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  Cornell University

Cornell in Rome

College of Architecture, Art and Planning

5 Tips for Online Learning

After returning from Rome and finishing the lengths of our quarantine back home or in Ithaca, our AAP in Rome cohort began our online classes two weeks before the Cornell students, the Ithaca campus began. So as you are entering the city of Zoom, here are some tips we learned during our first two weeks in this online realm.  


Zoom is your friend. By the end of the semester, you will have spent countless hours together. Make the most of it. Pick a fun background for your video image. Zoom offers many options. You can appear on a beach or in a busy metropolis from the safety of your home. Our cohort enjoys using pictures from our favorite Italian locations, from Venice, Urbino, and Rome, especially. An added benefit: With virtual settings, you don’t have to make your bed in the background!

The CRP Rome Workshop's First Day of Class Online
The CRP Rome Workshop’s First Day of Class Online


Zoom has lots of functionality, but not all of it is obvious. There are “Breakout Rooms,” which the host can set up to foster smaller discussion groups in bigger classes. Screen Sharing is one of the most useful tools. Remember that Zoom only shows the window you select to share, so if you’re toggling between different windows on your computer, make sure to switch appropriately on the Zoom platform. Additionally, if you are the host of a video chat, make sure to set up permissions when you schedule a meeting. Other members cannot share their screens or record sessions without permission from the host.


In groups larger than five, remember to mute your mic when you aren’t speaking; you don’t want background noise to disrupt the class. But also remember to unmute when you are talking! When you are muted, it is helpful to give non-verbal cues to answer quick questions. You can raise your hand, and give a thumbs-up in the Zoom chat functions. But a real thumbs-up on-screen works well too. Zoom allows messaging to the whole group and private messages between participants, but remember that transcripts of the messages get sent to the host after the meeting.


When someone has a technical problem, they often do not realize it. It is difficult to know if your video is lagging or your audio is choppy for someone else. This is especially common when I am screen sharing, and my wifi slows down. Let the other person know. Ask them to repeat what they said or slow down.


For meet-ups outside of class sessions, try a video service other than Zoom. As the hours of Zoom classes multiply, you can associate the platform with scholastic stress. A new video platform can be a refreshing change of pace and relieve some stress. Some good Zoom alternatives include Google Hangouts or Google Meetings.


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