Here’s some things we’ve found for improving the virtual experience. The instructor doesn’t have to be the host – by having a separate person hosting, the instructor is free to concentrate on instructing.
If not hosting, simply log in with the Dao Lu meeting ID and password – exactly the same as any student.
If you wish to see the students (in gallery form) as well as yourself, you can consider having two devices – a laptop with a large screen for the gallery, and a smartphone for checking your visibility and for audio. There’s no need to have the camera enabled on the device showing the gallery.
Lighting is so important and can make or break the experience for students. Ideally, the main lighting should be in front of the instructor, so the face and body is well lit. This is rarely possible though.
Having a window behind the instructor is often unavoidable, as can give the best space for the instructor. However, if there’s significant light coming through the window, the instructor will appear in silhouette. The window needs to be covered somehow – curtains, blinds or perhaps a poster. This in turn will reduce the overall lighting, so artificial lighting is needed, preferably in front of the instructor, or above and reflecting off walls.
Location – you’ll need sufficient space to be seen from head to toe, and sufficient width. The camera should be in landscape orientation, not portrait.
Sound – due to the distance from the microphone, sound is likely to be subdued unless you have a very clear and strong voice.
Having a microphone on or near the body reduces the distance from instructor’s voice to the microphone, and so the sound level is louder and clearer, and other sounds (e.g. echos) reduced. Bluetooth headsets or earbuds can give a very good sound – ask CB for details as may have one spare or to try. There appears to be quite some variability with how well they work with Zoom (as opposed to voice phone calls).
If using a Bluetooth headset with a cable between the two earbuds, note the microphone is usually on this cable. It can rub against clothing or skin in certain movements (e.g. head rolls) so be aware of the microphone position to prevent extraneous noises.
On mobile phones in particular, there can be a rather discreet icon that switches between the phone’s sound and that of the earbuds (the symbol switches between whether to use Bluetooth for sound or not). Accidental use of this switch can cause the instructor not to hear from the earbuds.
Small rooms with bare walls often have a terrible echo, which can make voice difficult to follow. If you think of a room as a box with six sides, and each side a mirror, you can imagine the infinite reflections. Sound works exactly the same, and can be solved the same way – by coverings. Note that you don’t have to cover both opposite faces to prevent an infinite reflection – just one side. The covered side doesn’t have to be in view from the camera. It’s not usual to cover the ceiling, so soft floor coverings, such as a yoga mat, or rug, can reduce reflections (echoes) from ceiling to floor. That leaves the two pairs of opposing walls. If curtains are present, close them. If an echo is still present, consider partly covering one of the remaining walls, possibly out of view from the camera. It can be as simple as a sheet hung up.
Log in with the Dao Lu Zoom account username and password. Note this is not the same as the student’s password.
If another device is already logged in and hosting a meeting, then logging in will not make you host. Instead, you will simply be another participant. If another person is logged in as host, but not running a meeting (no video), they will be logged out and a dialog box notifying that they are logged out will be produced.
The current host can make any participant become host simply by right-clicking on that person’s video (the other person’s video must be enabled for this to be available).
Similarly, any participant can be spotlighted simply by right-clicking on that person’s video (again, only available when that person has video enabled).
When a session is running, the main duties of the host are:
- Spotlight the instructor, so is the main video being shown to all participants
- Mute any participants who have not muted themselves (a common problem is people deciding to move their phone/laptop, not realising they are making a lot of noise, or coughs etc) – after questions have been raised, it’s a good idea to check they have re-muted themselves
- Ensure recording is taking place, as required by insurance
- Play background music if required
- Switch off spotlight mode whenever a discussion occurs
For discussions, Zoom works well at highlighting automatically the current speaker. It can do this quicker and more accurately than manual spotlighting. Therefore during chats and discussions, it’s best to cancel any spotlighting.
At the end of the session, allow a minute for other participants to say their goodbyes. It feels abrupt if the host closes the session for everyone a little too early. The captain should be the last to leave a sinking ship… If you don’t want the goodbyes on the recording, simply pause the recording.
Sharing Music, Documents and Videos
If background music is required, it can be useful to have two devices – one for hosting (typically a laptop), and one for receiving the video and audio (as a participant, and receiving exactly what other participants receive).
Background music can be enabled by going to “Share screen” and then selecting the “Advanced” tab. There you’ll find usually a single selection, “Computer Sound Only” as in this screenshot:
Click on “Share” and the computer sound will be shared to all participants. Start your music player with appropriate music. If you are listening through another device, you should hear it there.
Setting the volume requires some care. First, set the volume of your listening device, so you are hearing the instructor’s voice at a clear level. You can pretend to be the instructor by using the microphone on the hosting device (e.g. laptop) – but use headphones in this case, to reduce feedback whistles. With the instructor’s voice at a suitable level, adjust the volume of the laptop output so the music is at a suitable level. For background music, this is quite low compared to the instructor’s voice. For energetic fitness classes, it can be a little louder, but do not drown out the instructor’s voice. For Salsa, where the music includes the counting, and the instructor does not speak over it, the music should be as loud as the instructor’s voice when the music is not playing.
For sharing photographs or a presentation, select Basic and the application. Ideally, the application should be maximised to full screen. Note that “Share computer sound” must be unticked, as otherwise the voice over from the presenter will not be heard (instead computer music will be channeled through).
For playing video recordings, e.g. from YouTube or direct from mp4 files, you’ll need both “Share computer sound” and “Optimize Screen Sharing for Video Clip” enabled:
Recording of fitness sessions is required by the insurance. The insurance however, does not specify who is recorded (instructor and/or students) or how long to keep recordings.
Recording has been set to automatically start at the beginning of a session, onto the host’s computer. This is generally in Documents/Zoom (or similar, depending on operating system) – a new folder is created for every recording (set to the date and time of the recording, plus the meeting name and ID). Inside the folder is the mp4 video file, chat transcript and audio only file.
If the recording is only for insurance purposes and not expected to be used, no further action is required. If the recording may be shared (e.g. on YouTube) it’s worth following noting:
- The recording does not exactly match what the host sees. For example, gallery view does not include the participants’ names
- Avoid switching to gallery view (e.g. merely to check for who is muted) if the recording is to be of the main presenter. The gallery view appears in the recording. Instead, use the small images (typically four at a time) and rotate through those. This is slower than gallery view, but does not interrupt switch away from the presentation
- If you don’t want to edit the video, e.g. to trim setup and goodbyes, judicious use of the record pause control can help (e.g. by immediately pausing record once the session starts). Remember to start recording once the session begins though!
- When uploading to YouTube, set to “unlisted” which means the video cannot be found by public searches. Only people who have received the link will be able to see the video, so is semi-private, protected by the hard-to-guess link
There’s a rather hidden place where the waiting room can be disabled – useful for allowing all in after a meeting has started.
In the participants’ dialog, click on the three buttons and uncheck “Enabled Waiting Room”.
We need to make the use of Zoom sessions as frictionless as possible, so we did the following:
- Used the same meeting ID for all sessions. Students can easily bring up the meeting ID of a previous session using the dropdown arrow where the meeting ID is entered. This means they don’t need to enter the meeting ID manually for each session
- Used the same password for all sessions (except public sessions). A simple numerical password is used, so is easy to remember and enter
- The meeting ID is easy to find on the website
- Users are set to be automatically muted on entry
- The waiting room is not used (except for public sessions). This means students can see and chat with each other even before the host or instructor has arrived
- Screen-sharing is turned off, except for the host. This prevents participants sharing their screens – which overrides the host’s ability to set the main screen (e.g. spotlight)
- The password is not published on the website
- The link containing meeting ID and password is never given out – as is too easy to share (e.g. on social media)
- All sessions are recorded