The option of working remotely became available in the 1980s. Slowly individuals began working from their houses instead of suffering a long commute back and forth to the office. Remote work became possible only when the internet became accessible at home. It has now become one of the most popular options for work.
Telecommuting provides the opportunity to work from the comfort of your sofa. Currently, many full-time employees no longer even have offices. Companies are creating open workspaces due to the fluctuating number of people at work. Technology is developing, providing new options for meetings, screen sharing, and document editing. What seemed impossible 30 years ago, such as multiple people editing a file remotely, is something we do every day.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has struck the world, all of us, except for essential workers, have been sent home. Teachers were scrambling to create online lesson plans. Some employers never imagined that the majority of jobs that were office positions can now be completed remotely.
One of the tools that has proven fundamental during the stay-at-home orders is Zoom. Zoom is a teleconferencing service that has been around for a few years already, but it hasn’t ever gotten as much attention as in the past months. While some of us hadn’t even heard of Zoom in January, most of us use it now for one reason or another.
Teachers conduct online classes through the platform, providing a continuity of education that would not have been possible a few short years ago. Companies conduct daily meetings to keep everyone informed. Relatives use Zoom to have family get togethers even when everyone is far away.
We’ve created a list of tips, hacks, and hazards for using Zoom.
- Zoom has several built in hotkeys. They are different for both Mac and Windows. Here is a short list:
- Open the Invite Window Alt+I and then Copy URL
- Record a Meeting Alt+R
- Screen Share Alt+Shift+S
- Mute Everyone (if you are the host) Alt+M
- Audio On/Off Alt+A
- Video On/Off Alt+V
- Video On/Off Cmd+Shift+V
- Audio On/Off Cmd+Shift+M (in case your children decide to have an impromptu Broadway musical in the living room)
- Mute Everyone (if you are the host) Cmd+Ctrl+M (this gets rid of a lot of the background noise)
- Screen Share Cmd+Shift+S
- Open the Invite Window Cmd+I and then Copy URL
- Record a Meeting Cmd+Shift+R
- If you don’t want your coworkers knowing what your living room looks like, or that you haven’t loaded the dishwasher in a week, Zoom provides the option of changing the background. You can choose one of the default images which include the Northern Lights, scenic backgrounds, and a beach setting somewhere. If you want to be fancy, there is an option of uploading your own virtual background. In order to do this, click the arrow located at the lower left side of the screen, near the Stop Video icon. «Choose Virtual Background» will appear as an option. When you click it, a screen will appear with the default images and videos.
- Try to make certain that you are in the most quiet place possible. Most microphones pick up a lot of background noise and make it difficult for everyone to hear the speaker, especially if there are 50 participants in the meeting.
- Mute your microphone if you aren’t using it. You might think that your dog isn’t making that much noise, but seriously, he is.
- Before you start your first meeting, try a test run. Open a Zoom test session. You’ll be able to see what the platform looks like and see and hear yourself
- Zoom has also set up an option to «Touch Up My Appearance» for those of us who haven’t put on makeup in the last month and a half. You can turn it on in the Video Settings dialog.
- In Zoom’s mobile version, you can set up Meeting Reminders if you have a habit of forgetting when scheduled meetings will take place. This function will send you notifications about upcoming meetings.
- Although Zoom has a limit of 40 minute long meetings in the free version, they have kindly gotten rid of this limit for all schools for meetings with 100 or fewer participants.
Unfortunately along with this new technology comes new risks and threats. There is a new term that has emerged recently; “Zoombombing”. This is when someone hacks into a Zoom video conference and begins to flood the video, text, and/or audio, often with pornography and hate messages.
While people are doing an extraordinary job with mastering this new technology and working and studying remotely, often we are lost if our video conference gets hacked.
Here are some tips on preventing your meeting from being hacked.
- Don’t use your personal meeting ID. Create a random meeting ID for each meeting. If someone has your personal meeting ID, Zoombombers can contact you and hack your meetings.
- Don’t post your personal meeting ID on social media! If people want to join your meeting, ask them to contact you personally through email or send a direct message.
- Make sure that there is a password set on the meeting. That means that even if someone has the meeting ID, they can’t get in without the password.
- Make sure that you set up the Waiting Room. That way, the user has to get approval from the host to enter the meeting, preventing any hackers from barging in.
The University of Southern California has set up a resources page that explains how to deal with Zoombombing and how to increase the security of meetings.
Tips for Schools
Many school systems have set up Zoom meetings within their school learning platform. This allows students to join meetings without a Zoom account. It also helps provide more privacy for both students and teachers.
Another step some schools have implemented is setting up meetings so that only the teacher has the camera and microphone turned on. There are multiple benefits to this set up. Students have privacy to watch the conference wherever they feel most comfortable and teachers are not distracted by background noise during their lesson.
Recording Zoom meetings is very important for most companies. These recordings provide both the text messages and video recordings of the meetings, allowing companies to reference them if need be.
School recordings on the other hand are not the best idea. There are dozens of laws prohibiting the recording of minors without consent. School districts and teachers can get into grey areas with video consent and privacy issues so it’s better to opt out of it. Instead, you can record a video of the meeting with only the teacher’s video and audio.
Also, everyone is so thrilled with being connected to one another again that sometimes people forget about tags and privacy. Don’t take screenshots or photos of your Zoom classes and post them on social media. We know that you are so happy to be back together, even if it’s online but if people haven’t given consent to the use of their photos, it’s not fair or legal. It might also be dangerous since many photos also show students’ names as well. If you want to post a message about how happy you are to be in a meeting or class together, just write something and add a picture of yourself.
Zoom has provided the opportunity to connect people from all over the world simultaneously. If you learn these tricks, you will be able to hold meetings with ease and prevent hacking. This valuable tool is helping us get through the COVID-19 pandemic and minimizing the disruption to our education and work lives.