The coronavirus pandemic has made it to UT. Classes are all online now, with many professors opting to give lectures via video conference apps like Zoom.
Adjusting to any new class environment is tricky, but with proper help anything is possible. Here are a few tips to keep in mind while video conferencing.
Dress for the occasion
We may be quarantined, but that doesn’t mean we go to class in robes and pajamas. Keep proper style in mind while class prepping.
Proper attire depends on the meeting in question. In most situations, it's enough to dress as one did for physical classes. That means casual, unrevealing clothes of the wearer's personal taste.
However, don’t neglect your classroom presence. It’s easy to make your presence and attentiveness known in physical classes, since all you need to do is regularly come to class and display ‘attentive’ non-verbals while answering questions.
Those non-verbals aren’t as obvious in an online classroom, but you can make up for it by dressing more professionally. If you’re worried about appearing professional, consider a business-casual outfit. The average business-casual look is a button-up, collared dress shirt with dark or khaki pants. It’s a look that works for all genders, and it is one that is easy to get right.
Adjust your posture
Non-verbals are harder to get across online, but they’re still important. Your professors can tell if you’re not paying attention by your posture.
Sit up as straight as you can and look into the camera. If your camera's in an awkward position — making you look awkward in the process — adjust it to where it faces you at eye level. Of course, don’t strain yourself if you have any medical conditions which make posture adjustments difficult.
Nevertheless, you can get your desire to learn across just as well by paying attention.
Choose the right environment
Since we’re streaming from home, we have to worry about what’s going on in the background.
You don’t want to stream from a room with clothes strewn everywhere for the same reason you wouldn’t come to class covered in dirt and grime, if you can help it. It doesn’t reflect well on you, and it is simply not polite.
Similarly, make sure your professor and classmates can actually see you. Stream in an area with plentiful light, though not enough to blind those on the other side of the screen.
Keep your roommates and family members in mind — you don’t want them walking in on your lesson or interrupting it with loud noises. Let them know when you’re in class and how loud they need to be. If they’re particularly noisy, lock or block the entrance and lower your streaming volume.
You do not have to have a perfect and aesthetic background, but you’ll make a better impression if you put in a little effort.
Speak normally and don’t interrupt
Learning online can be awkward, especially with so many people unsure of when to speak. Voice volume can also be awkward. Never fear, as the situation is easier to deal with than you may think.
Most laptop microphones can pick up your normal speaking voice, so don’t feel the need to yell. However, don’t mumble. Those same microphones have a tough time picking out quiet noises without making them incomprehensible. So if you need to speak, speak confidently from the chest at your normal voice volume.
Knowing how to ask questions is also awkward, but never interrupt your professor unless they say it is alright. Most conference apps, including Zoom, have a chat feature. If you have any questions on the material, say as much in the chat, your professor will surely see it.
If you’re worried about making your voice heard, talk to your professors via email and ask them how to approach classroom talk.