Tips for Video Teaching

By Andreas Ramos, Lecturer at INSEEC SF

Updated March 12, 2020

NOTE: You can add, comment, and edit the Google Docs version of this document.

I’ve been teaching webinars and classes at CSTU and the DMA-NC via online conference software for a year. We added Zoom at INSEEC SF.

I’ve used GoToMeeting and Google Hangout. Zoom is better because it has a modern interface and lots of useful options.

Remarkably, I haven't found webpages with useful tips on how to do online classes. If you find something, let me know! andreas@andreas.com

Set Up the Zoom Account

  • Zoom.us is swamped with calls. I've heard that they have ten times the normal volume of calls and sales, so it's difficult to talk with someone now (March, 2020)
  • Zoom's support is useless. I called Support and spent seven minutes on hold. I asked, "What is a Zoom Room?". The support person said, "Zoom... room? Wait and I'll look it up in the support pages." I said thank you and hung up. I think Zoom hired everyone possible and put them on the phone lines.
  • There are free Personal accounts, but these are limited to only 40 minutes for one call.
  • I signed up for a Pro account. A session can last 24 hours. It allows up to 99 people in the audience. Pro is $150/year as a one-time payment (there is also monthly payment). But Zoom was unable to complete the credit card transaction. I called Sales Support and spent another five minutes on hold. He said, "Yeah, well, our credit card payment system kinda collapsed. Can you try Paypal?" That worked.

Set Up the Video Class

  • You should use Zoom for 10-15 min before your first class.
  • Use Zoom Schedule to set up your conference call. Start the broadcast 30 minutes before class so people can set up. The first time they use Zoom, they have to download and install which takes five to ten minutes.
  • Zoom gives you a personal account ID number. That is part of the URL for your call, such as https://zoom.us/j/123456789 (that's an example number). People click that URL in their phone or computer and the Zoom call opens. They can also go to Zoom, enter the number, and the call opens.
  • No matter how often you send out the ID number for the call, many will still not know what to do. Write a short, simple email, such as, "Join the call at 9 a.m. Click https://zoom.us/j/123456789". Post it to Slack and send by email as well.
  • Your Zoom ID doesn’t change, so you can post this once for all sessions.
  • Have your presentation (Powerpoint, Word, etc.) open on your computer and use Screen Share to select it for shared display.
  • Choice of browser: Google Chrome works better than Safari. Some students had difficulty with other browsers.

Prepare Before the Video Class

  • Have a pen and clipboard and a glass of water by your desk.
  • Stand, if you can. You'll be able to speak better.
  • Wear a shirt with a solid dark color (not white). If it has patterns or stripes, it may cause distracting motions on the screen.
  • Tell students to have their laptops/phones at 100% battery.
  • Tell students to use their headsets/earphones for better sound.
  • Tell students to be connected to WIFI to avoid roaming fees or slow connection.s

During the Video Class

  • Be sure to turn on everyone's video camera so you can see them. If they know you can see them, they behave a bit better.
  • Marianne says, “Cameras should be on or they should be considered absent.”
  • Mute the students to reduce background noise. You can mute everyone. For Apple, use ⌘ Cmd+Ctrl+M. For Windows, use Alt+M.
  • The top students pay attention and take notes. But some goof off and distract the top students.
  • It only takes a few minutes for some students to realize that you can't control them, so some will talk with each other, look at their cell phones, whack each other on the head (usually, the back row boys), and so on. Have Marianne come in and watch them.
  • Do not let students sit together or share a computer. That encourages talking.

Improve the Online Experience

  • Use the Chat box. Students can type questions anonymously. Only you see the question. Students are shy about making mistakes in front of the others, so anonymous chat is a great solution.
  • Polls work well. You have to turn this option on before you start. You can use multiple choice, choose one, and so on. You have to set up the polls before class. I will try to use three or more polls per class. I’ve noticed if 19 students are logged in, only 15-16 will click on the poll (the others are not paying attention).
  • The students like personal interaction. Wave at them, when they wave, wave back at them, and so on. The cat walked into the room so I held up the cat. They liked that.
  • If you want to show something, have it by your desk. I had books and items to show them.
  • Use the whiteboard tools that allows you to draw on a page or display your mouse. That lets you draw lines, point to things, etc.

Student Feedback

  • Do students prefer online or in-person? I polled the students: the average across four classes is a 70% preference for in-person class.
  • I also prefer in-person because I can meet students individually.

Additional Ideas

  • You can also record the session, but I didn't. Maybe later, I'll do this. If you record the class, some students may think they can watch later so they won’t pay attention and they also can’t ask questions later.
  • If you have a messy background behind you, you can change your background so there is sky, a cityscape, and so on. You can add your own background.
  • Zoom has "Zoom Attendance Tracking", but I can't find out what this actually does. I think it tells you that Jennifer is not looking at the screen. It shows you who is watching, who isn't watching, and gives you an Attentiveness Report that Jennifer was active for only 62% of the meeting. But I'm not sure. I will enable this and try it.

Final Comments

  • Video online class is like watching a video about the beach versus going to the beach. The online experience is perhaps 20-30% of the in-person experience.
  • The most valuable part of teaching is the personal interaction with students, sitting with them after class, and so on. That’s pretty much missing with online teaching.

More Stuff

  • Ideas, tips, experiences with online teaching? Tell me. andreas@andreas.com