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Participate in live online lectures guide

Explore the Virtual Classrooms available at City and how to participate in live online lectures.

Participate in live online lectures

If you can, find a suitable physical space for studying (ideally a desk and comfortable chair) where you won’t be disturbed. Follow the instructions provided by your lecturer on how to participate in the online activities as these have been designed to help you review what you are learned and to apply it in different contexts.

It might not always possible to find a suitable space for studying. You may have to work in a place which doesn’t give you a lot of personal space. Perhaps there are family members or flatmates sharing the area, or you can only use your bedroom to study.

You might not always want to share your webcam because you don’t want other people to see your space; wanting to protect your spaces whilst still engaging in lectures and study groups is understandable. Some of you may feel anxious about being the object of a gaze. You might feel stressed or embarrassed about other students (who we don’t fully know yet), seeing you in your living space.

There can be a positive impact to turning your camera on. It can help you better connect with other students, particularly when you are all distanced from each other and possibly feeling isolated. It’s beneficial to exercises such as group work and helps provide others with visual cues when you explain your views and opinions. Students who use lip-reading to clarify what they are hearing can also find others' video feeds to be of great use.

Some of the below suggestions can help you with participating in a Zoom or Teams lecture with your camera off, and also offer some help with turning your camera on whilst still maintaining privacy.

These will help you get the most out of your online lectures and workshops.

Participate with camera-off


The Chat window is a great way of discussing key points and sharing ideas with other participants during a lecture. Both Teams and Zoom allow you to toggle chat on and off, depending on how much screen space you have available. If your lecturer allows it, you can also save the chat to a text file so that you can reference it later. This is particularly useful if links to additional resources have been shared.


The use of Reactions, also called non-verbal feedback emojis, lets you interact with your lecturer and other participants without having to turn your camera or microphone on. By selecting a particular emoji you can show appreciation of an idea, give applause to the presenter, offer agreement with others or highlight that you support a different viewpoint, all without turning your webcam or microphone on.

Use your microphone

Just because your camera is turned off doesn’t mean you have to stay silent. If it’s suitable to do so, being active over your microphone lets you interact with others and have your voice heard. Raising questions, analysing poll results with your lecturer and peers, and involving yourself in discussion will help you get the most out of online lectures.

Live Captions/Subtitles

If you’re using Zoom and keeping your camera off for bandwidth or technology reasons (perhaps your laptop or Wi-Fi just can’t handle it in the moment) then ask your lecturer to make sure live subtitles are enabled. This will allow you to turn on subtitles and follow along with less of a worry when it comes to connectivity. In Teams, live subtitles are enabled by default so you simply have to turn them on from your side.

Screencast: Chat, Reactions and Subtitles

The screencast below covers how to use Chat, Reactions and Subtitles on both Zoom and Teams.

Feel confident with camera-on

Confidence in your video feed

  • Creating a pre-lecture checklist can help you feel more confident about turning on your camera. This can minimise self-consciousness and discomfort around how you and your room appear in your video feed.  
  • Try giving yourself a couple of minutes before your lecture to look around your work space. Avoid silhouetting yourself in front of a strong light such as a window. Instead, if possible, facing a light will ensure you appear clearly on camera. Positioning yourself so that you don’t appear next to a very busy background can also improve your video feed.
  • Some people might like to move pictures of family out of view for privacy or safeguarding reasons. If you can, moving your camera or adjusting its field of vision can ensure that certain parts of a room can’t be seen.  
  • Creating this time can also give you the opportunity to make sure you’re happy with your personal appearance so that you’re less concerned about it during the lecture.

Blur or change your background

  • There are times when you can’t move things around in your room. Teams and Zoom both allow you to change your background so that you can either blur your surroundings or replace them entirely with a picture.  
  • Try finding a picture you really like which you can use as a background. This could be a single plain colour, a stock image of a workspace, or a photograph you’ve taken which you particularly like.
  • Instructions for both blurring your background and changing your background image in Teams and Zoom are covered in the screencast below.

Reduce webcam quality (Zoom only)

  • Sometimes our technology isn’t up to the job. Dodgy Wi-Fi, clunky devices and an old webcam can all contribute to video calls being less than perfect.  
  • When it comes to the quality of your own video, it doesn’t have to be in 4K and crystal clear. You can change your webcam to a lower quality, and it will then take up less bandwidth, making everything run a little smoother. If your tech can handle it, a camera with a slightly fuzzy picture is fine and still allows you to participate with your video on. You can manually reduce the quality of your video in Zoom by turning HD Video off.
  • Instructions on how to do this are covered in the screencast at the end of the page.

Turn off video feeds

  • Sometimes seeing your own video feed can be distracting, but you might still want to keep your webcam on whilst you talk. On Zoom you can turn your view of your webcam off, whilst still letting everybody else see your video feed.
  • In Teams, turning off incoming video feeds can help massively when it comes to smoothing out connectivity glitches. This won’t affect a presentation if your lecturer is sharing their screen, but instead will stop you from seeing everybody’s webcam at the same time. This can also help if you find seeing a wall of faces either overwhelming or distracting.
  • Instructions on how to do this are covered on the screencast at the end of the page.

Screencast: Manage video bandwidth in Zoom and Teams

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