By Meagan Kennedy
Elm Staff Writer
As we approach the middle of the fall semester, many across the nation have settled into the online school and work environment.
Since the beginning of the semester, many students have been working to create a space that feels comfortable yet productive, especially through the early weeks of classes, meetings, group projects, essays, job interviews, and presentations.
Moving into October, as school and work life thrive, there are different ways of approaching Zoom and other video conferences to feel more comfortable and efficient. Making meetings beneficial and meaningful for everyone is something we all continue to figure out.
“A bit of preparation goes a long way to making video calls more tolerable for you and your colleagues,” The New York Times reporter Brian X. Chen said on Mar. 25. “Now feels like an opportunity to bring up how to be kinder to your co-workers in workplace video calls, since they’re the ones the calls are really for in the end.”
One of the most important aspects of online meetings is gaining access to a stable connection. Reliable audio and video can help you connect with your professors, classmates, or colleagues as much as possible.
Many working and learning from home have felt left out or left behind, absorbed in the eternal dread of possibly missing assignments or accidentally missing a meeting, but maintaining a regular schedule can help a person stay up to date with deadlines.
Keeping a physical schedule, such as a to-do list or a planner, can help you stay organized and prevent assignments, meetings, and exams from piling up.
Beyond keeping your schedule organized, using a clean and camera-ready workspace throughout the week can also encourage you to use your camera during meetings and keep your attention.
Even when you aren’t in meetings, having a clean space can limit distractions and allows you to get the most out of your study sessions.
Entrepreneur Elaine Quinn, founder of Solopreneur Specialist, said, “you’re in private, and it’s easy to drift off,” on her website for remote workers.
Having a clean workspace and decorating it with aspects of your style can help keep you comfortable and motivated. It is important to be aware of your background in meetings.
“People aren’t used to being onscreen… they don’t look behind them to see what it is people will see,” Quinn said in The New York Times on Mar. 25.
Going the extra mile to be engaged, ask questions, and take advantage of online resources could be helpful in feeling connected with your community.
Associate Psychology Professor Scott Debb told Vox’s Laura Entis on May 26 that using Zoom can be “bittersweet… it’s one half-step away” and online interaction with others leaves everyone “wanting a little bit more.”
However, working to be more active in meetings and creating a more connected online community is easy for many with the right tools.
On April 8, The Verge’s Becca Farsace wrote about the importance of lighting, a comfortable working space, and high video quality in making your Zoom calls feel livelier. Farsace said that checking these before your meetings can make yourself less distracting to others.
“You want to show up to your meeting already looking good so that you’re not adjusting your surroundings, screen brightness, angle, or hair live for everyone to see,” she said.
Almost seven months later, Farsace’s advice still applies. Putting in the effort towards being engaged and making use of functions like the chat in Zoom or exploring the background options in the settings can help brighten classes.
Muting your microphone while others are talking can help everyone stay focused and makes it easier to hear whoever is talking on the call.
Asking friends to study over Zoom after class or going over a question with a colleague can help to maintain personal interactions many of us long for as we quarantine at home. These one-on-one calls can both keep you focused on your work and help to strengthen those relationships many of us have struggled to keep while at home.
Meeting on Zoom with other students in class or with colleagues can bring a world of people who have been separated for months closer together.
It is important, however, to make sure you make use of Zoom in productive ways and keep your other meeting members on task.
Through being productive and proactive online, you will help yourself and those around you to be better prepared for a smooth transition from the screen and back into the classroom.