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Freshman 101: Zoom Classes

Amid a global pandemic and the weirdest summer vacation of all time, you probably have a lot of questions on your mind if you’re an incoming freshman this fall.

The upcoming semester will be a big departure from the norm for nearly everyone, especially if you’ve involuntarily enrolled at Zoom University to kick off your Penn State career.

Zoom courses can be a challenge, especially if you’re coming straight from lackadaisical high school escapades. To make sure your virtual trips to class run smoothly, here are a few tips and expectations to keep in mind.

Zoom Etiquette

Cramming 500 people into a virtual lecture isn’t easy. From folks leaving their mics on to that overly confident guy showing a little too much on his screen, it can be tough to actually learn through Zoom.

An easy way to start, though, is by making sure you mute yourself whenever you aren’t actively speaking. Although you can’t mute others, the least you can do is keep yourself quiet to make sure you’re not that guy for anybody else.

But just because you’re not talking doesn’t mean you can’t express yourself and have a little fun. Thanks to Zoom’s nifty background-changing feature, you can flex on your peers by tuning in from virtually anywhere you can think of. If you need a place to start, take a look at our Penn State backgrounds or one student’s incredible portfolio. Fun backgrounds are also great for sparing your classmates and professors from seeing your less-than-tidy room in the background.

While we’re at it, make sure you’re using Zoom’s chat feature for course-related topics only. Everybody likes being the class clown, but dicking around in there will only make everyone’s day worse. Plus, your professors get an archived chat script each day…

What To Wear

Look, at the very least, put some clothes on. Nobody needs to dress to the nines for their 8 a.m. geology lecture, but do your classmates a favor and look at least somewhat presentable. Luckily, pajamas and sweatshirts are completely acceptable attires for any and every Zoom function.

Sights & Sounds

Although you should always mute yourself when you aren’t speaking, slip-ups happen. You might hear some folks eating their breakfast, talking to their roommate, or listening to music in the background. And yes, you’ll hear many barking dogs and crying babies too, but probably far fewer than we heard at home last spring.

Bottom line: Be prepared for anything, and keep in mind your professors are doing their best to keep things running smoothly.

Class Participation

Much like an in-person class, there’s nothing more awkward over Zoom than a professor’s question that goes unanswered and is met with deafening silence. They’ll still ask you to participate and take notes just like usual, but you’ll be able to raise your hand with a nifty Zoom feature and speak up when needed by unmuting yourself.

And even though you aren’t attending in person, your professors will likely still take attendance through Zoom. Whether you like it or not, they can access the class roster at an instant and find out if you’re logged on. The best way to succeed in school is by going to class, even if it’s 10 feet away from you this time around.

What Not To Do

From barking dogs to shirtless slackers, there’s never a dull moment in Zoom lectures. And although we’ve got a semester of remote learning under our belt already, there’s not a well-established set of do’s and don’t just yet.

When in doubt, use common sense. Get dressed, keep yourself muted, and try your best not to shit-talk your professors in the chat log. As long as you stay positive and try your best, you’ll graduate from Zoom University with flying colors in no time. Remember, kids: Fake it ’til you make it.

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About the Author

Frankie Marzano

Frankie is a senior accounting and economics major from Long Island, NY. You can probably recognize him as the typical Italian-American with slicked back black hair. He is an avid fan of the New York Rangers and Mets, along with every Penn State Athletics team. Follow him on Twitter @frankiemarzano for obnoxious amounts of Rangers and Penn State content or email him at [email protected].

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