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Tips for teaching on Zoom

Zoom is part of everyday life for many people nowadays, but you will still need to make sure you include "how to access zoom" with your class information for new participants and note any general etiquette you have for your class (ie. "please say hello when you arrive, then when we start please be on mute" etc). Always come online a few minutes early to allow for technical issues or questions.
  • Check your background
    A clear, uncluttered space that you are happy being on display, ideally not a recognisable personal area like a bedroom. Imagine inviting new guests over to your house and wanting to make them feel special. Having a neutral background is best for your participants to see you clearly as you teach; if you don't have a blank wall then using a screen can be a quick fix to transform busier living spaces (example pictured above is a "flexible bamboo room divider" and hides a sideboard and shelves!).

  • Can they see all of you?
    Check you have yourself fully in shot, no matter what position you take. You want to be able to see your whole exercise mat on the floor (and a little in front of it too, for when you reach forward) and then also check the shot will get the whole length of you while standing on your mat and reaching your arms upwards. Find a set up that works that you can keep consistent for ease of regular set up.

  • Enough light?
    A good amount of light is essential for video quality. Participants can always turn down their screen brightness, but if you have "mood-lighting" at home you risk grainy video quality. Even the most basic webcam on a low spec laptop can be perfectly adequate if you have enough light. Bear in mind the direction of the natural light coming into your room and any inside light too, so you can check you aren't silhouetted.

  • Dodgy Wi-fi?
    Using an ethernet cable directly from your internet modem to your laptop can be a good option for the highest speed available coming into your home if you have any doubts about the reliability of your wifi. (Praying also works!)

  • Device
    You can use the Zoom app on any device you have, but make sure you are familiar with how all the functions work in the different versions  - for example, the "share screen" function. This might be different from a laptop to an ipad or phone so please look up any specific technical help you need on Google (Zoom has plenty of customer help resources). We'd recommend using the device you have with the biggest screen so you can see as many of your participants as possible.

  • Screen view
    Assuming everyone else is muted and speaker view is selected, participants should have your screen as the biggest on their device. However, it's worth "Spotlighting" your own video (which only the host can do, when there are more than 3 participants in the meeting) - this will make sure you are the main video for everyone. Hover over your picture, select " ... " and select "Spotlight for Everyone". For your own personal view, it's your preference but "Gallery View" will mean you can see your participants, check they are all following OK and feel connected to the group. You may want to see your own screen the first few times to check you stay in shot until it becomes familiar.

  • Mute
    You want all your participants to be muted while class is going on. You can ask your class to mute themselves when you're ready to start, and that way you can have a chat beforehand, say your hellos etc. As the host you can also "mute all" at the click of a button when you're ready to start. When scheduling/setting up your meeting, it's worth selecting "Mute participants upon entry" on the Advanced Options. This way, if you have any participants joining late there is no risk of their audio interrupting. It does mean everyone joining the meeting will have to "unmute" to say their hellos at the beginning.

  • Sharing Screen
    Sharing the Psalm is ideal - many people will find it really helpful to connect with the words visually and read the verse through themselves as we are trying to learn it by heart. For in-person classes, if facilities are available, it is lovely to project the verse onto a wall/screen; doing a share-screen at the start of online classes is a great substitute for this, and looks professional (as long as we don't see your whole desktop in the process, so do have a practice and Google Zoom support if you need it).

    Share Screen icon > select the screen you want to share (don't share your whole Desktop, and you must have the Psalm picture open in another programme at the time, so get it ready in advance.)

    If you do not want to utilise the share screen function Zoom has, then prep your class ahead of the session - send them the verse in advance by email or tell them to have their bible to hand, ideally both incase any participants don't have a bible.

  • Sharing music via share screen
    To share music you want to use the Share Screen option. If you just play music in your own room and rely on your microphone to pick it up, it could cut in and out in competition with your voice talking over it and the quality won't be good, which will be distracting rather than relaxing. There are advanced options for picking up better sound quality (eg. "original sound") but these are ideal for live music or singing, not background music. So the best way is to play your desired music on your device (through your usual programme eg. iTunes/Spotify/Windows Media Player etc) and then use the Share Screen function:

    Share Screen icon > Advanced (tab at top)> Share Computer sound only

    Note on music volume 
    Bear in mind music volume - test this before if you can and check with your participants at the start that they can hear you over it. The volume you hear is not necessarily what is going through to them; the volume comes from the programme playing your music on your device, not your own speaker volume. These are independent, so you want to set the volume for them on iTunes/your programme (and remember the level for future) and then for you on your device speakers so it doesn't distract you or make you feel like you're competing with it. From experience, the volume level on your programme often needs to be much lower than you think.

  • Note on Share Screen 
    You cannot share screen for your verse and share screen for your music at the same time - so just be aware. When you have finished your reflection using the verse, stop that screen share and select again to start sharing music instead. You can keep the transition smooth by picking your moment to change, for example leaving time and space after your reflection/opening prayer - you can do the few clicks it takes while they are still in that quiet moment - perhaps even with their eyes closed! Seamless ;)

  • How loud to speak?
    Zoom is generally very good at picking you up, it's intelligent so its default is to ignore any background humming (like your heater etc.) and pick out your voice. But it stands to reason that when you sit closer to your device to start class and say hello you will be louder than when you're further away on your mat exercising - therefore just be aware of this. Soft, normal talking voice when close up and a little more projection when further away. But we don't want to be shouting at all as our class wants to feel peaceful. Participants can always turn you up on their own device (which might all be on different settings) but also let them know they can feedback to you during class - "let me know if you need me to speak louder? Give me a thumbs up if it's fine or point upwards if you need a bit more volume?" Similarly with music volume, have a little interaction to give them the opportunity to help you out.

  • What to wear?
    Please wear your P&S branded top when you teach. If it's in the wash or you can't find it, chose a suitable substitute that will look professional and "on brand" i.e. not something bright pink with a massive sports logo. We want you to feel completely comfortable so you don't have to wear skin-tight leggings if you wouldn't normally, just bear in mind participants need to see the shapes you are making clearly. Depending on your lighting, it's worth checking that your legs can be seen clearly if you wear completely black bottoms - sometimes it's not obvious which leg is in front or behind when we wear all black, so navy can be a good choice if you are finding this is the case.

  • Interruptions
    Sounds obvious, but make sure everyone in your household knows you are about to teach an online class! Turn your phone on silent and make sure your laptop or device won't be making noise during like, for example alerting you if you receive an email etc.

  • Practice makes perfect
    New to teaching on Zoom? Make sure you get several practice sessions in with friends/family before you start with paying participants. It adds another layer onto our teaching job, so give yourself time to feel secure in the class. Practice sharing screen, music volumes and you could even record a practice run to watch yourself back (it's awkward but useful!). However, even after putting in your practice; be gracious with yourself - we have to accept that it can't go perfectly all the time! (Practice makes things "generally consistently good" rather than "perfect"!) Sometimes technology just doesn't play along, but try not to let it fluster you. Let your participants know they can unmute themselves and let you know if something technical is going wrong that you're not aware of (for example if your screen got frozen and they've missed the last two moves!). Lastly... always check your device battery ahead of class!

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