The Rise of the Zoom Pop-In

The next iteration of pandemic-driven academic remote work culture.

September 30, 2020

Zoom pop-ins have become a thing. We are at a point in our pandemic-driven academic remote work culture that our use of synchronous meetings is morphing.

The old way of Zooming (where old is four months ago in COVID time) was to schedule a 30- or 60-minute meeting. Scheduling would take place through the campus email/calendaring system. (My school uses Office 365/Outlook.) Zoom work meetings were scheduled meetings.

Nowadays, we are just as likely to jump into a Zoom on the fly. Slack messages flow seamlessly into Zoom meetings. (Even easier if your school has integrated the Zoom app into Slack). Teams bounce from email to Zoom and back again. A group will be collaborating on a Google Doc and then toggle to Zoom to work through a point.

How are ad hoc Zoom meetings different from scheduled conversations?

First, they then to be shorter, and they move more quickly to the work. No time for pleasantries when you are Zooming to work together. As the conversation likely started on another platform (email, Slack, Docs, etc.), the discussion proceeds from midsentence. Five to 15 minutes is often all that you need.

Second, Zoom pop-ins tend to be smaller, less formal and less exhausting. These are conversations, not meetings. An instant Zoom meeting is the pandemic analog to sticking your head in a colleague's office. "Have time for a quick chat?" "Sure, come on in. What's up?"

Unscheduled, fast, informal and conversational virtual meetings have long been part of programmers' and other tech workers' culture. That communications culture was firmly rooted in higher ed tech circles, but less so outside of campus tech groups.

Nowadays, the unscheduled and unplanned Zoom meeting has migrated to every corner of the academy. We are all doing it so seamlessly that we didn't even notice the change.


We have retired comments and introduced Letters to the Editor. Letters may be sent to [email protected].

Read the Letters to the Editor  »

Back to Top