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.
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.
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:
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.
Check out this video on using breakout rooms for more help:
Need to hold virtual office hours? We recommend using Zoom for this purpose!
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:
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.
Need help getting ready to use Zoom? While most users find it relatively intuitive, a variety of support options are available. These include: