In this case, students do the meetings on their own using Zoom, and report back on their experiences.


The Speed Culturing coordinator or Chair of Internationalization Initiative will work with you and help with the planning. There is even an online form to make the process easier!

Using Zoom for Speed Culturing

In face-to-face Speed Culturing, a common method is to have two rows of chairs facing each other. One class occupies one row and the second class the other. Then one class, the “movers” move down one seat when it is time to switch conversation partners.

In Zoom Speed Culturing with two synchronous classes, this procedure is simulated with the use of Zoom’s breakout rooms.

Zoom breakout rooms are separate “rooms” which can be created inside a larger Zoom meeting. Zoom allows up to 50 breakout rooms to be created within a Zoom meeting (of course, you won’t need nearly that many!)

In Zoom Speed Culturing, one class is also designated as the “movers.” After meeting together as one large group, members of the two classes are assigned to breakout rooms. After students have moved to the breakout rooms, each breakout room will be occupied by one student from the ESOL class and one from the non-ESOL class. The students will then begin their conversations!

After 6 – 10 minutes, the class designated as the “movers” will switch rooms. The student in room 1 will move to room 2, the student in room 2 will move to room 3, and so on, and the student in the last room will move to room 1.

The moving can be accomplished in one of two ways: The first is for the instructors, who need to both be co-hosts of the Zoom meeting, to manually move students to the next breakout room. This may take about a minute to accomplish, but with two instructors sharing the task, it is not too unwieldy.

The second method is to make all of the students in the “movers” class into co-hosts. This way, the students who are moving can move themselves.

In either case, the instructors remain in the main room. Zoom allows hosts and co-hosts to “broadcast” messages from the main room into the breakout rooms. Regardless of which method is used, the instructors can inform the students when there is just a minute left before it is time to switch, and/or when the room switching is about to take place.

Advantages of Zoom for Speed Culturing

Although most everyone would prefer being able to meet face-to-face, Zoom Speed Culturing offers several advantages.

First of all, there is no longer a need to book a physical room in which Speed Culturing will take place. Finding a room to accommodate two classes can be difficult, especially a few weeks into a term. But with Zoom Speed Culturing, this is not an issue!

Secondly, breakout rooms allow total privacy, without any distracting noise from adjacent conversations.

Third, Zoom allows participants to create their own virtual backgrounds. In Speed Culturing, students from both classes will typically ask questions about their conversation partners’ backgrounds and cultures. Virtual backgrounds, with pictures of students’ country of origin, national flags, etc., can be a visual way of sharing something of their cultural background with their conversation partners.

Mechanics of Zoom for Speed Culturing
Using breakout rooms

Managing video breakout rooms

(Note: You will want to use the manual option in creating breakout rooms. The automatic option would randomly assign students, so would not result in having one ESOL and one non-ESOL student in each room.)

The basics of using breakout rooms are covered in this video (which can also be found via a link at the above URL):

Using breakout rooms (video)

The video shows how to create breakout rooms. A useful feature covered is the broadcast message: Co-hosts can send a message letting students know it is time to switch rooms, or that they have one minute left, etc.

Note that the feature of closing breakout rooms should only be used at the end, since this will move everyone out of the breakout rooms and back into the main room. But, when this is used at the end, students can likewise be given a broadcast warning that everyone will soon be moved back into the main session.

This video also shows how to make other participants co-hosts, if you want to use that

option. Everyone in a meeting can potentially be made a co-host; the advantage is that co-hosts can move in and out of breakout rooms themselves. Those who are not co-hosts must be moved by a host or co-host.

Using virtual backgrounds

Instructions/tips for using virtual backgrounds can be found here (though many students are already versatile with use of virtual backgrounds):

Virtual backgrounds support

This can be a nice added feature for students who want to visually share some aspect of their culture using a virtual background.