A Guide to Learning Through Disruption for Students

With the move to remote learning at Williams, faculty have adapted their courses to include a variety of digital tools. This guide helps you access and use these online resources, and belongs to this larger set of Remote Learning help guides available to students. Start with the “be prepared” section below for links that you can use to test the tools, and check out the Academic Resources guide to studying remotely.

    • Many courses will use GLOW, Panopto (Course Media Gallery), Zoom or Google Meet. Before classes begin, use the test links above to make sure you have access using your current computer and internet connection . Please don’t wait until an assignment is due or an online meeting is about to start!
    • If you get a blank page trying to access GLOW's Course Media Gallery, try this troubleshooting step.
    • Note that you can also access GLOW using the Canvas App on your phone, available from the Apple or Play store, or search for “Canvas Student App” to install.
    • Make sure that you can view PDF documents. Here's a test document. You'll need to have a PDF reader installed, or you can download one here (deselect both McAfee options before downloading).
    • There are a few resources, like RStudio Server, SPSS and keyserved software, that you can only access if you're logged in to the VPN first. If you know your class requires you to use any of these applications, make sure you have the VPN installed and you can open them.
    • Email stchelp​@williams​.edu if you're unable to connect to any of the services above, as far in advance of needing a solution as you can.
    • If your instructor asks you to use one of the tools above and you’ve determined that you can’t access it, let your instructor know as soon as possible.
    • Check your email and Glow multiple times a day for communications and announcements from your faculty.
    • When you're in a video conference, keep your microphone muted when you're not speaking to avoid introducing distracting background sounds. Using earbuds or headphones with a microphone will also help with sound quality.
    • Sometimes in video sessions with slower connections or multiple participants the quality of the connection is impacted by the use of video. Counter intuitively, turning off the video in a call will sometimes improve the quality of the audio. Communicate with the other participants in a meeting to see what works best for everyone: Ask others if it's OK to use video, and let others know if their use of video is making it hard for you to hear.
    • If you share your screen in a virtual session, share only the relevant window, not the whole desktop. This helps to avoid displaying distracting background notifications, personal emails, and other irrelevant content.
  • This is an introduction to Zoom video conferencing with a focus on settings for classroom learning.

    How do I install the Zoom client? (one-time installation)

    How can I test Zoom?
    Joining a test meeting allows you to confirm that your Zoom client is installed and that your video and audio are configured correctly.

    How do I join a Zoom meeting?
    Click on the Zoom meeting URL (it contains an ID) provided to you by your professor to join the Zoom meeting. Additional notes:

    • You may occasionally be asked to sign-in before joining a meeting. If so, choose the option to “sign in with SSO” and then enter “williams” as your domain.
    • If you don’t have a computer, use the phone number from the invite to call in.
    • For more help: Joining a Meeting.

    How do I use my Web camera?
    To use your video camera, click “Start Video”. (To select your camera, click on the arrow next to “Start Video”.) If you experience choppy audio or video, turn the video off. (For more help with Zoom controls: Attendee Controls in a Meeting.)

    How do I control my microphone?
    If you can, use a headset rather than your laptop’s speakers as that will reduce “audio feedback noise” problems. “Mute” your microphone when not speaking. (To select your audio, click on the arrow next to “Unmute”.)

    What is the in-meeting chat?
    It allows you to send chat messages to others within a meeting.  The chat function can substitute for body language and signal that you’d like to speak, ask questions, offer quick group feedback, upload files, etc. The instructor may ask you to monitor the chat and create a queue of questions. 

    What are the Breakout Rooms?
    Breakout rooms are sessions that are split off from the main Zoom meeting. They allow the participants to meet in smaller groups. Participating in breakout rooms can be used for collaboration and discussion.

    What is the Waiting Room?
    Your instructor may choose to use the waiting room, which allows the instructor to ask attendees to wait before joining a meeting in a way similar to waiting outside a physical office until the previous meeting is over.

    How do I share my screen?
    If this feature was enabled by your instructor, you can share your screen by clicking “Share Screen”, then from the Zoom pop-up select a window that you want to share, then click “Share”. To end screen sharing, click “Stop Share”. Zoom supports sharing your screen, even if your audio is connected through a phone. While you’re sharing, you may be able to ask someone else to take over your keyboard and mouse and remote control your computer or ask to take over someone else’s.

    Can I record a session?
    Recording may be enabled by the instructor in the breakout rooms. You must ask and receive permission from the faculty member and every co-participant before recording.

    I get a black screen during screen sharing. What should I do?
    Windows users, go to this page to find the solution.
    Mac users, turn off the “Automatic graphics switching” or use “Use TCP connection for screen sharing.”

    Product Resources

    • Meet is a videoconferencing and chat program useful for virtual meetings. You can join a Google Meet by clicking on the link provided by your instructor in Glow or email, from a Google Calendar event or from the Meet website. Make sure you’re logged into your Williams Google/Gmail account on the same browser that you're using to access Meet. We recommend using Chrome.
    • You can also propose your own Meet meetings to talk one-on-one or in groups. The version of Meet that you use from your Williams Google account is more respectful of your privacy than Facebook and other social media chat applications, and works on all devices when your group has a mix of iPhone, Android, Windows and MacOS devices.
    • Google has provided a cheat sheet.
    • Accessibility: Accessible course content can be used by people with varying abilities and disabilities, and accommodates, for example, people with color blindness or another visual or hearing impairment. Contact your ITech liaison or the Williams Accessible Education office.
    • Asynchronous activities: Class activities that are asynchronous don’t require the participants to be present or complete the activity at the same time. Examples include pre-recorded short lectures, online discussion boards, and online quizzes among others. Asynchronous activities allow more flexibility for participants in different time zones and often are more accommodating of low bandwidth.
    • Discussion boards: An online forum where students can interact with their classmates and instructor by posing and answering questions in the form of short posts. Glow provides discussion boards, available in the left navigation bar of classes.
    • Distance learning: Distance Learning occurs when students and their instructors are in different geographical locations and the instruction occurs on an electronic device, such as a computer or mobile phone. The learning can occur in a synchronous environment, in which all participants are connected at the same time or in an asynchronous environment, when participants are engaged in learning at different times.
    • F2F (face to face) activities: Activities in which the participants are physically present with each other, as distinct from online activities.
    • Screencast: A screen cast is the video recording of a computer screen, often with an audio narration (distinct from a screenshot which is the capture of a single screen as a still image). A screen cast allows an instructor or student to demonstrate a process, problem solution or software feature, or narrate slides and provide it to viewers asynchronously. There is a screencast recorder in Glow’s course media gallery.
    • Streaming media: Streaming media is video or audio that is recorded to a server and sent to a computer from the Internet as a continuous stream of data which is played as it reaches the destination computer, as distinct from being stored on the computer first. YouTube is a popular example of a streaming media service. Glow’s “course media” allows faculty to stream media using the Panopto streaming media service.
    • Synchronous activities: Class activities that are synchronous require participants to be present at the same time. The chief example is video conferencing. Synchronous activities aren’t forgiving in the case of connectivity problems, low bandwidth.
    • Webinar: A webinar is a seminar or workshop in which the facilitator and participants view the same screen at the same time. Usually the webinar has an audio component that the facilitator controls and sometimes includes functionality that allows participants to chat by entering text, answering polls, raising their hands and asking questions.

    Please send suggestions for glossary items to [email protected].