EAP tech tool of the week: Zaption


By now, most people have heard – however tangentially – the expression ‘flipping the classroom’ and the idea of providing out of the class input or activities that will then feed into what happens in the class.

For most EFL/EAP teachers, this doesn’t seem strikingly new or revolutionary. Perhaps for university professors traditionally giving all input via lecture this might be groundbreaking stuff, but for years we’ve been setting students tasks to do at home to discuss in more depth in class. I think we used to call it homework or preparation (and probably still do).

But certain things, such as listening, were always more challenging for students to work on outside of class. And for EAP students, they really need to have plenty of practice of higher-level listenings such as lectures. At our centre we recently did a tracking project following some of our students after they went into departments and we discovered that they do far more listening than we thought, often having 10–12 hours of lectures a week. And they struggle, these lectures often can last for two hours and being able to concentrate on complex material in another language is clearly something they didn’t have enough practice of.

Things like YouTube and TED have changed things a little as there’s so much decent material there but giving students structured tasks with a YouTube video is not always the easiest or most comfortable thing to do. You might be able to embed it into your VLE with some questions or you could possibly give them some questions on a handout for them to answer, but it wasn’t always possible to actually see how students had responded to them.

But now there are some excellent web tools for creating video-based activities, I’ve mentioned a few before: Educanon, Vialogues, Videoant, EdPuzzle, TED ED, and the one I want to talk about here, Zaption.

With these sites you can take online video (normally YouTube) and then create questions to embed within the video so students can answer them as they watch through. Since students work through at their own pace, this is something that works better as homework since in class each student would need access to headphones and a device to watch it.

The benefit for the teacher is that you get lots of useful data about students’ responses, there’s normally some part of the website where you can view the analytics for your video activity and identify which questions students were finding easy or more difficult and view what they wrote for any short answer questions.

Of the ones from the list that I’ve tried, Zaption is probably the most user-friendly for any teacher to pick up and start creating. A little bit of technology knowledge is required (for example you may want to trim the online video to cut out bits from the beginning and end) but on the whole it’s pretty self-explanatory and the web guides they’ve produced very useful if you ever get stuck. Here’s a quick overview I created to give you an idea.

Basically, once you’ve signed up, you can grab the video you want either by copying and pasting the web address or using the built-in search of Zaption to find it from their list of licensed sources. Of course they have YouTube but you can also take material from multiple sites, including Vimeo, PBS, National Geographic, TED and several others.

you can see the range of video services to search through, and 'more' hides others

you can see the range of video services to search through, and ‘more’ hides others

You can then insert various question types such as multiple choice or checkboxes or create open questions for them to respond to.

you drag the question types at the top down onto the screen or to the side of the screen to create the questions

you drag the question types at the top down onto the screen or to the side of the screen to create the questions

You can also insert text onto the video, this might be just to remind them to pay attention to something in the next section or to ask them to reflect on something they’ve seen.

You can add text on top of the slide and decide if the video is transparent beneath or not

You can add text on top of the slide and decide if the video is transparent beneath or not

Once you’ve created your lesson, you can then publish it and make it available to your students. This can be done either in class or for homework.

If you are going to use it in class, you’ll probably use the present mode. For this students will need a simple link and code that is generated when you enter present mode. They can access this on their mobile devices. The teacher then plays the video on the screen and the students will see the questions on the classroom screen but also on their mobile devices. They can answer directly there as well as submit any of their own questions about anything they don’t understand. The teacher also has the option to quickly add their own questions while the video is playing or to use a pointer or marker to indicate things on the screen. I’m not sure this would necessarily work so well in the EAP classroom though you may want to point to certain objects etc you see on the screen.

in present mode, teachers can access various tools to highlight things on screen or add more questions

in present mode, teachers can access various tools to highlight things on screen or add more questions

If you want them to do it at home, you can just share the lesson with them via a link. In this mode, students can listen to it at their own pace and any questions come up at the time the teacher specified and the student can answer in their own time.

you can share the video via a link or through various social media

you can share the video via a link or through various social media

In both cases, you can explore the answers the students gave by going to the analytics tab and viewing the various statistics about right/wrong answers and to see any typed answers students have given. This can be a rich source of info for follow-up classes after they’ve done this at home.

you can see lots of useful data about the students' responses

you can see lots of useful data about the students’ responses

A couple of things to be aware of about Zaption. First off, it uses the freemium model so beloved of mobile gaming to generate income. This means that it will offer a range of functions for free, but some will only be available if you pay. The things you don’t have access to for free are certain question types and certain bits of data in the analytics. If you really feel you need these, you can pay the $89 a year to access them or even better, ask your management whether they’ll cover the cost of a couple of subscriptions using generic email accounts.

here you can see the differences between the free and paid models

here you can see the differences between the free and paid models

Another option is to use the Refer Friends option. If you recommend Zaption to a friend and they sign up, you get two months of the Pro Version free and you get an extra two months for each extra friend that registers. In a staffroom, I’m sure you could divide up the referrals so that everyone gets a few months free use of the Pro version.

Also, rather like another favourite tool of mine, Quizlet, you don’t necessarily have to create your own content, there are thousands of ready-made lessons from other users to access. You can do this by going to the Zaption gallery and search for the topic you are interested in. The nice thing about the lessons is that you can copy them and then edit them to suit your students and the lesson, so if they are any questions you don’t like, you can delete them and replace them with your own.

From the gallery, you can search through thousands of ready-made lessons

From the gallery, you can search through thousands of ready-made lessons

With any of these services, there’s always the concern that they’ll close down and you’ll suddenly lose all your lessons and that could happen, but this looks professionally done and I think the service they offer is probably enough to keep it going for a while. Ultimately though, we can’t approach all technology with that attitude otherwise we’d never do anything. For EAP teachers I think it offers something genuinely interesting and engaging for their students and the sheer volume of web content out there appropriate for our students makes this a really useful tool.


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About David Read

I work at the English Language Teaching Centre at the University of Sheffield as the Director of TEL (technology-enhanced learning). I've been an EFL/EAP teacher and teacher trainer for over 20 years and have worked in 14 different countries. Settling down is clearly an issue for me.

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