Virtual Classroom Etiquette for Students

Students have access to more instructors than ever, allowing them to take classes with teachers to which they normally would not have access. The COVID-19 pandemic has opened doors for many dancers; the surge of online instruction options can be both overwhelming and exciting.
When you consider taking an online class, there are a few things you need to know and do.

Setting Up Your Dance Space for both Live and Recorded Classes
It’s necessary to treat your home dance space like any other dance studio. Your physical space, speakers, and screen are all integral to a quality classroom experience.

Physical space – do you have enough room to move around? Is the space clear of clutter and distractions?

Sound – If you are watching classes on a computer, make sure your speakers are strong enough to hear the instructors voice as well as the music. If the computer itself is not powerful enough, you may want to invest in an upgrade.

Equipment – Is your computer screen large enough to allow you to view the instructor clearly? Do you have an option, such as Chromecast, to view web videos on a television screen?

Tip: you can find some great deals on refurbished equipment if you are on a budget.

Live-Stream Class Etiquette
Treat your live-stream classes much like in-person classes: show up on time, don’t interrupt the instructor, and dress appropriately.
Show up on time – If you have the option, log in 3-5 minutes before start time. When logging in early, please ensure that your microphone and video are muted.

Don’t interrupt the instructor – Teachers often need to speak at the beginning of the class, and it will be difficult for other the students to hear over your coffee pot brewing or dog barking. The instructor will tell you if and when they will need you to respond, or will open up the room for questions.

Dress appropriately – Get yourself in Dance Mode; it’s important to stay in the habit of dancing in breathable, flexible, supportive clothing while dancing. For those of us that work from home, it’s no different than changing into work clothes, even when you’re only strolling to your dining room table. Changing into appropriate dance clothing is more likely to energize you and keep you on-task.

Recorded Class Etiquette
Recorded classes are useful for those of us with full, late, or changing schedules; they allow you to practice on your own schedule. Even though you aren’t dancing with others, it’s still important to treat this time like you would a conventional class.

Set a schedule – Pick a day and time, at least once a week (more, if you’re so inclined), that is your dance time. Set an alarm on your phone, leave yourself a post-it, mark it in your planner, and stick to it. Make sure your dance space is prepared and show up on time.

Stay on task – It’s easy to get distracted by other things at home; treat this time like a live class - you are there to learn from this instructor. You may think that it’s easy to press pause and come back, but this will lead to lost momentum.

Dress appropriately – Whether it’s recorded or live, wear your preferred dance gear to stay comfortable.

Recording yourself for critique
It is often difficult for dance teachers to teach a class as well as watch their students as they would in an in-person class; computer screens aren’t often large enough to view all of the attending students. To get a better look at a student’s technique, the instructor may ask for recorded videos or a one-on-one lesson. As a student, you’ll want to ensure that the teacher is able to watch you clearly. Preparing your dance space is especially important to ensure your instructor can see you.

Lighting – Is there sufficient lighting in the area to highlight not only the movements but also your face? Avoid recording in front of a window, as the back-lighting will wash out the entire video and make it difficult to see you.
Equipment – Many laptops come with a built-in webcam and basic recording software, but the quality may not be the best. Higher-resolution web cameras can be found easily online and in stores. As well, most cell phones offer higher resolution options.

Sharing your video – Most email providers cannot accommodate larger files; consider using Google Drive, WeTransfer, or another cloud-sharing website to send your files.

These screenshots were shot with two different kinds of cameras (a webcam and a cellphone) and demonstrates the importance of a quality camera as well as proper lighting control.
The image on the left, as well, had more back-lighting, which will wash out an entire scene.

(screenshots courtesy of KCDC Studio/LaDonna von Stoetzel)

A note about technology: One of the biggest struggles with live instruction is connectivity – video may become pixelated, or may experience time lag, making it difficult to follow along.
If you know that connection will be an issue, ask your teachers if they offer recorded lessons that you can follow.

Author: LaDonna 'Adara Din' von Stoetzel

LaDonna 'Adara Din' von Stoetzel is an American belly dancer and member of Al-Bahira Middle Eastern Dance Theater.

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