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LITS Faculty Guide: 2020-2021 FIT

Best Practices for Teaching via Video

As Mount Holyoke transitions to remote learning, you may find you are reliant on video to provide moments of mediated yet synchronous communicaton with students or colleagues. As we all learn how to conduct the business of the College via Zoom and Google Hangouts, we are collecting best practices and useful suggestions. If there is a topic you would like to see addressed on this page, please don't hesitate to submit your feedback.

Videoconferencing Etiquette: Before the Meeting

Wear it Well: Dress for your video conference the way you would for an in-person meeting, at least the top half!

Video and Audio Quality: If you are able to, consider using an external webcam and speaker or microphone headset.  This will look and sound better than your computer’s built-in system. If you only have the built-in gear, that’s OK, but it means you have to be a bit more aware of your surroundings.  Try to hold meetings in quiet indoor spaces to control the ambient noise, particularly if you will be speaking a lot.  

Lighting: Try not to sit right in front of a bright light source, particularly a big window.  The audience will see a bright light with a shadowy figure in front of it. Experiment with moving lamps and your camera until you can see your face evenly lit on the screen. 

Background: Try not to have too much visible clutter behind you.  It’s ok to show a bit of personality, but too much will be distracting for other participants. If you are videoconferencing via Zoom, you can also try turning on a Virtual Background.

Speaking and Presenting: Practice speaking to the camera, not to the screen.  This gives the audience the feeling that they are being addressed directly.

Videoconferencing Etiquette: During the Meeting

Mute Your Microphone: When listening to a presenter, mute your microphone.  In Zoom, this can be controlled with the microphone button at the lower left of your screen. In Google Hangouts Meet, the microphone button is often in the bottom center of your screen. Muting your mic cuts down on any ambient noise, which can become distracting - particularly in a big group.  When there is back and forth discussion happening, you can unmute. If you do try to speak while you have your mic muted, videoconferencing tools like Zoom will usually pick up on that, and remind you to turn your microphone back on.

Chat: Use the chat tool alongside your videoconference to share comments or questions through text. In Zoom, you can choose to chat with individuals or the whole group; in Google Hangouts Meet, you can chat with the whole group only.

Smile, You’re On Camera: Please remember that you are being watched the whole time, everyone can see everything that you do.  Things of particular note to avoid include: 

  • big yawns, or anything that shows the inside of your mouth for too long
  • extended chewing
  • large or repetitive motions like extended stretching

These kinds of exaggerated movements are distracting to the audience and can be disruptive to the speaker.  Try to stay still and be attentive. If you’re videoconferencing with Zoom, temporarily disable your video if you need to avoid being a distraction to other viewers. The video button is next to the microphone button at the lower left.

Personality: Video communication can feel awkward and formal, but it’s okay to let your personality come through.  Try to be aware of the room and the number of people participating, and adjust to the appropriate use of formal vs. informal communication.  You don’t have to behave like a robot just because you are videoconferencing, but you will also want to be efficient, and respectful of everyone else on the call.

Using Breakout Rooms in Zoom

  1. Make sure breakout rooms are turned on for your account. Go to and log in to your Mount Holyoke Zoom account. Click Account Management > Settings, and choose the Meeting tab, and find the setting called Breakout Room.  Make sure that setting is turned on.  (See further instructions here on the Zoom Support site if you need them: Getting Started with Breakout Rooms)
  2. When you have Breakout Rooms turned on for yourself, you should see a Breakout Rooms button in the menu at the bottom of the screen in Zoom meetings where you are the host.  If you don’t see the button, check under the More button (with three dots) to find it.
  3. When you click on the Breakout Rooms button, you will see a dialog like this one: 
    Screenshot of breakout rooms popup, with default of 1 room, and automatic assignment selected
  4. You can have the computer assign participants to breakout rooms automatically, or you can manually choose who goes in each room. Group sizes of around 4-5 people are generally comfortable for conversation on Zoom. You can also feel free to leave some participants unassigned; they will stay in the original meeting room.
  5. You will then see this screen to manage the breakout rooms.
    Breakout rooms management window with 2 people unassigned and 2 people in breakout room 1
    You can join one room at a time to hear the discussion, using the Join option to the right.
  6. You can also broadcast a text message to all the breakout rooms.  This can be useful when you need to remind them of time limits, or give a prompt to everyone.
  7. Participants can come back to the original room on their own, and you can recall them with the “Close All Rooms” button.

Check out this video on using breakout rooms for more help:

Holding Office Hours via Zoom

Need to hold virtual office hours? We recommend using Zoom for this purpose! 

  1. Set up a one-time or recurring meeting that extends for the duration of your office hours.
  2. When setting up this meeting, turn on the waiting room feature.
  3. Run the meeting, admitting individual students to the room when you're ready to see them.

The waiting room will allow you to decide when to admit each student over the course of your virtual office hour session. You might choose to simply admit the next in line, one at a time, or to schedule smaller sessions within your office hour with particular students in advance. However you manage the organization of your office hours, we recommend you do so outside of Zoom itself. Setting up a single meeting with the waiting room feature on for the duration of your office hours cuts down on confusion and makes it easier for your students to find you.

Watch the following video for a quick demonstration of the waiting room feature:

Scheduling Zoom Sessions for Advising

There are a number of options available to faculty as you prepare to hold advising sessions with students virtually. You are welcome to make use of Pathway's scheduling features if those appeal most to you! If, however, you would like to schedule a single Zoom meeting and set up times for your advisees to "drop by," we are suggesting you use a combination of Google's Appointment Slots feature and your Zoom Personal Meeting Room.

To start, collect the URL of or invitation to your Zoom Personal Meeting Room, either through the app or through the web interface. Please make sure you have turned on the Waiting Room feature.

Have this on hand, and navigate to Google Calendar.

In your Google Calendar, decide on one or more blocks of time during which you will meet with advisees. Select that entire block of time. When the pop-up to generate your event appears, choose "Appointment Slots," and decide how long in duration each meeting will be, then choose "More options." In the window that follows, paste the invite information, and save the calendar event.

Once your block of advising sessions has been added to your Google calendar, you can open that calendar event and collect a link that will allow your advisees to sign up for a preferred slot:

Sharing the link to this appointment page will now give your advisees the opportunity to sign up for a session, and a link to the Zoom room in which they will meet with you.

Sharing a Presentation or Your Screen

  1. Open up your presentation (PowerPoint, Google Slides, etc) as you usually would on your computer.
  2. Start your Zoom meeting. Click the “Share Screen” in the menu. 
    zoom options bar with share screen
    You will see options to share your whole screen, or to pick one window to share, or even use a virtual whiteboard that you can sketch on. Anything you still have up on your computer or haven’t closed all the way is available for you to choose from. Choose what you’d like to show your students, and then click “Share”.
  3. You can then control the presentation just as you would any other slide presentation, while talking to your students (you can imagine Zoom is acting like the projector screen would in the classroom).
  4. You may see slight delays, and your mouse might jump around a little instead of moving smoothly.
  5. The Zoom meeting controls will be smaller and take up less of your screen.  You may only see a small green and red bar at the top of the screen.  You can use the button there that says “Stop Sharing” to end the screen share and return to the normal video call.
    Zoom screen share bar, with meeting ID and stop share button
    If you mouse over the bar, more options will appear.
    Screen share bar with mute, stop video, manage participants, new share, pause share, annotate, and more options visible
  6. While you’re screen sharing, you can toggle the display that shows the other participants in your call next to your slides. Detailed information can be found here: Zoom | Video Layout Options While Screen Sharing

Help with Zoom

Need help getting ready to use Zoom? While most users find it relatively intuitive, a variety of support options are available. These include:

  • Videos and Articles from Zoom Support
  • Live Training Webinars (including some specifically for educators)
  • LinkedIn Learning course, "Learning Zoom."
  • If the College implements a campus-wide social distancing policy during the academic year, limited live remote help will be available weekdays, as long as LITS staff are able to connect from campus or their own remote locations. More information about this support will be made available to all instructors as needed.
  • E-mail the LITS Helpdesk.
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