Things to keep in mind now that your classes are online

video chat

Just like in your in-person classes, your professors will each will have different expectations for student communication during the virtual class. They may or may not want students to have cameras on, and you may need to be able to ask/answer questions using your microphone. Be sure to ask what their new in-class expectations are if they haven’t shared them. Some instructors might expect students to talk, others might want you to use the chat feature.

Consider: What can people see?

Putting yourself on video from home may feel weird. Your professors and fellow-students are in similar situations! Please remember to be patient with each other and suspend any judgment. Still, keep in mind that visuals can be distracting to others and detract from learning. There are a lot of visuals in videos, including what you are wearing, what’s in the room you are in, and who’s in the room you are in. While we can control some things, like what you are wearing and what people see in the static background of the camera, other things are harder to control, like your roommate/sibling/pet running through the background!

Consider turning off your video if you are eating, talking with someone else in the room, or “multi-tasking” (which is a myth, by the way, see this page for why).

If possible, find a space to zoom that’s clean and simple (plant, wall, bookshelves are ok, piles of dirty laundry, poster with vulgar or crude images and language not so much). Zoom allows users to put themselves in front of virtual backgrounds, but some are better and more appropriate than others. If you are going to use a virtual background, try to use a static and work-appropriate image.

Lighting can make a big difference, too. If you’re sitting with a bright light or window behind you, you will probably be completely darkened by the light.

earConsider: What can people hear?

Extraneous noise can be distracting to others and detract from learning, too. Whether it is your dog barking, the garbage truck outside, or siblings getting in an argument or even just talking online for their own schoolwork, if you can hear it, your microphone will pick it up too. Even though you may not be able to control the background noise from where you are zooming, you can control your mic. Sometimes your instructor will have all mics muted upon entry, if they don’t, you can mute your own mic a soon as you sign on. You will need to unmute when you want to talk (and then mute when you are done).

video chatTips for when your instructor expects students to participate using video and the microphone

  • Make sure your camera is ON and not covered up.
  • Your professor may expect students to raise their hands digitally or ask questions via chat, or, if the class is small you may just raise your hand like you would in person.
  • Look at the camera when you talk to make eye contact (this can be hard b/c you might be looking at yourself!)
  • Depending on how the course is set up, the instructor might have to unmute your microphone. In other cases, you might be able to unmute yourself.
  • In online discussions, it can be hard to gauge your professors’ and classmates’ facial cues. Be sure to share airspace and try to avoid interrupting others.
  • When you are done speaking, try and indicate verbally that you are done. You can simply say, “that’s it” or “I’m done”. Non-verbal cues are sometimes hard to “hear” in videos.

video chatUsing Zoom from a Student Perspective

There are a lot of resources out there on using Zoom. If you would like a short and informative overview, take a look at this video that Dr. Ben Finio, Lecturer in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, created on “How to use Zoom as a Student”.

Remember that the online sessions may be recorded. This is still a classroom and adhering to normal classroom behaviors is still important.

More Resources from the LSC on How to Learn Online During COVID-19

Would you like to learn more?

For useful information, go to the Cornell COVID-19 updates page

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