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  • Michelle Helstrip Dru Yoga Therapist

Zoom safely - Top Tips for Yoga Teachers


This Blog has been written for teachers of Yoga, Dance, Exercise – any activity where small to medium sized groups of students are being taught physical activity live via Zoom because you cannot currently use your normal space.


Zoom is probably the most popular online platform for Yoga teachers during the current pandemic. Teachers have had an incredibly steep learning curve, shifting classes online to be able to offer students that continuity that was lacking in the shifting world around them. Teachers and students alike, we all continue to learn and adjust. And, as with our normal environment, we need to ensure that we are all safe in this new online world.


Nobody wants their Yoga session to be Zoom-bombed (subjected to pornographic images and lewd language), but this is just one of the hazards of online teaching that we now have to deal with. One session that I know of was hijacked recently because a participant, being ‘helpful’ had posted the meeting ID and passcode onto a group Facebook page. It’s so easily done, and often with the best of intent.


Teachers posting meeting links and passcodes into general email newsletters, or constantly using the same personal meeting ID and passcode for multiple sessions, also run the same risks (see the ‘Check your safety settings’ section for why this is not a good idea).


So we do need to be cautious about our general advertising protocols online, but we also need to consider that a Zoom meeting invites people we may not know (or know only slightly) into our private spaces, often into our private homes. Be aware that these spaces can tell others a lot about you – single/ married, male/female, children/childless, status – not just which books you like to read!


As a Teacher you are likely to be working from home, and your students will be connecting to you from their own homes. Having the camera switched on so that you can see all of your students is an essential part of delivering a safe, interactive physical practice but does allow unprecedented access to private spaces.


Many teachers also now record the sessions and release those recordings for the use of their participants. Online safety and privacy therefore need to be carefully considered, including guidance for your students regarding any sharing of online images.


Recordings of sessions, meant only for the participants, are regularly appearing on social media. One teacher describes how she was contacted, out of the blue, by a complete stranger, telling her how much they had enjoyed her session! Copyright considerations aside, the names of participants are often displayed below their image, creating huge privacy issues.


Let’s imagine our Zoom space as the physical space that you normally teach in – studio, village hall, function room – and look at how we can create an enjoyable, safe experience for all of our participants without exposing them (or you) unnecessarily to online (or offline) harassment.



Know your participants


Have some pre-Zoom contact with new and unknown participants.

Remember that advertising on a website or on social media can attract potential students from all over the world. It is important to double-check that you are comfortable with inviting them to join your class.


Arrange a phonecall or private Zoom/Facetime chat – you would be unlikely to have complete strangers turning up to your physical class, so why accept complete strangers into your online class?


Bonafide participants will be pleased that you have taken the time to get to know them, and for many teachers this pre-session contact plus a completed health questionnaire is part of the insurance requirement for online teaching.



Make your Class Etiquette clear


People may go to a number of different Zoom-based activities, all with their own ways of operating. Decide on your own criteria and stick to it – maybe send out a ‘Guide to Zoom Etiquette for Yoga Sessions’ beforehand. Some safety and security issues to consider:


· Yoga Attire

Students sometimes forget that although they are at home they are also on display – bare chests, underwear and pyjamas may be comfortable but may also send out the wrong message to other participants.


· Space & Privacy

Having a suitable space for practicing Yoga includes accepting that partners, children, cats and dogs wandering in and out may not be the best, or safest, option. Other students may feel that their privacy is being compromised if non-participants are watching the session.


· Switching off devices

Switching off other devices while practicing reduces distraction, but also avoids any participant recording the session without the consent and knowledge of others.


· Recording Policy

Teachers should clearly indicate, prior to the session, whether they are planning to record. If sharing the session afterwards, think about GDPR and copyright issues.


· Online Security

This is also a good opportunity to educate your participants regarding online safety e.g. not sharing the password; being aware that their environment will be seen etc.



Consider your Teaching Space


Blank walls may not seem very exciting, but remember to protect your privacy by having a neutral background or a background that reflects your Yoga influences. A lack of background clutter also ensures that your students can see you clearly.


Avoid having anything personal within the frame. Log into your Zoom meeting early so that you can see what is actually visible on the screen – I have found that the camera on my computer has a wider angle than the camera on my Ipad for example.


Zoom artificial backgrounds do not work for movement-based sessions, as you may have already found out!



Check your Safety Settings


There is a lot of informative, detailed information available online, particularly the Zoom video tutorials, but here I have listed some common pitfalls, and some useful functions:


· Don’t use your personal ID

Use the randomly generated ID, together with the randomly generated password, to send out to your participants. Think of your personal ID as equivalent to your private telephone number – you wouldn’t want that in the public domain. If you regularly use your personal ID and the password that goes with it, you run a high risk of it accidentally being shared on social media, allowing uninvited guests. Be aware that this lack of basic security may also breach GDPR in terms of the requirement to protect the personal data and privacy of your clients.

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· Switch on the Waiting room function

Even if you think this is a bit of a nuisance, and causes some delay, being able to check who is coming into your session before letting them in means that you have a moment to consider whether this person should be in your session or not. It can sometimes be tricky to identify students from the name typed in – encourage your students to think about this and make it easier for you to recognise them. Ensure that ‘join before host’ is also disabled. Think of these steps as the equivalent of arriving at Reception in your physical Yoga studio, or the moment when you tick participants off your attendee list in the village hall.


· Choose the ‘Mute everyone on entry’ option

If someone has managed to make it past your virtual Reception/ Meeting Room without you realising, this ensures that they can’t immediately disrupt the session before you notice and eject them. Make sure that video is also off (avoids any unwanted visitor projecting lewd images before you manage to eject them). You can then easily ‘unmute’ your recognised students.


· Familiarise yourself with Security settings

If you haven’t done so already, the next time that you are in a Zoom meeting, and before you open it up to anyone else, familiarise yourself with the Security settings. You can then act quickly to eject anyone if necessary. Remember that if you have handed over Host responsibilities to someone else (perhaps you are sharing a session with another teacher) only the Host can eject, so make sure that they are also familiar with the Security settings.


· Lock your meeting

Once your students are all in your meeting, locking the meeting means that nobody else will be able to enter. You can easily ‘unlock’ the meeting again if one of your students loses their connection and needs to re-enter the session.



Conclusion


We all use Zoom in a slightly different way, depending on the number of participants and our level of familiarity with those participants.


But, in the same way that we would make sure the outer doors to our venue were secure, and the inner door to our session closed before start of class, we must ensure that we think carefully about the online safety of our selves and our participants. We have a ‘duty of care’ toward our online participants in the same way that we have a duty of care toward those who normally visit us in person.


Take a little time to review your settings, and then feel confident that you are providing a safer environment for your participants.



PLEASE NOTE: This guidance isn’t meant to cover all aspects of using Zoom securely – these are just some of the security issues that are pertinent to Yoga and other small group physical activity. There are excellent technical guides available online from Zoom itself. Other useful sources include University guides for their tutors, and your own Yoga organisation may well have a comprehensive guide to using Zoom safely.

THANKS: My Thanks to those Yoga teachers, trainers, training institutions and teachers from other disciplines who have contributed their knowledge and stories.


Namaste


Michelle



Sources & Further Information:


Zoom – Best Practices for Securing Your Zoom Meetings

https://zoom.us/docs/doc/Securing%20Your%20Zoom%20Meetings.pdf

British Wheel of Yoga – Best Practice Guidance for Remote Teaching

https://www.bwy.org.uk/pdf/1608649062Best%20Practice%20Remote%20Teaching%20(1).pdf

The Seven Principles of GDPR

https://www.uhi.ac.uk/en/about-uhi/governance/policies-and-regulations/data-protection/the-seven-principles/


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