1. Preparation
  2. Joining a Session
  3. During the Session
    1. Recording
    2. Chat Window
    3. Microphone Use
    4. Webcam Use
    5. Screen Sharing
  4. Concluding the Session
  5. Privacy

These are general guidelines and apply across all web conferencing platforms used by online courses at Carleton. Platform-specific guides for students are available through our Online Learning Resources page, under virtual classroom. For any synchronous session, follow whatever ‘terms of engagement’ your host sets. A host can be your instructor or TA — whomever is hosting or moderating the online session.


  • Verify your device meets the minimum technical requirements for online learning and ensure your device has the latest updates installed.
  • Activate your web conferencing tool account(s) and download any required software.
  • Where possible, test out web conferencing tools ahead of time.
    • The first time, test these at least 1-2 days ahead of time to ensure there is opportunity to get technical assistance if it is needed.
    • Use the opportunity to test your speakers, microphone, and webcam, and make adjustments if necessary.
  • Contact the Paul Menton Centre should you require accommodation, such as assistive technology, to participate in courses.

Joining a Session

  • Sign in as yourself, and not someone else. If you are using a platform where you are asked to create a username, it is good practice to use your preferred name or the name you would use in a professional setting.
  • When possible, join 5-10 minutes ahead of the session’s scheduled start time. This allows you to check your audio and video (if applicable) and gives you time to make adjustments.
  • Unless instructed otherwise, enter the session with your microphone muted.
  • Join from a quiet, distraction-free environment. This means silencing your cell phone and closing any apps on your devices that send notifications.

During the Session

There are a variety of tools available to you as a participant. These include a chat box, the ability to speak over a microphone, broadcasting the feed of your webcam to other participants in the session, sharing your screen, and using actions such as raising a hand or selecting a reaction. Follow the host’s instructions for participating throughout the session using these tools. Some hosts will want you to use the chat feature to indicate that you want to get involved; others will use the hand raising feature, or ask you to raise your hand with your webcam on. Whatever process your host uses, follow it. It can be really disruptive and confusing for a moderator to have a participant free-for-all on this issue.


  • Students are prohibited from recording class sessions or any portion thereof either through the application itself, any other application, smartphone, computer or device.
  • Any request to record a session must be made to the instructor in advance.
  • If your request to record is approved by the instructor, before you begin recording, announce that you will do so and confirm there is agreement.
  • If the host records the session, expect the recording to become available shortly thereafter, but do allow some time for processing.
  • Students are prohibited from distributing class recordings.

Chat Window

  • Follow the host’s instructions for using the chat function. You may be instructed to put your questions in the chat window, or there may be a separate function to ask a question, such as a question box or raising a hand.
  • The host may appoint someone other than themselves to act as the chat moderator for large sessions. This could be a TA or a student in the class.

Chat window tips:

  • Think before posting; contribute valuable comments and/or questions rather than “noise.”
  • When a question or comment is directed towards another participant, where possible, tag that person to distinguish the message from a general comment.

Microphone Use

  • Keep your microphone muted when you are not speaking. This eliminates background noise on the call, which can be distracting for participants.
  • Follow the host’s instructions for gaining permission to speak and wait for the host to acknowledge you before speaking.
  • Once acknowledged, unmute your microphone and start your video feed.
  • When you are done speaking, mute your microphone and turn off your video feed.
  • Avoid talking over others. In the virtual environment, it can be difficult to distinguish between multiple conversations.
  • To ensure good quality audio, use a headset (i.e. headphones with a microphone). If there is another computer close by where audio is being used, this will help limit interference.

Tips when speaking:

  • Speak in a concise, clear manner and tone so that everyone can hear what you are saying.
  • The tone of your voice is affected by facial expressions, so use them even when you are using audio only.

Webcam Use

  • You may be asked to keep your camera off to maximize the quality of the session; however, consider turning on your webcam if you are comfortable and it is permitted by the host. Much of communication is seeing and responding to people’s faces.
  • When using your webcam, avoid distracting activities when on-camera, such as eating, drinking, shuffling papers, walking around, bouncing up and down on an exercise ball, etc. If a distracting activity is unavoidable, be sure to pause or turn off your webcam.
  • Situate yourself in a semi-professional setting. It’s okay to join from a personalized space, but remove anything from your background and surroundings that may distract you, your instructor, and other participants from the conversation.

Tips when using your webcam:

  • Direct light towards your face and avoid brightly lit backgrounds so that you can be seen clearly.
  • Position your camera at eye level and look into the camera when speaking.

Screen Sharing

  • Follow the host’s instructions for when to use screen sharing.
  • Once the host has authorized you to share your screen, use the share screen option and select which window to share. Where appropriate, unmute your microphone and start your video.
  • The host may opt to disable screen sharing for participants.

Concluding the Session

  • Leave the meeting when it ends. On most web conferencing platforms, attendees can leave the meeting by using a “hang up” icon, but the host also has the option to end the meeting for everyone.


  • Protecting the privacy of students, staff and faculty is important. Do not publicly post images of private and virtual class meetings on social media or elsewhere online.
  • If you are working in a shared space, protect the privacy of those around you by having them avoid the area captured by the camera.