Learning in Zoom

Recommendations and Tips for Students

Learning in Zoom is an adjustment if you are accustomed to attending class on-ground, but these recommendations and tips will help you use the tool well, stay engaged, and connect with both your classmates and your professor. This resource is divided into two sections: (1) expectations to clarify with your instructor and (2) how to use the Zoom platform as a learner.


Expectations to Clarify with Your Instructor

How your class will use Zoom depends on the teaching approach of your instructor and the course subject. Some courses lend themselves to a lot of discussion, while others place more emphasis on formal presentations. Your instructor may tell you at the outset of the class how Zoom will be used, but you might also want to be proactive about seeking information on expectations. Here are lists of suggested questions to ask about logistics and interactions:

Logistics: On-ground and remote

  • If we are attending class on-ground, do you expect us to bring our laptops or smartphones to log in to Zoom during class? Some instructors may use Zoom polls and breakout rooms that include both on-ground and remote students. If you will be using Zoom while attending class on-ground, you will also need to bring headphones or earbuds.
  • If I am attending class remotely, do you prefer for me to keep my video on throughout the class? Is it important for me to turn on my video when I am contributing to a discussion or asking/answering a question verbally?
    • TIP: If you do not want people to see your living space, you can use Zoom preferences to select a background. Note that you need to install Zoom on your computer before you can access preferences (see below). Consider the course context and instructor expectations as you select an appropriate background. When attending remotely, dress in the same way you would if attending the class in person.

Interactions: Questions and chat

  • How do you prefer to receive questions? Is it okay to pose them during a presentation, or would it be better to wait until the end?
  • How do you prefer for us to use Zoom when asking questions? Should we use the chat or ask them verbally?
  • Is it okay to use the chat to make comments or observations while you are speaking? Is it okay to use the chat to make comments or observations with someone else in the class is speaking?


How to Use Zoom Software as a Learner: Seven Recommendations

1. Download the software.

Zoom has several features that make it possible for you to contribute to the class and get questions answered. It is helpful to download Zoom and install it on your computer, because the installed software has more options than the web client. Zoom releases regular updates, many of which provide added security and stability to the platform, and so it is important to upgrade to the latest version on a regular basis (at least once a month). You can download Zoom at https://zoom.us/download.

2. Know when to switch between Active Speaker, Gallery, and Side-by-Side view.

By default, Zoom displays in Active Speaker view, in which the person who is speaking has the largest window and others are displayed in thumbnail view across the side or top of the page. This is great for presentations, but not as effective for group discussions. During group discussions, it can be helpful to switch to Gallery view by clicking on the icon in the upper right corner of the display. If a presenter is screen sharing, you can choose Side-by-Side view to see both the presentation and the group by clicking View Options at the top of the display and selecting Side-by-Side from the drop-down list.


Active Speaker view in Zoom




Gallery view in Zoom




Side-by-Side view in Zoom



For more information, read Zoom’s how-to article “Changing the video layout.”

3. Pin a video.

Zoom cannot distinguish between a dog barking in the background and a person who is saying something important. You can “pin” a video in Speaker view so that the person you want to see most is always on display. To pin, Hover over the video feed you want to pin, click the three blue dots in the upper-right corner, and select “pin.” To unpin, hover over the video feed again and click the three dots to unpin.






For more information, read Zoom’s how-to article “Pin Video.”

4. Optimize your learning space.

It is easy to get distracted under any conditions, but especially so when learning remotely. Locate yourself in a place that is quiet and has good lighting on your face before logging into class. This will help you concentrate, and others will be able to see and hear you if you are called upon to speak. In addition, close all other applications to ensure that your sole focus is on the class. This will help you avoid the temptation to check text messages and social media during class.

5. When in doubt, mute.

Keep your mic muted whenever possible, but also remember to unmute before speaking when you are attending class remotely. If you are on-ground in a NUflex classroom, audio will be received and broadcast through the room microphones. Rest assured, if you speak clearly and with a strong voice, the remote participants will be able to hear you. It is imperative for you to mute both your Zoom audio and your computer audio when you are in a NUflex classroom and Zoom is running. This will prevent echoes and annoying feedback in the room’s sound system.

6. Use the chat wisely.

“Chat” may seem like an informal word, but it’s important to be thoughtful when you post. Aim to make substantive contributions, building on the ideas of others and asking questions that will help clarify and advance the learning of the group. We are all getting used to Zoom and developing a set of norms and conventions for communication. For example, it is increasingly common for people to type “+1” in a chat if they agree with something that has just been said or posted. Remember that anyone can save a chat log, and that instructors have access to private messages in the chat. Don’t say or write anything you wouldn’t want the entire class to hear.

7. Use reactions wisely.

Chat reactions, located on the toolbar, include clapping hands and thumbs up. As noted above, ask your instructor about their preferences for students using reactions to contribute to class.