Making the Most of Your Online Class

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Online class can present challenges if you’re not prepared. Joe Houghton shares some top tips for online learning success to get the most value out of your online class.

Optimise your workspace…

  • If you have an extra monitor, a second screen can be useful for seeing multiple windows at once
  • Try to position yourself so there is no window right behind you – it turns you into a silhouette and is distracting for the rest of the class on Zoom calls
  • Try to position your webcam as close to eye level as you can. Raise your laptop using a stand or some books, and use an external keyboard for comfort in longer sessions. This reduces neck strain, makes you look more natural on screen and no-one wants to be looking up your nose!
  • Position a light somewhere in front of you so your face is illuminated. I often bounce the light off the wall I’m facing so I am lit up but don’t have to look into a lamp directly…

Optimise your computer…

  • If you have a network cable you can run from your router to your computer, it will give you much better connection speeds than relying on wi-fi.
  • Do yourself and everyone else a favour, and turn off all your email, social media and notifications during your online classes. Try to set yourself up for focussed work in the time we are online together and catch up on the social feeds later!
  • Close down all the programs on your computer you are not using for class, including browser tabs – these all take up computer resources which may degrade your computer’s performance and ability to interact well during your online class

Optimise your session…

  • Join the call a few minutes early so you are ready to start the online session on time. Coming in late keeps everyone else waiting and is disrespectful of your classmates and facilitator’s time.
  • If you like, personalise your background in Zoom to hide the messy room behind you! Just Google “Zoom backgrounds”, download a few you like and then upload them into the Virtual Backgrounds under settings in the Zoom app.
  • You can easily change your background during a meeting by clicking the up arrow next to Stop Video & selecting Choose Virtual Background… Or not – who really cares if you have a messy room anyway!
  • It can be useful to negotiate sole use of the Internet for important calls or classes with others in your house so you get the max connection speed, but remember, they’ll want the same later on!

Optimise your interaction…

  • Before your call, test your audio to make sure that your speakers are set to the right volume, that your speech is being picked up by the microphone and that you are using the right mic and speakers if you have more than one connected
  • Use headphones or earbuds to make your audio sound better. It also prevents feedback when your mic is unmuted.
  • An external mic will also give your listeners far better audio than just using your computer’s mic, and also reduce ambient noise from your surroundings.
  • Upgrading your internet connection might be an option and give you better call quality if your home line can’t support faster speeds?
  • During a call you can choose which mic and speakers to use by clicking on the up arrow next to the Unmute button in your Zoom toolbar

Optimise your experience…

  • When asked during class, turn on your video so everyone can see each other and you can feel more like a real class working together.
  • Contribute! Learning online can be fun, but like any other class, it works SO much better when everyone contributes and participates.
  • Use the Chat window during class to pose questions and also contribute useful ideas, links and stuff to add to the conversation. Make this a co-creative learning experience by getting involved!
  • Use the Reactions window during class to signal agreement or give kudos for points well made etc

Come to class prepared…

  • Online classes don’t work like normal co-located ones. Everyone’s attention time in front of a screen is very limited. We know that class time should be spent more on interaction than in long chunks of delivery – synchronous time online is very precious, so set yourself up to make the most of it…
  • You really need to spend more time before online class doing any pre-reading and study which has been given out, as the class time will expect that you have done this
  • Try to come to each session on top of the material, and with some questions and positive contributions to add to the discussions and breakout sessions.
  • A great way to do this is to link some aspect of a story in the news to the class topic, and share this with everyone as a discussion contribution.

Go easy on yourself…

  • Sometimes old-school is best. If your screen is full of Zoom window, use a pen and paper to take notes. You can always take a quick photo of your notes afterwards to get them saved and backed up…
  • Being uncomfortable with all this online stuff is OK – most of us are! If you are feeling challenged, share this with your teacher and classmates – asking for help is a strength not a weakness…
  • Take a break! Stretch, walk around, go lie on the grass. Get off the office chair and outside for a few minutes to de-stress and relax a bit…

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