Check your sound 🔊
The most important thing is the audio. Since we are all about learning Spanish, it's essential for you to properly hear what people are saying.
By default we will favour earphones or headphones. They are the ones which offer the most comfort, and they will generally block your surrounding noise, so that you can fully immerse yourself in the class. If your audio equipment is connected via bluetooth, make sure it is fully charged before the lesson.
Depending on what sort of device you use, you can also use the speakers of your laptop/tablet/phone. One thing to note is that sometimes this will create an echo, since those devices are also fitted with microphones and the microphone might pick up on the sound coming out of the same device. We have noticed that owners of Apple equipment can generally get away with little echo.
Keep in mind that a good sound quality will go a long way in improving your experience (and your classmates). You want to make sure that the sound is properly balanced on both sides of your earphones, it's very unpleasant to only hear from one ear. Likewise, if there is a constant buzzing noise, you'll want to check that out.
Check your microphone 🎤
The next thing you'll want to do after hearing your teacher online is to reply to them!
Did you know that high quality audio makes us sound smarter? A recent study by professor Norbert Schwarz from the University of Southern California discovered that people rated a physicist's talk 19.3% better when they listened to it in high quality audio versus a slightly distorted, echo-prone audio. It doesn't mean you need to invest in a brand new expensive microphone, but making sure your microphone has a decent quality will ensure everyone has a great classroom experience.
A good tool that you can use in order to test your microphone is the Zoom test call (available here). It's a simple Zoom meeting where you can test the quality of your microphone and your audio. It will give you a good idea of how your fellow students hear you.
Another thing when considering your microphone is to check that it is not obstructed. Sometimes an earphone cord will have an integrated microphone. Those might get caught up in clothes and they might make some undesirable noise which is bothering the people listening, though the speaker doesn't hear it. It can be quite bothersome for your fellow students, so make sure you are not accidentally touching your microphone.
Check your camera and video 🎦
Getting a good quality camera can really help for the overall classroom experience.
Body language is a big part of our communication, and even if we are learning online, it can go a long way to make the experience more immersive and enjoyable.
The good thing about video, is that most cameras nowadays have a pretty good quality. It's very likely that whichever device you might be using, you won't need to get a separate camera.
What you need to control though is how you place your camera and device. For instance: don't stand with a window right behind yourself. If you do so, the camera might be overexposed by the outside light, and your face might be too dark for anyone to make out your facial expressions. On the same note, make sure that you fit properly in the video. It's nice to see somebody from the chest up, and that way you can use your shoulders and arms as part of your body language.
Get a good internet connection 🌐
Sound, audio and video are great! Ultimately though, it is all possible thanks to the internet, and you want a good connection to enjoy your class.
Zoom will gradually degrade the quality of the video if your connection quality is bad. While that enables you to attend the class, it does imply that the overall experience is less immersive. That might be fine for a single class, but if you are attending Casa Spanish on a regular basis, you might want to make sure your internet connection is suitable for online classes.
Generally, broadband or cable connections are preferred, since they offer more stability and their bandwidth is higher. At the same time, some devices running over 5G are able to deliver very good quality internet. If you are unsure, you can always check fast.com. Anything over 10Mbps will provide you with a comfortable speed, though you can still enjoy the class with a connection speed of around 2Mbps.
Prepare your classroom environment 🧘
Online classrooms work best when you make sure it's just you and your device.
It might be online, but it is still a real classroom. You don't want people walking behind you, or other people talking while you are having your lesson. Ensure you are in a quiet space and calm place. Some sounds might trigger your microphone and they could be heard by all your classmates which is very disrupting to the classroom.
Since you are on a computer, tablet, or phone, there might be other applications trying to grab your attention. Turn off your notifications, sounds and ringtones. Some of those might make sound through your microphone, and they might disrupt your classroom.
Relax and get in the zone ☕
The most important thing when you go to a Casa Spanish classroom is to have a good time.
We believe a positive experience is essential for learning. This is why Casa Spanish lessons are made to be enjoyed by our students. The last thing we want is to make you nervous by putting you on the spot, and you can always tell us if you think an exercise is too difficult for you. A good thing to remember is that there is always another class and another day, and you don't need to pressure yourself to know everything right now.
Our lessons are most fruitful if you forget about your problems and worries of the day. Consider this time as your own, and focus on the topic of the class, or on what the teacher is asking as part of the activity.
So sit back in a comfortable chair, and get a nice cup of tea to enjoy with your online class.