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Learning and teaching through Zoom: Tips for online classes

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Getting prepared for a Zoom class (Image: Gabriel Benois on Unsplash)

The pandemic last year changed the trajectory of education. While some are starting to go back to regular classes, many will still subscribe to the online medium for the foreseeable future. Zoom is one of the most popular platforms used for online classes. The concept behind it might be simple, but adjusting to it is not an easy feat. Learning mainly in front of a desktop can feel foreign and cause issues with your learning. The boundary between your personal and academic space can potentially blur and eventually cause more stress. However, there are ways to counter these difficulties. Hence, here are some tips to excel with your Zoom classes.

  1. Be Prepared: Study in Advance. A way for you to lessen the chances of lagging is by reading your lessons in advance. This way, you can keep track of your learning. Raise questions you come across in your advanced study during class. If you have the time, you can take additional courses to further your learning. It can be especially helpful to aptitude exam takers, such as GRE and GMAT. My GRE Exam Preparation is a site that provides in-depth reviews of popular prep courses such as Magoosh’s GMAT course.
  2. Dedicate a spot for your classes. Find a space in your house where you can concentrate. Minimize distractions, including putting away things you don’t need on your station. It is advisable to be distant from your bed or couch. This clear separation can help sharpen your focus.
  3. Be active in the discussion. Zoom classes tend to be passive, and that’s when you become indifferent to learning. That’s why you must put a conscious effort to listen and join in the class discussion. Not only will it help with your learning, but it encourages the whole class to chime in as well. And your instructor will appreciate your active participation.
  4. Take breaks when studying. Don’t push yourself to the point of burnout. Your brain and body need rest for them to function properly. If you’re stuck on a problem or having writer’s block, taking a short walk or grabbing a light snack can clear your mind and come up with solutions.

Students are not the only ones adjusting to the current setup. Teachers most likely did not have specific training for online instruction. Encouraging participation in a traditional class setup can be challenging enough, how much more in a space you have little control over. So if you’re a teacher, here are some tips and tools you can use in Zoom to enhance your teaching experience.

  1. Prepare your space and devices. You want to do your instruction in a quiet room with minimal visual distractions in the background. The focus should be on you and your lessons. If you have the budget, invest in good-quality tools like a webcam, a microphone, and a noise-canceling headset. A nifty tool is a document camera that serves as an overhead projector for written things.
  2. Turn on the Mute Participants option. When creating a meeting for class, don’t forget to click on the Mute participants upon entry option so your students’ microphones will be off by default. It prevents abrupt interruptions and distractions during class. Only turn it on once you require the participation of the class.
  3. Use breakout rooms. This feature in Zoom creates smaller meeting spaces within the original one. Use it for group exercises. You, being the host, can conveniently hop from one room to another to check their progress.
  4. Record your meeting. There’s an option in Zoom that allows you to record everything happening during the meeting. This can be helpful to students who could not make it to class or just want to review the discussion. You can also use this to review the session and figure out which things to improve on.
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