Video Conferencing for Fac/Staff

The Zoom web conferencing platform is the most common and feature rich tool available at CBS for all remote teaching and video conferencing needs. The most up to date Zoom client can always be downloaded from Zoom offers free Basic accounts that allow meetings lasting up to 40 minutes.  CBS faculty and staff can request a Zoom Pro account by contacting the MultiMedia Group.

Running Zoom

  • Requirements:
    • Most laptops/desktops purchased in the last four years will be sufficient, including any CBS-issued computer still within it’s expected life cycle
    • An HD webcam, either integrated in the computer or attached via USB. ITG recommends Logitech webcams.
    • A headset or earphones of some kind (ITG strongly recommends against using computer speakers to avoid echo and feedback)
    • A stable internet connection (3.0 Mbps up/down, see below)
    • A full list is available here:
  • Recommendations:
    • A room where you have control of the environment and can prevent extraneous interruptions to the greatest extent possible.
    • A relatively quiet space with minimal other sources of noise or echo
    • If you tend either to be soft spoken or to move around, a headset with a built-in microphone is ideal
    • The primary light source in the room should be in front of you as you face the webcam, not behind you
    • Install Zoom ahead of time and try it out first by logging into this Zoom test room:
    • Zoom allows you to see up to 49 participants on screen at once, so with a large enough monitor you will be able to see most of your class or attendees
    • Check out the Zoom Help Center for a wealth of information on how to use the platform.
  • Custom CBS Backgrounds
    • External Relations has created a collections of images that can be used as custom backgrounds, including a custom CBS Background Generator
    • Download and extract it to a convenient location on your computer
    • You can add the images one at a time, either from within a meeting
      • Click ^ next to the video camera logo
      • Click "Choose Virtual Background"
      • Click the + icon and select a file from the folder you created above
    • For full information, please consult Zoom's help page on virual backgrounds

On Internet Connections

As a rule, wired is always better than wireless.  Most residential broadband wifi (in the US lower 48) is likely to be acceptable, but bear in mind that residential bandwidth can vary widely depending on what’s happening in your local area. ITG recommends against using shared or open wifi networks such as Libraries or coffee shops.  On Columbia’s campus, any wired connection will be more than sufficient.  If videos are a part of your class lecture or meeting, these do not always present well depending on a number of factors.  Consider sharing links in the chat to the videos you’d like the participants to watch, or having the participants watch them a-synchronously.  As above, Zoom recommends having at least 3.0 Mbps up/down.  To run a speed test on your internet connection:

  1. Go to
  2. Search for internet speed test.
  3. Tap or click Run Speed Test


On Remote Teaching

The Samberg Institute has compiled some Remote Teaching Guides and Resources, including a Zoom User Guide, a Remote Teaching Best Practices Guide, and other information designed to assist you as you prepare to teach courses online. Please contact Samberg with questions related to teaching best practices.

MultiMedia Group (MMG) created this one-page In-Room Zoom Session Quick Start Guide: A very condensed guide for teaching with Zoom, which includes helpful phone numbers to call for support at the bottom (which can be used even if teaching remotely).

The Faculty Support team is available to assist with technology-related questions, testing different scenarios, having a mock Zoom session prior to the first class session, and to provide support at the start of the first session.  You can also reach out to the Samberg Institute if you’d like to schedule a 1:1 Zoom Consultation with someone from their team.

Technology Examples for Home Studios

Low Tech Medium Tech High Tech
Computer Laptop or Desktop1 Laptop or Desktop Laptop or Desktop
Camera Built-in webcam or Logitech C930E BUSINESS WEBCAM Logitech C930E BUSINESS WEBCAM or similar Logitech BRIO ULTRA HD PRO WEBCAM or similar
Headphones Any JBL, Apple AirPods, Sony, Jabra, Plantronics Bose Noise Cancelling
Microphone Built-in Blue Snowball Ice (USB) Blue Yeti (USB)
Second Monitor - Dell, Sony, Samsung or similar HD, 24”-38” Dell, Sony, Samsung or similar HD, 40”+
Annotation - Wacom Pen Displays Wacom Pen Displays, Apple iPad, or a laptop such as the Dell Latitude 7200 2-in-1
Lighting -


LED Ring Light kit
Software - - Specialized software

The items above are intended to be suggestions only and can be mixed/matched as desired. 

  • Laptops vs. Desktops: From Zoom’s perspective, there is no difference. However when buying a new computer, desktops will in general be less expensive than a laptop with equivalent hardware.  (Note: Desktop computers for home office use require Dean’s Office approval.)
  • Wired vs. Wireless Headphones: Ultimately this is a matter of personal preference.  Wired headphones will be more reliable, as they are not dependent on batteries. Most wireless headphones use built-in rechargeable batteries when they run out there is a recharge time before they can be used again.  Wireless headphones offer a level of convenience, and most last at least several hours on a full charge. If you are considering wireless, ensure your computer is Bluetooth capable.  Even if you chose wireless, have wired backup headphones available.
  • On Lighting: Depending on the location, a dedicated light fixture may not be required. There are general guidelines that may prove useful in determining whether special lighting is needed
    • Lighting source is constant and steady, not subject to fluctuations in weather or power
    • More light shines on the subject from in front of them than behind
    • There is enough ambient light so as not to cast any shadows on the subject’s face
  • Regarding software, please consult with the ITG Faculty Support team for procurement, and with the Samberg Institute for tips on incorporating it into class.
    • On videos: Videos can be shared from a presenter’s computer, but the quality can be variable.  Where possible, it’s recommended to share a link to the video for the participants to consume directly instead of playing the video through Zoom.

Any references to specific hardware, devices or software herein are informal, internal examples for the faculty of the Columbia University Business School. The Columbia University Business School does not endorse and specific products nor offer any external warranty or assurances of functionality.  Please abide by all University and School purchasing procedures.

Tips for Virtual Whiteboards

If writing/mark up is important to your teaching, Zoom offers a whiteboarding function. This is best used with any device which supports a pen, such as an iPad, a Microsoft Surface, or a similar tablet. Pro Tip: You can join the same meeting from multiple devices; a computer for the presentation and webcam, plus an iPad for the whiteboard function. Just make sure you only join audio from one device, which would most likely be your computer. Join from the second device using the Meeting ID and Passcode.

Webcam with writing surface Photo Credit: CU Engineering

You can also consider using a second webcam with a stand which can be attached to a desk, as shown below. If you are interested, please contact [email protected].

Columbia University Resources

For additional teaching support, reach out to the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) to brainstorm ways to use Zoom and other tools to help students meet the learning objectives of your classes; or to debrief after lessons and discuss what went well and can be improved. CTL is offering virtual walk-in hours, simply by accessing this Zoom meeting link any time between 9:00am to 5:00pm on weekdays.

Secure Use of Zoom

Columbia University's Information Technology team has provided an excellent list of resources on their Zoom site > Privacy & Security on how you can secure your Zoom meeting and prevent the growing issue of "Zoombombing" (where an uninvited and unwelcome third party joins a Zoom meeting with the goal of disrupting it).  Zoom also offers a number of in-meeting security options.

Zoom also offers a definitive Best Practices guide for securing your meetings.