Carnegie Mellon University

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August 21, 2020

Tips for Online Class Success

Like many other students across the country, you'll be taking some or all of your classes this upcoming semester online with Zoom. Although you probably have a good handle on using the app, we put together our top ten tips for taking Zoom to the next level.


  1. Hide non-video participants. Tired of seeing black windows with names for all of the participants that are not sharing their camera?  Use this feature to declutter your gallery view and display the people that want to be seen.

    How: Open the Zoom app and click Settings > Video. Click the Hide non-video participants checkbox.
  2. Pin Video. Want to keep your instructor in view at all times? Focus your video feed on just one person using the Pin Video feature.

    How: Hover your cursor over an individual's video feed, click ellipses > Pin Video.


  1. Save the chat. If chat has been enabled for your class, you can save a text file of the chat transcript for everyone in the meeting, along with your personal chats. One tip—save before the meeting ends or you won't be able to recover the chat.

    How: Click Chat on the Zoom toolbar, then click ellipses > Save Chat.

Real-time Feedback

  1. Give feedback. Even if you don’t have permission to speak during class, you can still communicate with your instructor by sharing reactions such as yes, no, go slower, or go faster.

    How: Click Participants > ellipsis.


  1. Mute when joining a meeting. When you join audio in a Zoom class, it's a best practice to mute yourself. Take the pressure off and enable it in your Profile Settings for every meeting you attend.

    How: Open the Zoom app and click Settings > Audio > Mute microphone when joining a meeting.
  2. Enable Push to Talk. This feature allows you to remain muted throughout your Zoom meeting and simply hold down the spacebar when you want to talk.

    How: Open the Zoom app and click Settings > Audio > Press and hold SPACE key to temporarily unmute yourself checkbox. Once in a meeting, click Mute (bottom left), and then hold down your computer's spacebar to speak.

Sharing Work

  1. Share apps, not your desktop. If you are asked to share content during your class, consider sharing a single app instead of your desktop to avoid accidentally displaying unwanted information such as email or group chats.

    How: Click Screen Share and select an app to share. To Share additional apps, select New Share, and select a second item to display.
  2. Annotate. If you're participating in your class or study group from a tablet, Annotate lets you mark up or comment on content in real time.

    How: On mobile, tap Annotate on the Sharing toolbar.

Sharing Multi-media

  1. Share your computer's audio. Has your instructor asked you to play a video during class? Be sure to share your computer's audio in addition to the visual content.

    How: Click Share Screen > Share computer sound (bottom left). Click the screen that contains your content, and then then click Share.
  2. Play music or computer sound only. This feature allows you to share your computer's sound—the perfect choice for sharing audio recordings.

    How: Click Share Screen > Advanced (top) > Music or computer sound only.

Note: These features may not be advisable if you are joining a Zoom meeting within a hybrid classroom that already has a room microphone connected. Always check with your instructor prior to sharing content.

That's it—our top ten tips for Zoom classroom success. What are your go-to Zoom tips? Email us at and let us know. Happy learning!

Learn more about using zoom