Seemingly overnight, Zoom went from a relatively unfamiliar video conferencing platform to one of the most popular tools used by universities and workplaces throughout the country. Due to the rapid progression of the coronavirus pandemic, students and professors alike were given little time to transition smoothly into a completely-online class structure; some adapted more quickly than others.
You might be wondering how your peers look like they’re sitting by the Golden Gate Bridge, how to send private messages to someone, or where that notorious “raise hand” feature is. This article clearly outlines some of the most important—and sometimes tricky—aspects of Zoom.
One of the most familiar actions within a regular classroom can be a difficult one to find on Zoom: raising your hand. To do so on Zoom, click on the “Participants” tab on the bottom bar, and hit the blue hand icon. You’ll also notice that Zoom allows students to give nonverbal feedback during class, with the following options: yes, no, go slower, go faster, like, dislike, clap, need a break, and away. These feedback bites help students stay engaged with the class without having to unmute their microphones and interrupt the professor. If you do click on one of the icons, make sure you click it again once you feel your concern has been addressed. Otherwise, the picture will remain next to your name in “Participants.”
If the host has this feature enabled, users can annotate a shared screen or whiteboard on Zoom. Simply click the “Annotate” button on the top of your screen to begin writing or drawing. Warning: This can be seen by both the host and participants, so make sure you’re not writing any personal notes to keep yourself entertained.
Most professors at Columbia and Barnard are doing their best to remain accommodative to students who may have difficulty getting online during their class time, whether because of time differences or some new commitment given the relocation back home. Most classes have recordings enabled and posted on CourseWorks for at least a few days. To view these, visit the “Zoom Class Sessions” tab on your class page and click on the “Cloud Recordings” option at the top. From there, you can see all the classes which have video and audio recordings, along with the chats from that session. Note that some professors prefer to post their recordings separate from “Zoom Class Sessions” through the “Files” or “Video Library” tabs.
The chat feature can be extremely helpful in classes. Even if the professor doesn’t immediately see a question, chances are another student or a teaching assistant will be able to answer you. The default setting for the chat will show a pop-up every time there is a new message . To fix this, simply click the arrow next to “Start Video,” go into “Video Settings,” click the “Chat” tab, and change your notification settings there. When chatting, you can also send messages to private individuals to simulate that classroom experience of tapping on your friend’s shoulder and asking, “Did you understand what she just said?”
To make sure you look your best without actually putting in any effort, go back to “Video Settings.” Here, you’ll find a feature called “Touch up my appearance.” Its use is akin to a very weak Snapchat filter, but checking the box can’t hurt. Don’t worry, we won’t tell. While you’re there, visit the “Virtual Background” tab on the left to add an image behind you. That way, you can at least pretend to be on Low Steps, when in reality, you might be hiding a pile of dirty laundry on your bed.
If your computer doesn’t have a microphone, you have the option of joining a Zoom meeting through phone audio. To do so, click the arrow next to the microphone icon on the bottom screen and select “Switch to Phone Audio.” From there, dial one of the numbers shown in the pop-up that corresponds to your country in the drop-down box. Once you follow the directions by the operator, you should be able to use your phone to continue speaking on Zoom.
Spectrum knows that this is a difficult time for everyone. Online classes will never be the same as an in-person lecture, but it’s up to us to get through this time. Stay strong and stay safe, Barnard and Columbia.