The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday October 7th

Zoom survival guide: Students and faculty share their remote class tips and tricks

DTH Photo Illustration. Students struggle to stay focused during Zoom classes as they tend to be easily distracted and have difficulties making connections with instructors and fellow students.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. Students struggle to stay focused during Zoom classes as they tend to be easily distracted and have difficulties making connections with instructors and fellow students.

As a drama professor teaching virtually, UNC teaching professor Jeff Cornell has had to use the features offered by Zoom to his advantage and restructure his hands-on classroom to function remotely. 

“Let's say two people are doing an acting scene,” Cornell said. “We all turn off our videos except for theirs and then they hide non-video participants. And then they can pin each other so that they're just looking at the other person on their screen. Those of us that have our videos turned off are watching, and we have them in gallery view.” 

Cornell — like many professors at UNC — has become accustomed to the tools Zoom has to offer to make virtual learning easier. After a semester of remote learning, professors and students alike have plenty of tips and tricks for surviving Zoom University next semester. 

1. Recorded classes

One of the tools Cornell said he has found especially useful as a teacher has been the ability to record classes — and he is not alone. 

Sophomore nursing major Kelsey McDowell said she took full advantage of this Zoom tool, especially for lab classes. 

“Most professors record their lectures, and now you have the opportunity to re-watch the lectures that you didn't have before, so I love that,” McDowell said. “You also can play the lectures on one-and-a-half or two times speed when it is recorded to get through more material.”

For drama classes in particular, Cornell said it is a useful tool for students to watch their performance back and find what they need to work on in the recordings. This also applies to classes that require refined presentations or speaking skills.

2. Asking questions

Another tool McDowell recommended for students is to use the chat function to ask questions, especially in large classes. 

“Sometimes in class, I would get anxious to raise my hand and speak in 100-person classes,” McDowell said. “Now, I could just quickly type my question and then they'll just answer it.”

But Cornell said he recommends for students in smaller classes to ask the questions out loud in order to facilitate a more casual discussion.

“An acting class is a little bit less hierarchical,” Cornell said. “We all kind of talk at the same time, and it's very discussion-oriented. Yes, people do raise their hand, but it's a pretty small class.”

3. Cameras and microphones

Another way to stay engaged is by always keeping your camera on during classes if you're able, first-year Kaitlyn Gomez said. 

“I definitely recommend having your camera on during class if it's optional because it makes you feel more present in your class,” Gomez said. “If you have your camera off, it kind of gives you an excuse to not pay attention.”

But it is important to be aware of your surroundings while your camera is on, Cornell said. He suggested setting up a properly lit space to avoid backlighting by using a floor lamp or natural light in front of your desk.

“Being aware of lighting can really help the professors see the students,” Cornell said. “If there's some way to have some light in front of your face so that you can be seen, that's useful.”

4. Breakout rooms

In breakout rooms, Gomez said to not rely on the chat announcements teachers oftentimes post with the discussion questions, as they disappear quickly. 

“Take a picture of (the question) so that you remember it because a lot of times, you don't actually know what you're supposed to be discussing," Gomez said. 

Additionally, Cornell said to keep in mind that teachers can jump from room to room to check in during calls. 

5. Leaving Zoom calls

Just because class time has ended does not mean the Zoom call is over. Instead, McDowell suggested staying on the Zoom call at the end to ask any questions. 

“If I have a question that is specific to me especially, I ask it after class when my professor is still on the call,” McDowell said. 

Even if you have no questions yourself, Gomez said she suggested staying on the call after class to hear or ask any remaining questions about the class.

“If someone has a question, it's a lot of times relevant to you,” Gomez said.

But Gomez said to make sure to leave the call in a timely manner. 

“Once there are no more questions, don't be the last person on a Zoom call because it gets awkward,” she said.

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