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It’s that time of year, school is starting! 🙌

You may not have noticed since so many students are not leaving their homes to attend school. Virtual learning presents some unique opportunities and challenges. We will have more blogs to help you succeed while remote learning, but the best place to start seems to be to chat about what technology you might encounter. Here are five apps that are frequently used and each app has five tips to help you be more efficient.

student video chat with classmates

Google Classroom

  1. Get the mobile app, and turn on notifications!
  2. Start your day by opening each class. This way you will get your attendance points and will know what to expect that day.
  3. Submit assignments via Classroom. I know some teachers will still ask for assignments to be emailed, but when possible, it is much better for you to have it documented in Classroom.
  4. Speak up if something in the classroom is confusing. Teachers can change a lot of things and will find your feedback very useful.
  5. Communicate, communicate, communicate. The teachers I talked to all (ever last one of them) said they wanted their students to message them more frequently. Start easy, “Thank you Ms. Smith for posting the video!”

Google Meet

  1. Coming in September you will be able to see video in a 7×7 grid giving you a much clearer picture of your classmates. Do us all a favor and comb your hair. 😸
  2. I use cmd + d a lot to turn my audio on and off, it will be ctrl + d for Windows and ChromeOS. Make it an einstead of a d and it will toggle your video on and off.
  3. Lower left corner you will find Meeting Details. Details are not as important but it has attachments there so make sure you check it for important documents being shared.
  4. In more options in the lower right corner you will find a layout menu so you can change how video is displayed. Default is for it to auto select, I suggest picking the layout you like best.
  5. While you are in more options, be sure to check your settings to get the right audio input and output.


  1. Virtual Backgrounds are all the rave, just don’t make it too distracting.
  2. Use shift+ctrl+a (shift+cmd+a) to mute/unmute audio. Or press the spacebar to temporarily unmute yourself. Change the a to v and it will toggle your video.
  3. I use option + y to raise and lower my hand. I know many educators use the had to know who needs to be unmuted so it’s nice to not to always have to find and click.
  4. Last item on shortcuts, go into your settings and Enable Global Shortcut for any one you use a lot. This way if the Zoom screen is not active you can still use those shortcuts.
  5. While in settings, turn on the enter full screen option to help you focus on the Zoom meeting and not get distracted by other apps.

Microsoft Teams

  1. Use bookmarks for important messages and posts by hovering over the message and selecting the flag. When you need to find a message you can go to saved in your profile.
  2. Pin key channels and conversations so you can easily go back to them. Just hit the three-dot menu and select pin.
  3. Rename group chats by clicking the pencil icon next to the participants names. Bonus tips, these are searchable to help you find them later.
  4. Use auto-captions to get notes from class meetings! After you record a meeting open it in Stream. Then edit it and change the language to English, and set it to autogenerate the caption file. The next time you open the meeting you’ll have the captions on the right. You can copy and paste them into your favorite note app if needed.
  5. Ctrl + n (cmd + n) will give you a new chat menu. I find the little button a pain so this shortcut is a lifesaver for me.


For those that don’t know this is a software similar to Blackboard and Classroom. The educators I know who use it are very keen on the layout and the ability to deliver online exams.

  1. Pay attention to the sidebar navigation, it is where you will find the “rooms” for each class. I like to keep it open all the time. It is helpful to jump between classes without going back to the dashboard all the time.
  2. Don’t ignore the chat. It is very helpful to have the educator available in chat regularly and you can see when they are online. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Or message another classmate.
  3. Hopefully your teacher uses the glossary, I suggest you start there. Assigned readings and videos are a lot easier to follow when you are not trying to think about definitions.
  4. Quiz answers can be marked incorrect due to spelling. Ask the educator if that is the case before you lose out for not knowing how to spell “chlorine.”
  5. Make sure you check the grades section regularly so you know where you stand in each course. I’m surprised at how many users told me they didn’t even know their grades were posted there.


Hopefully your school is using some of these apps, or at least something similar. The developers of these apps are always trying to best each other, as you learn of good tips put them in the comments below so we can all use them.