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    • #4160
      Laura Berlage

      zoom classroomHaving hosted Zoom classes with well over 1,000 students and numerous hosting staff, as well as taken many classes from other instructors, I’ve seen all kinds of backgrounds!  They certainly make a difference towards creating the environment of the class, especially when it’s the instructor.

      Here are the ones that make me cringe:

      • There is a bright window in the background, and the subject and their immediate surroundings show up as so dark I can’t make anything out.
      • People are coming and going in the background, looking over the person’s shoulder to see what’s happening, or otherwise interrupting the person on the Zoom meeting.
      • Pets are interfering with the meeting.  This ok if it is a student, but this is NOT ok if this is the teacher!
      • There are things visible or happening in the background that likely this person would rather have private or off-camera.
      • The participant has their background set to “blur,” so when they hold up work to share, it immediately blurs as well because the algorhythm is looking for face, shoulders, and hair.  This becomes very frustrating during a class.
      • The participant is using a virtual background (a photo they’ve taken or another image), which renders the edge of their person jerky as it tries to only show head, shoulders, hands, and hair.  Any object held up will turn into the background image.  This is raucously distracting as often the virtual backgrounds are very visualy “loud.”
      • The person is sitting in front of a flat, blank wall.  This makes their “space” feel very small and too close to the camera.
      • The camera is pointing up from below (usually a phone propped up on the table), and mostly what I see is chin or the underside of the person’s nose (not a flattering angle).
      • The person’s camera isn’t pointing at them at all!
      • The camera is not stable and wobbles or falls over during the meeting, making it appear like an earthquake must be happening.
      • The lighting in the room is too yellow or too “hot” in one area (casting harsh shadows or bleaching out the face) or otherwise not balanced or flattering for the participant.

      Alternately, here are attributes of spaces I’ve appreciated as part of Zoom backgrounds.

      • The presenter is well lit, with no harsh shadows, glare on glasses (ring light folks, I’m looking at you), and no backlighting.
      • The camera is aimed at a corner, so the background feels spacious and has depth.
      • There is no activity in the background (people, pets, windows, etc.)
      • The background is well staged to showcase the person’s style and interests.
      • The background feels warm and “cozy”–hygge!
      • The background is evenly lit in warm light that isn’t brighter than (and therefore in competition with) the lighting on the presenter.
      • The camera angle is at eye level or slightly higher.
      • The camera is stable and does not wobble during the meeting.

      What your camera sees behind you when it is pointed at you should feel like a home away from home for students.  It should be comforting and calm, inviting and imaginative.  It should make students WANT to be in that space with you!

      What are attributes of an instructor’s background and choice of angle, lighting, staging, etc. that you appreciate or don’t appreciate?

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