My Favorite Tips for Attending Live Video Lectures

In recent times, many of my friends have been asking me for tips on attending live video lectures and attending classes remotely with video chat. I've attended many of my college classes via video chat in the past, and have also given guest lectures over video chat at several different schools and universities all around the world. Here are my favorite tips for attending live video lectures and staying focused during the lecture or virtual class.

Turn video on, but sound off

When you are attending a video lecture, I recommend having your live video feed turned on, but your live sound feed off/muted, turning on sound when prompted by the lecturer to do so. This means that other audience member's won't hear each other's background noise and makes it a bit easier to focus on the main lecturer. Having the camera on is required for a lot of college classes that meet over video chat programs and encourages students to pay attention just like they would in a traditional classroom, though some programs do not require or support audience members sharing live video.

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Choosing a background

Whenever possible, choose a clean looking background that is not visually distracting, or set up a privacy screen to be displayed behind you. Many video chat apps now support users blurring out their backgrounds or setting custom backgrounds with different pictures- use common sense when choosing a background picture, or choose a solid color or simple pattern/photo.

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Try not to attend class from your bed, if possible

I have a chronic illness, so sometimes attending class remotely or watching video lectures from my bed is the only option for attending class. However, this means there have also been many times when I have fallen asleep during class, something I definitely hadn't planned on doing (though my professors knew there was a chance of this happening and were fine with it). Because of this, I recommend that you sit at your desk, kitchen table, or similar surface when attending video lectures, as this closely simulates what it is like to sit at an actual desk or in a lecture hall, and makes it less likely that you will fall asleep during the lecture.

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Let the lecturer know if something is hard to see

During video lectures, materials on a board or that are being shared in a presentation may appear smaller in size than they normally would in the classroom. When that happens, alert the lecturer that you can't see something being displayed, and ask them to read it/describe it to you if possible so you can add it to your notes, or to make the information larger using a magnification tool or a program like Microsoft Immersive Reader. You can also request a digital/accessible copy of the materials, which is a common accommodation for students with visual impairments or print disabilities to have in Disability Services files.

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Take notes the same way that you would in class

When I am taking notes for a video lecture or virtual class, I use the same apps that I do in all of my physical classes to take notes so that all of my classes are in one place. Of course, if students traditionally write their notes by hand, they shouldn't switch to using a new app to take notes unless they want to or their professor requires them to. My most-used notetaking apps are Microsoft Office OneNote, Notability, and the default notepad apps on my Android phone and iPad.

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Don't be afraid to ask for lecture materials in another format

My professors share a lot of documents in the PDF file format, but if I am having trouble reading the document, I will ask them if I can have it in a Word format instead so that I can modify the text size easily, or ask them to change the colors for improved contrast if they give me an image that I have trouble seeing. I have also taught myself how to create my own accessible materials so that I can convert between file formats on my own or improve the readability of a document- I have several posts about learning to create accessible materials and how to fix inaccessible materials in my Design category.

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Write down questions as you think of them

In many live video lectures, the professor isn't waiting for students to raise their hand if they have a question, or they will ask students to wait to ask questions until a certain time. Because of this, I recommend writing down questions in your notes as you think of them, and then sending them to the lecturer either after class or when they ask for questions during the lecture, as it's very frustrating to forget questions during class.

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Final thoughts

I love attending my classes by video lecture, and if given the choice I will typically prefer to attend a class over video instead of in-person so I can use my personal desktop computer with all of my favorite assistive technology during class. I hope this post is helpful for other students attending video lectures!