11 Zoom tips and tricks for college students

November 17, 2020

Sun Devils near and far use Zoom every day. With classes online, extracurriculars going virtual and remote work becoming the new norm, knowing the ins and outs of Zoom can make all the difference in your social, professional and academic life.

Wrapping up the first semester where ASU offered extensive online options through ASU Sync, Sun Devils are finding themselves using Zoom more than ever. 

Two students in masks outside with laptops

“I use Zoom seven days a week,” said Jake Kirkman, a junior studying film and marketing. “I use Zoom for everything now, so school, work, friends and connecting with family.” 

Kirkman lives in Tempe but connects with family back home in Texas. He works on campus and is also involved in Greek life. 

Zoom allows ASU students, faculty and staff to connect from around the world.

Marisol Ortega, a sophomore studying journalism and mass communications, is studying at ASU from her home in San Diego, California, this semester and likely continuing in the spring. She explained how Zoom makes her feel involved at ASU despite being in another state.  

“The best thing is that you can still sort of get engaged without being present, and we’re still staying safe and staying distanced,” Ortega said.

Kirkman and Ortega are both reporters for ASU Student Life. These student workers and their colleagues decided it’s time to compile a guide on how to use Zoom from a student's perspective. Complete with fresh tips and tricks, this guide focuses not only on Zoom hacks but on proper Zoom etiquette.

So here it is, the inside scoop from Sun Devils themselves on what is and is not cool on Zoom. Check out these 11 Zoom tips and tricks. 

1. Ask for help

Similar to how there are do’s and don'ts when in the classroom, there are do’s and don'ts when using Zoom. The first and foremost “do” is for a student to ask when unsure. Unsure if the class can hear you? Ask. Unsure if you are frozen? Ask. Unsure of how to join a breakout room? Again, don’t worry, just ask. Zoom is still a new platform for everyone, there is no shame in asking for help.

“Ask for help if you don’t know how to do something,” Ortega said. It’s more frustrating for the class to watch someone try to figure something out without wanting help, she said.

2. Show respect

Another form of Zoom etiquette can be compared with giving people respectful attention while in class in person. In person, students may maintain eye contact or give their attention to the speaker. Over Zoom, this is done by turning on the camera. 

This does not mean that your camera has to be on the entire class. But students should turn their camera on when talking to the teacher, when asked to participate or when listening to guest speakers. Students should also turn on cameras when introducing themselves or talking to others, specifically in breakout rooms. 

“Just try to have fun, and try to stay engaged. I know it's really hard but really if you try to treat it like a real class and treat it like a real conversation it goes a lot easier,” Kirkman said. 

3. Be mindful

Remember, just because your camera may be turned off doesn’t mean you have an excuse to disengage in class. Participation matters! Use the chat, interact with reactions and answer when the speaker asks for a response. Be mindful of others and know that just because they can’t see you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen. 

4. You can use filters

Yes, that's right, Zoom has filters! Wear virtual silly glasses, a party hat, a mask, become a pirate, adopt a pet bird and more! Learn how to touch up your appearance or adjust for the bad lighting, all through Zoom filters. Learn how to access these video enhancements step-by-step here

5. ASU has backgrounds just for you

Don’t worry Sun Devils, ASU has got you covered. It’s time to raise the bar and start a virtual background revolution! Browse through more than 120 free virtual backgrounds designed just for ASU students here

Aside from showing school spirit, virtual backgrounds are a great way to show professionalism on Zoom. Keep a neat and clean look by using professional Zoom backgrounds daily. 

“The topmost tip to someone who has never used Zoom before would be to download some good backgrounds so that you know it’s more professional,” Venu Gopinath Nukavarapu, a graduate student studying computer engineering said. 

6. Turn on gallery view

Turning on a gallery view will help create a feeling of being surrounded by people, just like in-person classes. By turning on the gallery view you’ll be able to see classmates, encouraging participation and increasing focus on class discussions. When you can put a face to the voices that are speaking, you’re encouraging a sense of community and conversation flows easier. Turning on the gallery view is similar to when people sit in a circle to socialize in person. Turning on gallery view in breakout rooms is also beneficial when it comes to creating conversation. 

“I understand that it is hard to participate over Zoom sometimes, but we’ve got to make the best of it so we need everyone to speak up,” Julian Klein, senior studying journalism and mass communications, said. He emphasized that in breakout rooms especially participation and creating conversation should be the main focus. 

7. Lighting is key

Don’t be that one person in complete darkness. Lighting is everything when it comes to looking good on Zoom, and by good we mean professional! You may joke about finding the perfect selfie lighting, but when it comes to Zoom this makes a huge difference. 

Try setting up in front of a window for natural lighting or buying a small lamp to place on your desk. Some Zoom users have found that picking light-colored Zoom backgrounds also helps with brightening up an appearance. Whatever you do, don’t Zoom with the lights off! This can come across as quite odd and makes it difficult for others to see you when you speak.  

8. Don’t leave your mic on

If you are not talking, turn your mic off. No one wants to be distracted by background noise, and no one wants to distract others. People don’t want to hear your laundry machine, your siblings yelling, dogs barking, lawnmowers or other various noises. Turn that mic off unless you are speaking. 

Ortega speaks for almost every student when she explains her feelings toward Zoom users who leave their mics. 

“It really really kinda annoys me when people have their mics on for a long time and don’t realize they have their mics on,” Ortega said, sharing that users who leave their mics on are one of her biggest Zoom pet peeves.  

“There's always that one person who leaves their mic on and everyone gets annoyed,” Kirkman said. 

9. Don’t skip the updates

If Zoom is glitching for you, it’s probably because you need an update. Don’t procrastinate on this! Falling behind on updating Zoom can mean lagging calls, audio trouble, security issues and a slow computer. 

There are Zoom updates for a reason. Without taking the time to update the Zoom application bugs and glitches won’t be fixed. Not to mention you won’t be able to access new Zoom features that may make calls more fun!

10. Try not to talk over others

Connection on Zoom isn’t always spot-on. With this said, it is important not to talk over other people! Trying to talk over others may confuse and be interpreted as rude disruption, even if you are asking a question. 

Instead of confusing the Zoom call try typing your comment or question through the chat function or getting the speaker's attention by using the reactions. 

11. First-timers, get on early

If you have never used Zoom before, don’t wait until 3:29 p.m. to log on to your 3:30 p.m. class. This is a bad idea that will result in a lot of excess stress and lost opportunity. Log on 10 minutes early to ensure that audio is set up, your background looks professional and to check that you have the correct link. Chances are if you see other classmates joining the call you're in the right place.