Thursday, January 21, 2021

9 Strategies to Optimize your Zoom Bandwidth


My Zoom is SO SLOW!

Ever heard that?  Ever felt that? Watching your zoom session freeze up or listening to your students' garbled talk because your throughput is too slow is frustrating. 

It's NOT a Zoom problem. It's your Throughput.

Throughput is a combination of bandwidth and computer speed. Bandwidth may be out of your control. But there are strategies that you can take to optimize how fast your system runs once the signal enters your home.

Whether the bandwidth slowdown is on your computer or on your students' computers, here are nine strategies to speed up your throughput:

Turn Off Your Camera - This is the easiest step of all. Streaming video is 10 times the data load of streaming voice (Abbott, T, 2020) It has been suggested that muting yourself will even save few bits as well.  This option is the one that is most disliked by teachers because we want to interact with our students - but sometimes the elements require it.

Close EVERYTHING Else - Run Zoom by itself. Having other programs open while running Zoom will steal your computer's processing power and slow down your Zoom experience.

Reboot Your Computer - This may sound drastic, but it is the only way that you can ensure that you don't have any other programs running. Actually, it is a good idea to reboot your computer at least once a week to refresh your system.

Delete Programs You Never Use - You must keep 15-20% of your hard drive empty. Your computer uses your hard drive to create temporary files and swap them as it works. If there isn't enough empty space, the process becomes a little more complicated and can slow down your Zoom session. 

Move Closer to your Router - Wifi is a fickle pickle. When your computer is near your router, the signal is stronger.  As you move away, the signal becomes weaker and your bandwidth is slower. Moving closer to your router doesn't have to mean that you have to move to the basement. You can sit in a room directly above your router and the wifi will travel through the floor.

Check for Viruses - Viruses are designed to cause trouble for your computer. A strong indicator that you might have a virus of seeing your computer slow down. Infection can usually be prevented by using antivirus software to filter what enters your computer.  You can use these programs to remove invaders or you can take your computer to the repair shop.

Is Your Software Version Up-to-Date? - Improving technology is an ongoing process. Zoom released an average of about 10 minor version updates each month for the last half of 2020. Not all of them were significant changes, but it becomes increasingly important to stay current.

You can check how current your Zoom version is by clicking on your profile (upper-right corner of your opening page). A menu will appear (see image) and the Check for Updates option is the ninth one down. Zoom usually checks for updates when it opens, and often it installs the updates for you. If your Zoom doesn't seem to be doing this, check with your IT department.

Your operating system is important too. Microsoft releases major updates for Windows twice a year with minor updates every month (on Patch Tuesday). Apple releases a major update once a year in October and then minor updates every few months.  Keep your system updated.

Is Your Computer Ancient? - You should expect to replace your computer every 3 - 4 years. The hardware may still function, but technology is developing rapidly and your computer may not have what it needs to run Zoom.  

Is Your Router Sufficient? - Routers are advancing just a quickly as all other technologies. If your connection is slow, it might mean that you are in the market for a new router. Talk with your Internet service about this. You can get a new router sufficient for your home for under $100. 

I hope that you have found this helpful. Please tell me which strategies work for you. 

Let's Connect with Our Students!

P.S. Of course, I have found more strategies. Instead of having to keep updating the number in the title, I will just add these ideas down here along with who shared them.

10. Keep your virtual desktop clear.  Similar to keeping your drive clear, having a load of icons scattered around your desktop provides more load on your processor to deal with them.  (Thanks, Jeffrey Zeitz)

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Using Zoom on a Phone or Tablet

Using Zoom on a laptop computer can be easy.  If you are attending a class, you just need to enter the class and engage in what your teacher has planned for you. 

But what if you have to use your phone or tablet?  How can you do all of the operations that are required in an engaging class?   Is it possible to TEACH through Zoom on a phone or tablet?

The answer is FOR THE MOST PART - YES!!!  Most of the commands that you can do on a computer can be achieved on your mobile device.

Here is a list Mobile Zoom commands. (Warning, this was tested on an iPhone.  Android and iPhone apps are virtually the same, but if you find that this doesn't work on your Android, please leave a comment or contact me at @zeitz)

These commands are presented in the order that we are presenting these actions in our OK Zoomer: Beyond the Basics workshop.  It is a workshop that has been enjoyed by over 2200 faculty members so you should check it out.

Mute and Unmute Yourself

  1. Tap the icon in lower-left corner.

How to Enter Chat

  1. Tap in the lower-right corner.

  2. Tap Chat in the menu.

Hide Non-Video Participants

  1. Tap in the lower-right corner.

  2. Tap Meeting Settings in the menu.

  3. Deselect the slide bar for Show Non-Video Participants.

Share Screen> Advanced>Music Or Computer Sound Only
  1. Tap Share Screen in the menu.
  2. Tap Screen.
  3. Tap Start Broadcast.
  4. Tap the screen.
  5. Share Device Audio: should be On.
  6. Move to your music application.

Rename Yourself

  1. Tap on Participants
  2. Tap on your name.
  3. Tap on Rename.

Opening Green Screens

  1. Tap the in the lower right corner.

  2. Tap Virtual Background

  3. Tap the desired background

Adding Green Screens

  1. Tap the + button in the lower-right corner.

  2. You might see a screen asking you to give Zoom access to your photos,  

    1. Tap the Change Settings button

    2. Tap Photos

    3. Tap All Photos or Selected Photos

    4. You will have to rejoin Zoom

  3. Tap the + button again in the lower right corner.

  4. Select the photo you want to use as a background.

  5. It should appear on your background and be added to your collection.

I hope that you find this useful. I will be updating these commands as time progresses.


Friday, January 15, 2021

Taking Attendance using Zoom Reports

Welcome to the World of Online Learning!!!

We have SO MANY opportunities in our online classes, but there are still administrative duties that we have to complete.  One of those seemingly trivial but important tasks is Taking Attendance.  How can we do that?

In our regular, face-to-face class, we can create a seating chart and then just check off the empty desks on the chart.  Unfortunately, in Zoom (and other online networks) seating charts aren't available.  Therefore we must find some other ways to take attendance.  

I have tried a number of interesting strategies for taking attendance.  We have used QR codes that lead to Google Forms.  We have had students type "Here" in the Chat Room and saved the Chat Room for later review.  Sometimes we have taken screen captures of the students in who are in class for later reference. We have even tried having all of the students wait in the waiting room and checking off the attendance sheet before admitting them.

HOLD ON!!! I have found the SUPERIOR method for taking attendance!! 
Use the Zoom Reports feature!!

While this may seem like an obvious answer to the task, not too many people know about the extensive Zoom Reports that are available.  They tell you WHO attended, WHEN they joined, WHEN they left AND the content can be exported to a spreadsheet.

Instructions on How to Take Attendance during a Zoom Class

Access the Settings on Your Zoom Web Portal. 

  • Access this through the website address used by your school, or you can access it from your profile on your Zoom Client App. 
    • Select Settings and then View More Settings.
    • If you don't see the left-hand column when you access More Settings, widen your window to full screen. Zoom doesn't show the left column is the window where it is displaying is too narrow. 

Select Reports
in the left column. (If you don't see the left-hand column, widen your window to full screen. Zoom doesn't show the left column if the displaying window is too narrow.)

Click Usage
and it will open a list of reports generated for meetings between specific dates.  
  • Select the dates to find the report you want.

Click on the Number of Participants
for your desired meeting to view the class list. It should be blue.

Attendance List: You will find a list of all of those who attended.  It will tell you when they started, when they ended, and how many minutes they were there.  This can be exported to a spreadsheet in .CSV format if you want to alphabetize the names or store them for later reference.

There you have it.  Have you tried this before?  If not, give it a shot and tell us how it worked.
How have YOU been taking attendance with your online classes?


ATTENTION:  I just learned that the Canvas LMS team learned about this option and they have built it into their attendance system.  I don't know anything more than that, but look into it.  Blackboard hasn't shown the foresight to incorporate it into their system.    2/15/21

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Dr. Z's Guide to Teaching Using Zoom Breakout Rooms


One of the most important but often most daunting tools is the Zoom Breakout Room.  

The concept of Zoom Breakout Rooms is not difficult.  They can be the same as small group discussion in a physical classroom setting. 

The trick is which option to use for setting them up and then understanding the tips and tricks for running them smoothly.

This guide provides an easy-to-understand description of Zoom Breakout Rooms basics.  It has been updated to include the new 3rd option where students can select rooms on their own.

This will be followed up with a booklet on the pedagogical uses of Zoom Breakout Rooms to suggest a plethora of learning opportunities that can be provided using them. 

NOTE: This guide is a little out-of-date, but the updated version is coming soon. 

Click Here to Open the Guide.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Dr. Z's 20 Zoom Keyboard Shortcuts for Mac and Windows

Click Here to Access the Whole Zoom Keyboard Shortcuts


Right?  It enables you to connect with colleagues, family, students, teachers, customers, and everyone else.  You can attend online classes through Zoom. You can participate in virtual conferences and conventions.  You can even attend church with your friends and family (or anywhere in the world.)

As exciting as Zoom may be, it can be overwhelming.  There are SOOOO many buttons to click and menus to use.  Unmute me. Stop my video. Raise my hand. Share my screen. Jump to the next screen of participants. It can be TOO MUCH!!! It would be much easier if we just knew the Magic Keys to press to make things happen.           

At least that is what I was thinking . . .

I searched everywhere for a table of these commands.  I wanted it for my Mac but many of my students use Windows so I wanted both.  Zoom had lists of commands.  Many websites contained their own lists of commands, but I wanted a TABLE.  That's how I think.

So . . . I created a Table of Zoom Keyboard Shortcuts for Mac and Window

There was much to learn while I collected these shortcuts.  Did you know that:
  • if you are muted, you only have to press the SPACE BAR to temporarily unmute yourself?
  • you can raise or lower your hand using Alt-Y (on both platforms)?
  • you can show/hide the chat room using Command-Shift-H (or Alt-H on Windows)?
  • on Windows, you can flip between pages of participants using PageDown or PageUp?
  • Windows uses the F6 to flip between Zoom Windows.  This is great when you have too many open windows on your screen and get lost.  Hit F6 a few times and you will get where you want to be.
You will notice that the letters used for each command are the same on both platforms.  Windows usually uses the Alt key.  Mac uses the Alt key too, but it is also labeled as Option.

I am still on the lookout for some keyboard shortcuts:
  • Zoom Window Navigation shortcut on my Mac.
  • Flip between Gallery View and Active Speaker shortcut on my Mac.
  • Rename shortcut for either platform
  • Hide Non-Video Participants shortcut as well. 
Readers: Do you know any of these shortcuts?  if so, send me a note and I will include them.

ZOOM VIDEO CORP . . . CAN YOU HEAR ME?   Please expand your Zoom Keyboard Shortcuts using some of these suggestions.  You have an incredible product and we just want to help you make it better.


Tuesday, January 05, 2021

How to Write a Paper in a Weekend - Dr. Carr

The toughest part about writing a paper is "getting to it."  

I was cruizing YouTube tonight (instead of doing the writing I needed to do) when I found this 12-minute video about how to write a paper in a weekend.  This video is not fancy.  Dr. Pete Carr shares his insight into what it takes to layout the first draft of a research paper.

While Dr. Pete Carr is talking about an experimental research paper, the same holds true for a literature review, an argumentative review, or any other type of paper that you write.  Important points are made throughout the video but here are some of the high points.

  • Get To It!!! - Don't procrastinate.  Set a time to begin and get started.
  • This is your First Draft - This is the Creative Part. Don't worry about making the perfect sentence. Organize the basics and leave the final editing till later.
  • Do your literature research first - you have already reviewed the materials that you will use as a foundation for your paper (Experimental or Lit Review). Put them in order using tables or figures.
  • Identify your audience.  - No matter who you select, remember the reviewers.
  • Use an Outline. - Get your ideas together. You will probably not be writing this in a single sitting, so get your ideas together to corral your content.
  • Don't write the Introduction FIRST!! - The Introduction is the hardest part to write. Begin by writing the more concrete content - Methodology, Results, Discussion.  These are more concrete so easier to write.
  • Write the Conclusion - It is easiest if you number these separate conclusions.
  • Write the Introduction - At Last!! Why was the study done?  Provide the "relevant background information" to create the foundation for the work that you have already written.
  • Produce the References - Collect the references you have already found.  If you find that there are some holes in your collection, DON'T search for them now. Make a note and find the AFTER you have completed your rough draft.
You have completed your rough draft.  Now it is time for you to focus on your critical skills and clean it up.

Dr. Carr completes with a list of recommended references.

This is a must-see video for all students and professors.  It makes it easier to approach the process and validates the fears you might have.  Most importantly, it provides suggestions for overcoming those barriers.

Thank you, Dr. Carr, and Happy Writing Everyone!!!