10 Tips for Teaching Online with Zoom

One of the first pieces of content here on Teach and GO was how Zoom is better for online teaching than Skype. As Zoom has continued to develop and online teaching has grown in popularity, we have some helpful tips for teaching online using Zoom.

For a lot of our readers who have worked with various online teaching companies like VIPKID, many of these items will be hard won knowledge, but remember not everyone who teaches online is doing so with an online platform.

Online teaching tips using Zoom

So with that out of the way, here are our essential teaching tips with Zoom you need to know, understand and be aware of:

  1. Practice using Zoom and troubleshoot problems.
  2. Have a quite, dedicated spot to teach.
  3. Get a webcam, position it properly.
  4. Pay attention to your lighting.
  5. Create a background or use a virtual background.
  6. Get good pair of headsets with a microphone.
  7. Be mindful to look into the camera.
  8. Wear a colorful top.
  9. Consider getting a dedicated microphone.
  10. Have good posture and energy.

1 – Practice using Zoom and troubleshoot problems

We know you’re tech savvy, we know you know how to use Skype. Still, get a friend and practice using Zoom for 30 minutes. See how it works, try and think of last minute solutions to any problems that could happen.

Understand how to edit and adjust your audio and video with Zoom. Take note of the video quality and how to better improve things. Think of what you will do if your student can’t see you or hear you or vice versa.

Zoom is not complicated to use, but don’t proverbially “wing it” because you think it’s simple and easy. It is, but that’s how you get in trouble. When something unexpected happens that you’re not prepared for.

Take the time and prepare yourself for using this platform properly.

2 – Have a quiet, dedicated spot to teach

As any VIPKID teacher (or veteran online teacher for that matter) knows from experience, you’ll need a quiet, dedicated spot for teaching. This does not have to be complicated, it could be small section of a room or a spare bedroom.

The emphasis however is on quite, particularly if you’re using your laptop or desktops on-board audio. These integrated microphones tend to have a high gain and pickup all sorts of noise. The only laptop we’ve tested out (see our laptops for online teachers guide) that has amazing on board audio is the Macbook Pro.

As such, in combination with the first point to test drive Zoom, pay attention to how the ambient noise is. Is anything too loud? Can you hear people talking in the next room over? Dogs or cars out side too noisy? Adjust as needed.

3 – Get a webcam and position it properly

1080P, wider angle, better colors, improved audio.

Your laptop computer already has an integrated webcam. This should be acceptable to get started with, but definitely consider buying an affordable webcam for online teaching.

Webcams are not expensive and provide a massive improvement in low light conditions as well as picture quality. Your laptops integrated camera is most likely a 720P webcam, but you can get a 1080P or even a 4k webcam if you like.

Next, one big advantage of a webcam is that it’s more easy to position. With your laptop, you’ll need to make sure you have your laptop propped up on something so the webcam is positioned facing you as opposed to you looking down at the camera

The worst position you can have for the webcam is to have it facing up, pointing at your nostrils. For webcams, our top selection is the Logitech C922. But you can view our entire list for more.

4 -Pay attention to your lighting

A small, 6 inch beginner friendly ringt light.

Good lighting is just as important as the quality of your webcam. In general, depending on when you’re teaching you can always rely on natural lighting. If however you’re teaching early mornings or evenings then we suggest getting some proper lighting for online teaching.

You have a lot of good, affordable options for this. You can get a webcam that has a built in ring light or you can can get an array of different styles of ring lights. Everything from a large stand-a-lone light to a nice desktop ring light.

As for the actual color of the light, make sure it’s a nice white light. This will give you the most natural and flattering appearance on camera. You also want to get ring light as they are designed to light your face and not the entire room.

Last, don’t have any bright overhead lights only. It will be impossible for your students to see you clearly. Make sure all lighting, even a lamp is positioned in front of you.

5 – Create a background (or use a virtual background).

A teacher background is very important because it helps set the tone for the online class. As a professional, you’re going to want to have some sort of professional background for your online class.

Of course, what your background is specifically will be a result of the type of student you’re educating. Teaching small children? Bright colors, maps, whiteboards, the ABC’s and flags are all great choices.

Maybe you’re teaching teenagers via Outschool? Then you would want to go with more of a plain, simple background that’s not distracting. A shelf with books and and everyday items makes sense.

Don’t forget that with Zoom you can setup a virtual background. You’ll need a simple greenscreen for that, but once everything is setup you’ll see how fun and impressive Zoom is for online learning.

6 – Get a good pair of headsets with a microphone

Cheap, comes with a microphone. Our favorite here at Teach and GO.

The most convenient, affordable and easiest way to get high quality audio for your students is to use a cheap headset for online teaching that also has a built in microphone.

Not only is it easier for you to teach because headphones do a great job of blocking out ambient noise so you can focus on your student better, it’s also helpful because your student can hear you more clearly due in part to the attached microphone.

Last, there are quite a few brands of headset that have a noise cancelling microphone. So if you’re teaching somewhere that has a lot of ambient noise (maybe your neighbors have dogs that love to bark at all hours of the day) you can still minimize any distractions and provide a quality learning experience.

7 – Be mindful to look into the camera

This is common sense, but it needs stating. Our tendency is to look at ourselves whenever doing any sort of video chat be it on Facebook Messenger, Instagram or Zoom.

Just be mindful to occasionally look directly into the camera when teaching because that’s where your student is. Sort of like when you’re in an actual classroom you need to purposefully look around the class until it becomes habit, online teaching is the same way.

We all naturally stare at ourselves, just make sure to not spend the entire class only looking at yourself. Make eye contact with your student by looking into the camera.

8 – Wear a colorful top

Your lighting, webcam and background all set the stage for your online class. Last it to make sure you look and feel great. Even though you’re working from home, still take the time to follow proper grooming like shaving, showering, makeup and so forth and prepare for class like the professional you are.

Next, wear a more colorful top as a teacher. You don’t need anything too wild, but when teaching children it’s particularly helpful to have something bright and friendly as it’s a good contract for the rest of your online teaching environment.

For example, a lot of male VIPKID teachers like to wear a sky blue shirt as it’s a child friendly color. This is why when you see a kids show everything is bright and dynamic, it’s what is appropriate for children.

9 – Consider getting a dedicated microphone

Small, affordable microphone with rich sounding audio.

If you’re wanting to use a quality pair of headphones that don’t have a built in microphone, you may want to get a USB microphone for your laptop as the audio quality will be much improved over your laptops built in microphone.

A dedicated microphone is just a helpful device to have overall because you can use it for online courses to give to your students, presentation style videos, voice overs and they help cancel out sound so your students can better focus on what you’re saying.

You don’t need to get anything to complicated of expensive. Just a quality, easy to use USB microphone that works via plug and play is fine.

10 – Have good posture and energy

Posture and a happy, positive demeanour are what you need to bring to your online class. With good posture you want to make sure you sit properly and upright. In between classes make sure to stand up and move around a bit.

Better yet, consider getting a standing desk for teaching as well as a dedicated desktop. Being able to stand and move will enable you to provide a more fun and dynamic class than you can with just sitting.

At the very least, also get a good chair for teaching. The ideal chair is not one of those massive, goofy computer chairs with a tall back. Instead, get something comfy, small and that’s one piece. You don’t want a chair that squeaks and makes noise.

  • Standing desks – Our guide to the best standing desks for online educators.
  • Desktops for teachers – Excellent all-in-one desktops that provide power and increase functionality.

10 Tips for Teaching Online with Zoom Conclusion

So that’s it for Teach and GO’s guide to teaching online with Zoom. Many of these tips are applicable for any online teaching platform. Even more so if you’re doing freelance teaching on Fiverr, Outschool or iTalki.