Carnegie Mellon University
March 20, 2020

Zoom Tips and Hints

By Randy Weinberg

As you prepare to participate in Osher@CMU courses online, please consider the tips, hints and advice below. We hope you will find the experience as easy, enjoyable and productive as possible.

Osher@CMU will be using the Zoom platform for online courses. Zoom is an easy to use real-time video conferencing tool. Zoom can be downloaded and installed easily on your computer or mobile devices.

Download and Install Zoom

After you have installed Zoom on your computer or mobile device, join a test meeting to try out your audio and video and familiarize yourself with the meeting controls:

(If you want to initiate your own zoom meetings, you can sign into Zoom with your Google or Facebook credentials or you can create your own free account.)

Join a Meeting

Join Using a Link
If you were sent an invitation or link to join a Zoom meeting, just click the link and follow the on-screen instructions to join the meeting. You will receive email invitations to join online Osher @ CMU classes in which you are enrolled.

Join Using a Meeting ID
If you were sent a 9, 10 or 11 digit meeting ID to join a meeting, open the Zoom Application, click the blue Join a Meeting button and enter the 9 or 10 digit Meeting ID. Click Join. (Meeting IDs will typically be sent by users with free accounts rather than institutional accounts.)


Meeting Controls

Familiarize yourself with meeting controls available at bottom of the screen:


Mute / Unmute: Mute and unmute your microphone.

Start Video Stop Video: Turn your camera on or off.

Invite: Invite others to join your meeting. 

Participants: See who's currently in the meeting. 

Share Screen: Start a screen share (if the host allows). You will be able to select the desktop or application you want to share. 

Chat: Chat is a good way for you to quietly post questions or comments without interrupting the meeting. Type your message in the text box and press Enter. You can send a private message to a single person or to Everyone by clicking the down arrow in the To: field.

Leave Meeting: Leave the meeting while it continues for the other participants. (Only the host can end the meeting.)

The Gallery View / Speaker View at the top right corner of your screen toggles your view of the speaker(s).

These controls are explained fully on the Zoom site:

Learning Zoom - Additional Resources:

The Zoom website provides a great deal of help on its own site (see below). This is the definitive source, so please view any videos or read any online help that applies. And, DO PRACTICE beforehand. (YouTube also has a number of videos on using Zoom.)

Getting Started

Zoom Help Center (short videos - one minute each):

Zoom FAQ:

Testing Audio and Video:

Background noise or feedback:

For new mac users: If you have newly installed Zoom or upgraded your macOS, you may need to authorize Zoom to use your microphone. If this is the case, open the control panel / security & privacy / privacy / microphone / and give Zoom permission to use the microphone. 

New to Working from Home? Interesting Article: Some Tips to Help You Meet Like a Pro; Good advice on setting up, using web cam and microphone, getting dressed, minimizing distractions, etc.

If all else fails: You can always phone into a Zoom meeting if computer connection, audio or video doesn't work properly. Dial in phone numbers are provided in the meeting invitation.

Suggestions For Online Participation

  • Get your tech ready early. Well in advance of class, consider re-starting your computer (always good advice, right?), and make sure you address any software updates that might cause an interruption.
  • Plug in your tech. If you’re using a laptop or tablet, plug it in, as video will use your battery quickly.
  • Use a headset if you have one. Get your headset ready and on. This can really help sound quality, decrease distractions, and keep class discussions private, if you don’t have a quiet or private physical space.
  • Tidy your computer desktop. If you will be sharing your screen, pre-set the applications, tabs, and windows you will be using, and close any tabs or windows you don’t want others to see.
  • Log in early. Many Osher online courses will be open early. If the host has allowed early login, do so. Take a moment to test your microphone and video one more time.
  • Mute your microphone when not speaking. This is important to avoid unintended interruptions and distracting background noise (including typing on your keyboard). The Mute control is at the bottom left of your screen.
  • Stop your video if you must move around your quarters during the meeting.
  • Use the Chat feature to ask questions without interrupting the speaker.
  • Look your best. Lighting should come from in front of you or from the side, in order to best light your face. Keep your background clear of distractions. Look at your webcam, not at the screen
  • Finally, be sure to run a virus checker on your computer periodically. Your computer needs protection, too. Beware of email scams and sites offering deals simply too good to be true.

Article prepared by Randy Weinberg, March 19, 2020