13 Zoom Etiquette Tips for Online Classes

portrait of Melissa Venable, Ph.D.
Melissa Venable, Ph.D.
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Melissa A. Venable, Ph.D., has 15 years of experience in online education as an instructional designer, curriculum manager, and adjunct professor. She is also a certified career coach. Her work in higher education began in career services working wit...
Updated on January 31, 2022
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  • Practicing good Zoom etiquette can help build workplace skills and a tight-knit community.
  • Mute your mic when you're not speaking to prevent accidental disruptions.
  • Try to avoid multitasking when in a Zoom meeting — and keep your pets out of view.

Chances are you've attended a live online meeting of some kind, whether it was for school, for work, or to visit with friends and family in a socially distanced manner.

Video conferencing platforms, like Zoom, are gaining popularity in online education. In fact, a whopping 85% of students participating in our 2021 Online Education Trends survey said their online or remote classes included synchronous meetings, i.e., live, scheduled meetings that often use video conferencing technology.

A whopping 85% of students participating in our 2021 survey said their online or remote classes included synchronous meetings.

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Not all online courses require video conferencing, so be sure to check with your professors to figure out what they expect in their online sessions. Different classes call for different protocols, and instructors may have their own preferences for how they want students to interact in class.

You'll likely receive instructions in your course syllabus or during your first class session, but don't hesitate to ask your instructor any questions you have about interacting online.

Below are some helpful Zoom meeting etiquette tips to guide your class participation and help you get the most out of your online sessions.

Internet and Technology

Take some time to get familiar with the meeting tool your class uses before your first session, whether that's Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or something else. Once you've done that, use the following tips to learn how you can avoid disrupting your class and build a sense of camaraderie with your classmates.

Mute Your Microphone

Your instructor may adjust the meeting settings so that you enter the meeting on mute. But if not, your mic will probably be "hot" when you enter and everyone will be able to hear you. Remember to mute and unmute your mic as needed throughout the session, and leave your mic muted when not talking to avoid background noise interrupting the class.

Test Your Connection

Zoom's bandwidth requirements are relatively low, but a weak internet connection can result in choppy audio and video. Test your connection using a tool like Speedtest. Turning off your video can also help improve the experience when you have a slower connection.

Customize Your Profile

You can modify how your name appears and even upload a static image that appears on screen when you aren't using your camera. While instructors often prefer that students use video, being able to see images instead of just a list of names is helpful, too.

Video and Webcams

If you're new to online class meetings, using video can be a little intimidating. But video can be a great way to connect with your professors and classmates when you can't meet in person. These video etiquette tips can help you feel more comfortable in front of the camera, and may prove especially useful when you need to give an online presentation.

Dress Appropriately

There's no doubt that our work and school wardrobes have become more casual than they might have been a year ago. Casual can work for an online class, but it's important to remember that you're still in a professional setting. DePaul University's College of Education shares that "clothing is NOT optional. … [Present] yourself in the best possible light at least from the waist up."

Turn It Off (Sometimes)

Feel free to turn off your video if you need to leave your computer briefly during a session or eat a quick snack. Otherwise, it's best to keep your video on to help establish a sense of community with your classmates and instructor.

Try Gallery View

Depending on how your professors have set up their Zoom rooms and attendee permissions, you may be able to change the view of your Zoom screen. If the class follows a lecture format, active speaker view helps you focus on your professor. For discussions, gallery view lets you see up to 49 people on screen at once.

Location and Background

Chances are you will log in to your class meetings from a variety of locations, none of which were likely designed with online video meetings in mind. This can create awkward situations if you aren't careful.

Keep People and Pets Off Screen

It can be fun to see your classmates' or instructors' pets, but a lot of jumping around or barking can end up being a real distraction for everyone. Try to put yourself or your pets behind a closed door, and let your family or roommates know when you plan to join a live class meeting. Posting a sign outside your study area can be a helpful reminder.

Stage Your Background

A professional-looking space isn't always available, but you should think about what will be behind you when you turn on your video and take a little time to declutter that area. Zoom also makes replacing your background with a virtual backdrop pretty easy. Your school may even provide virtual backgrounds, like these examples from Temple University and the University of California, Irvine.


A good guideline for all online class meetings is to make sure to communicate respectfully and professionally. Sure, your instructor may invite you to provide a critique of someone else's work, take a side in a debate, or even comment on a controversial topic. But none of these situations provides an excuse to be rude or use inappropriate language.

Be Nice

This seems easy enough but isn't always easy in practice. If you wouldn't say something out loud in the physical presence of your professor and classmates, then it's not appropriate to say in a Zoom session or type into a chat window. Courtesy, compassion, and generosity go a long way in group settings. Your peers are part of your professional network, so focus on building positive relationships.

Raise Your Hand

Zoom and other video conferencing platforms allow you to raise your virtual hand. It's a polite way to ask for an opportunity to speak and helps your professor manage the discussion, especially in a large class.

Time and Focus

You may be logging in to a Zoom class session from the comfort of your bedroom or living room, but that doesn't mean you can let things like punctuality slide. Giving your class your full attention can be a challenge from home, so it's important to set yourself up for success by following these tips.

Be On Time

Live class sessions are, well, live, so showing up on time is part of your responsibility as an attendee. While it may be easier to slip into a virtual class late than it is to walk into a physical classroom after class has started, either way you're going to miss something and potentially cause a distraction. Set up calendar notifications that remind you to log in a few minutes before the scheduled start time.

Join a Test Meeting

When you register for on-campus classes, it's a good idea to ensure you know how to find your classroom before the first day. You can do something similar with Zoom. You can join a test meeting at any time to test your connection, check that your computer is set up correctly, and practice using some features.

Avoid Multitasking

When in an online meeting, it can be tempting to open other windows and tabs, check your email and social media feeds, or switch your attention to your phone. To avoid this, mute your phone and any pop-up notifications on your computer. Also, try to refrain from eating during online class sessions whenever possible.

The Key to Mastering Zoom Etiquette

With a little practice, all these suggestions can become habits that result in a more rewarding experience as an online college student. The effort you put forward now to develop online class etiquette will pay off in the future as more and more workplaces rely on virtual meetings for collaboration among remote colleagues.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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