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Learning Remotely

Welcome to virtual learning! Here are some tips and reminders to maximize your learning experience and keep your academic journey moving smoothly.

Part of Penn GSE's COVID-19 Response

Take an inventory

Familiarize yourself with video and audio conferencing

At Penn GSE, most of your instructors will be using BlueJeans (and some may be using Zoom) to conduct synchronous class meetings or small group discussions. They may also be recording short lectures or presentations for you to watch on your own time. 

New to BlueJeans? Here’s a Guide to Getting Started with BlueJeans from Penn GSE.

For synchronous video/audio conferencing, it is helpful to check a few settings when you join a meeting:

  • Audio: Look for a microphone icon and set yourself to mute as a default (by clicking on the microphone icon). Meetings with many open microphones can get chaotic in a hurry. You may need to check audio settings on your device to confirm whether sound is working, both for you to speak and for you to hear.
  • Video: Depending on the size of your class and the norms set by your instructor, you may or may not have video enabled. If you are using video, you can test what the picture will look like by opening the BlueJeans app even if you are not in an active meeting.
  • Chat box: The chat box is a very useful way to share information, ask questions, or make comments without interrupting the speaker. Your instructor may designate someone to monitor the chat during class, and if they haven’t, you can volunteer. In larger groups, you might also type “Hand” in the chat box, just like you would raise your hand to speak in class.
Tip: Find a classmate and test these features out before class. All Penn GSE students have a BlueJeans license to host their own meetings. Download the app, test your setup, and play around with the features before you log in for class.

Technical problems? Don’t panic

Bad WiFi connections and technical glitches are going to happen, just like they do during in-person classes. Your instructors are expecting some hiccups along the way. Try your best to rejoin the meeting, but don’t panic if it does not work. Send a follow-up message to your instructor or classmates letting them know that you’ll watch the recording of the class. Ask them to let you know if there’s anything you missed.

Getting into the rhythm of taking turns talking without all the typical in-person cues takes some practice. Be patient with your instructor, your classmates, and yourself. You’ll get the hang of it.

Tip: Having problems with a poor Internet connection? Try switching off video, or look at the audio-only settings for joining a BlueJeans meeting on your mobile phone.

Using Zoom? Join the meeting using only computer audio. Video: Configuring Audio & Video on Zoom.

Be flexible and use the tools you have

Staying in conversation with classmates and instructors does not have to be formal or complicated. If you are more comfortable with Google Hangouts or FaceTime, have a post-class virtual chat with a classmate the way you would in the hallway after an in-person class. Remember, the learning goals of your academic experience haven’t changed. Focus on the content, not just the technology.

Additional resources

Penn’s Student FAQs for Taking Online Classes

Grad Center at Penn's Remote Resources and Activities

If you are interested in resources for teaching online, visit Penn GSE’s webpage for teaching remotely, where you’ll also find resources from many other institutions.