Going to Zoom class seems so easy – just roll over, switch it on and attend. But that doesn’t work so well. In fact, when it comes to learning, it works quite poorly. Rather, you need to take time to get yourself in the right physical and mental space for attending class. When in doubt, act as though you are in your regular academic classroom and put your best ‘virtual’ foot forward! With the help of your instructors, we’ve put together some “do’s and don’ts” for taking Zoom classes.
- “Get ready” for class just as you would an in-person class. Dress and groom as you would for an in-person class, have textbooks and anything else you need for class with you, and find a place where you can stay alert and focused. By a window or lamp is ideal.
- Attend class through a laptop or computer. If you do not have one or it is not working well, you may borrow a Chromebook from Information Technology (973-655-7971). Phones and tablets do not work very well.
- Make sure your audio works. You need to be able to hear and be heard by others. Earphones, earbuds, and headsets can improve audio. Occasional audio problems are expected, but if your audio regularly breaks up and you can’t hear or be heard, seek a device upgrade or a better Wi-Fi location. The University can help – borrow a laptop or contact Information Technology (973-655-7971).
- Before class, review the plan for the day’s session. Check the syllabus and the most recent announcement or email that your professor has sent so you know what is expected before you show up.
- Engage during class using the communication channels your instructor recommends. Instructors may ask that you use the icons available in Zoom (like hand-raising), speak up directly, use the chat, answer polls or participate in other interactive elements – or they may encourage the use of many channels.
- Pay attention and show that you are doing so. Unless otherwise advised, turn your webcam on and pay full attention. Try taking notes during lectures and even discussions to help you retain knowledge and stay focused. The act of note-taking, especially by hand, focuses attention; students also pay attention better if they are actively involved – ask and answer questions, and offer contributions. In short, speak up.
- Make informed decisions about turning on your camera. Instructors make decisions about video–on or off–, so be sure to know your professor’s policy and preferences. Having the video on helps most students stay engaged and attentive, and most instructors prefer it; however, there may be circumstances where it’s legitimately difficult, for example, if your bandwidth doesn’t allow for both video and audio. If your device doesn’t have a working camera, reach out to IT – there’s a Chromebook with video you can borrow for the semester.
- Make eye contact. When you have your video on, position your Zoom window close to the webcam so that other viewers look at you directly.
- Mute yourself when not speaking. Background noise is distracting for others, and even whispered conversations and rustling of papers are picked up easily by mics.
- Put away your phone and close unnecessary applications and browser windows. The easiest way to resist temptation is to remove temptation. You can’t chat with friends and focus on class. In addition, fewer applications open will increase your connectivity.
- Ghost me/Hide behind your icon. Sometimes students attend class, even make a contribution, and then disappear but remain logged into Zoom. Not only does it hinder your learning, but when you are called on and the whole class has to wait to discover whether you’re having trouble with the mute button or have ghosted everyone, it’s rude and a waste of everyone’s time.
- Tune out. If in response to being called on you realize you do not know what the professor has asked and aren’t sure of what the class is discussing, you probably tuned out, and your instructor will suspect the same. If this happens more than once, you need to develop new strategies for paying attention (i.e. take handwritten notes, see above).
- Attend class as a side activity. Do not attend class while driving, traveling, eating, socializing, texting, cooking, resting, etc. When you are in class, your focus should be only on classwork. Class comes first, even when you’d rather do something else.
- Hide your face. The value of the webcam is in seeing your face. Position your webcam so that your face is illuminated, with no lights or windows behind you. Aiming the webcam at the ceiling, or a wall is distracting for viewers.
- Remain silent, unresponsive. Participate in class discussions with your classmates and with the professors. A silent classroom where the professor is only lecturing results in passive learning rather than active learning. Participating helps to keep each other engaged. If you’re having trouble with your audio, use the chat.
- Ignore problems you’re having with the class, your technology or the modality. Problems need to be addressed. Go to your professor’s office hours, see your advisor or begin with the Red Hawk Central chat where you can be directed to the best place for help. Make an appointment with one of the many resources the University has developed.
Compiled by the Office for Faculty Excellence for the Office of the Provost.
Updated 07.21.22 SR