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How to add a virtual background to safeguard privacy

Video tutorial on how to create a virtual background.
So when you’re in an online lesson, you and your learners might not want to share your backgrounds. You might not want people to see what’s behind you. So one way to avoid them seeing that and to sort of blank out the background is to add a virtual background. Now obviously each platform will be different but I can show you here in Zoom what happens. So you can look at the help pages or the support pages of the tool that you’re using. But here, you just click on the arrow next to Stop video, and this is obviously on a desktop, Choose virtual background. And at the moment, I’ve got None but I can actually click on Blur.
Now the first time you use it, it will download something, very quickly. But now you can see that my background is blurred. So if I click on the cross, now it’s pretty blurred as well you can see that there’s something behind me but you can’t see what it is. It’s actually quite effective. Another thing you can do, and I’m going back to the arrow next to video, click on Choose virtual background again. You can actually upload an image to add as a background yourself. So if you click on the plus sign here, it will take you to a folder and you can search through your photographs and you can choose the one that you want.
I’ve selected something from New York. So if I click on that, you can see, let’s click on the cross, that I’m now on top of the Empire State Building. So it’s not only useful for privacy but it’s also a bit of fun as well. You can actually show something you want students to see. You can show students places you’ve been to or you could just have silly things like you can be on the moon and things like that. So it can be very useful for you. Now for your students, what they need to do when they’re on their devices is they probably need to click on the More icon.
So it could be three little dots and they click on that and they’ll have the option to choose their virtual background. Not all devices will allow it though. I think older devices won’t. I’ve got an old iPhone and it doesn’t allow me to add a virtual background. So that’s something to be aware of. Another thing to be aware of is that learners might put on silly backgrounds and you might not want it. So I’m just going to take you to an important page, and that’s my Settings page on Zoom. So again it depends on your platform. So you need to have a look carefully at that.
But you can see here that when you go onto your site, if you clicked onto settings, it would take you to all these options. You have a lot of control. You can deactivate your waiting room, for example. You can make sure there’s a meeting passcode or not. So there’s a variety of things that you can do down here. You can switch off Annotate, so nobody can annotate. You can switch off private chat, so that nobody can have private chat in the room. So students can’t talk to each other if you’re worried about bullying and things like that. Here’s the Annotation here that you can switch off.
I’m just going to scroll down, to in fact, I’m going to do a Control and Find… virtual background, there we go. So here you can actually switch off the option to allow use, or videos, or images for virtual backgrounds if you have students that you… start doing silly things. So you do have control. You can also switch your video filters off and things like that for learners that are able to use video filters.

One way to safeguard our privacy and the privacy of our learners is to ask them to blur their background or add a photograph to act as a virtual background.


If you’re unfamiliar with how to change your background in an online learning platform, watch the video tutorial and note how you can do these things:

  • Blur your background
  • Add a photograph as your background
  • Change settings so that learners are able to change their background

When finished, open up the platform you use or have chosen to use and try to blur your screen or add a virtual background if it’s possible. Go to the Help or Support pages of your platform to find out more if necessary.

Go to the next step where we’ll look at professional development.

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Teaching English Online

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