Preparing for an online class

Some of your classes at the Business School will take place online,  the three platforms available to staff for running online classes and events are Blackboard Collaborate UltraMicrosoft Teams and Zoom. This page will help you to familiarise yourself with those platforms, and effectively prepare for and participate in your classes.

Get to know the platform you're using

Your Module Leader should let you know what platform will be used for online classes - if not we recommend you asking them to post a module announcement in Minerva - this will give you and others the opportunity to view the relevant page in the Digital Tools section of this site to practice using the platform yourselves before a class. Select the links below to learn more about each platform.

Preparing for your class

The recommendations below will help to make sure that you are prepared for your online class. Some steps need only to be followed once, and others may have to be undertaken regularly throughout the academic year as you attend different classes for different modules. Select each recommendation to expand it and show more information.

Learn what platform you're using and practice using it

Your Module Leader should tell you which platform they are using to run online classes – if not we recommend asking them to post a module announcement so that you and your fellow students can use the Digital Tools pages of this site to learn more about the platform and practice using it.

Learn how to join the class

Your Module Leader should post a link to join the online class somewhere in the module area in Minerva, they may also post a module announcement telling you where to find the link. If your Module Leader has chosen to use Microsoft Teams to host virtual classrooms a link to join the session should be found in the relevant channel. Note down where the link is to avoid clicking through the module area in Minerva moments before the class.

Complete any activities or quizzes before the class

Your tutor or lecturer might ask you to complete a reading or participate in an activity in the days leading up to an online class – in doing so they anticipate that all students will arrive at the class prepared to participate in a discussion or activity to help apply what they have learned.

Doing your best to effectively manage your time will allow you enough time to reflect on what your lecturer has asked you to do. This is the best way to ensure you arrive at the timetabled class fully prepared to get the most value out of the activity that follows.

Download the resources you need

You may need to refer to slides or readings throughout the online class to inform and guide your discussion points.

Try to download any resources before the class – this will help preserve your connection to the online class during teaching and will ensure that you remain focussed on the topic(s) being discussed.

Test and improve your connection to the Internet

Your connection to the Internet will obviously impact your connection to an online class. Some classes will require a low speed, such as 1:1 video calls; but other activities (such as screen sharing) will require greater speeds. Using test rooms (see the individual pages for online class platforms on the Digital Tools page) will help you to establish how good your connection is.

We understand that not everybody has a great connection to the Internet, but there are techniques that can help you make the most of what you have. If you need to improve your connection to a class you can try plugging your router directly into your computer or laptop – if this isn’t possible you can try situating yourself nearer to the router or adjusting where the router is located. At the very least try shutting down mail and streaming applications on your laptop to maximise the broadband connection you do have.

A Broadband speed checker can help you to establish whether you are getting the speeds you’d expect from your Internet supplier.

Make your housemates/family aware

If there are other people in your household who are streaming media while you are in your class, this might negatively impact the connection you have to it.

We understand that these are challenging and extraordinary times, and it might not always be possible to prioritise the connection each member of your household has to the Internet; but we recommend communicating the times that you will be participating in an online class to others in your household. By working collaboratively with them you may be able to create a schedule that enables you and your housemates to use a stronger connection to the Internet to undertake necessary tasks, such as participating in online classes.

Attending your class

The recommendations below will make sure that you follow good webinar etiquette and could help you maintain a stable connection to your class. Select each recommendation to expand it and show more information.

Find the right environment

If you can, find a quiet space where you have some room to take notes during your online class. We understand that this might not always be possible during such challenging and extraordinary times – so if you are struggling to do so, try to mitigate any environmental noise by using a pair of earphones or a headset.

If you are sharing your webcam try to ensure you are facing a natural or artificial light source – this will ensure that you are well lit and that other participants will be able to see you more clearly than if there was a bright window behind you.

Arrive early

Login to Minerva and navigate to the Join Link at least five minutes before the class begins. Make sure that you have all offline and paper documents that you will need for the class.

Doing so will give you plenty of time to settle into your environment, join the class and make sure that your audio and video works.

Maximise your Internet connection

Streaming apps like Spotify and Netflix, and apps that regularly upload/download information like Mail or Outlook, will negatively impact your connection to an online class. Closing all unnecessary applications will help stabilise your Internet connection and thus your connection to the class.

Mute your microphone on entry

When you arrive in the class it is good online etiquette for your microphone to be muted.

Wait for the lecturer or tutor to ask you to enable your microphone, or use the Chat or ‘Raise Hand’ feature to inform them that you wish to speak.

Use earphones and a microphone

Using earphones will allow you to focus on your class without being interrupted by noise coming from your immediate environment. Even better would be to use a pair of earphones that have an integrated microphone such as a headset, or like most bluetooth earphones and earphones that come with a smartphone. We understand that not everybody has access to equipment like this – this is not a requirement to participate in an online class.

However, using earphones can help to avoid ‘feedback loops’, where audio is sent by your microphone to your speakers repeatedly because they are too close to each other.

Use a virtual background

If your broadband speed is good enough to share your webcam then you might choose to use a virtual background – this can give you a little added privacy in not showing the background of wherever you are, but can also be a chance for your personality to shine through.

If you need a little inspiration visit our Virtual Backgrounds page to find some University of Leeds images that you can use, as well as links to external sources such as Opera North and the BBC.

Mitigating a poor connection

It is common to occasionally experience a poor connection to an online classroom. However, if you regularly experience this you can try various things to improve the stability of your connection.

– Make sure that broadband-intensive apps (Spotify, Netflix, Outlook etc) are closed
– Plug your router into your computer, or sit/stand closer to the router
– Turn off your webcam, and if possible ask others to switch their off also (may only be applicable in small groups)
– Review your View settings. In Zoom, Gallery View will require greater download speeds than Presenter View. In Teams, using features like Together Mode and Virtual Backgrounds will require greater general broadband speeds.

Doing your best

We understand that it might not be possible to follow all the guidance set out on this page. We have created this page to recommend effective ways to participate in online classes.

The Library has study space available on campus, and if you are struggling to engage with online classes for any reason you should speak first to your Module Leader or Personal Tutor, who will be able to signpost you to further help and support.

Support

If you are having technical issues, or need to speak to a member of staff in general, you should reach out to a member of staff - there are many sources of support at the University of Leeds. Use the links below to access help.

We have gathered some advice for you to follow to help you make initial efforts to troubleshoot and resolve technical issues you encounter.
View troubleshooting advice
The University of Leeds IT Service can help you troubleshoot technical problems when accessing University systems, including Minerva.
Visit the IT Services website
If you are feeling anxious, and need to speak to a member of staff, the Student Support team are here to help - and to signpost you to further sources of support.
View Student Support information

 

The pages in the Digital Learning section of this website been devised by the LUBS Enhancement and Innovation Team and are available under creative commons for you to adapt.

Digital Learning by LUBS Enhancement and Innovation Team is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

Last updated October 2020.