• Click Here to Register for NHC's Summer Institute 2024

    See the Course Listings

    Registration deadline: June 18th

    This year’s theme of עִיר מִקְלָט “Ir Miklat: City of Refuge” can be found in a small corner of parshat Matot-Masei (Numbers 30:2 - 36:13). It epitomizes how we want this year’s institute to feel: a space where both the individual and the community at the heart of the Havurah ethos can come together in a safe space to create something meaningful, where our connections are welcoming and inclusive, fun and exciting, relaxing and energizing, and insightful and spiritually significant for our diverse community of participants.

    The Core Team envisions Institute as our City of Refuge--a place that’s safe--this year more than ever. What is it YOU need refuge from? We welcome you to join us at Pearlstone Center for sanctuary and refuge, to renew and refresh, and to play, rest, create and learn with us! Summer Institute will take place july 29-August 4, 2024.

Guidelines and Best Practices for Online Presenters

Making Your Class, Workshop, or Session Accessible to All Participants


Technology Platforms and Accessibility



Google Meet



General accessibility best practices

Before your class or session

Meeting Basics

At the first meeting

During all sessions

Tips About Breakout Rooms

Technology Platforms and Accessibility

  • Sched

Uses during online Institute: scheduling your courses, workshops, shabbat

  • Zoom

    • Uses during online Institute: courses, workshops
    • How captioning will work: Volunteers will type live captions as programming runs. Each participant can choose to view or not view the captions. If using breakout rooms, think about where the captioner(s) will need to go.
    • Font size in the chat window can be made bigger, either in settings (in advance or during a meeting), or by Ctrl+ / Cmd+ while chat window is open. (In advance only, on mobile.) 
    • Each class meeting or workshop will have a volunteer Tech Assistant assigned. This person will “Host” the meeting and the teacher/leader will be a “Co-Host”. The Tech Assistant will help with the technology aspects of running the class, such as letting people in from the waiting room, allowing/disallowing unmute, monitoring chat and hand raises, etc. 
    • Some people may choose to run their audio through their phone (for example it may connect to their hearing aids). It works better if they do this via “join by telephone audio”, but occasionally someone may need to join separately on their phone and computer. Be aware this may be a cause of seemingly “doubled” participants. 
    • It’s best not to use the “Spotlight Video” feature to move the “Active Speaker” designation to anyone other than the person actually speaking. Doing so makes it harder for folks to follow who is talking, and understand them. 
    • Be aware that some people may join zoom meetings from two different devices. Please ask them to name both of their devices so they can be identified, and then assign both devices to the same breakout room if breakout rooms are used. 
    • https://zoom.us/accessibility/faq 


  • Google Meet

    • Uses during online institute: open gatherings such as virtual cafeteria
    • How captioning will work: Google provides automated live-captioning. It is fairly good as these things go, but be aware it will struggle with things like names, words in Hebrew or Yiddish, etc. Each participant can choose to turn captions on or off. The captions will identify the speaker by the google account they are signed into. 
    • Google Meet accessibility – Google Meet Help 


  • Streaming 

Uses during online institute: large-group gatherings

  • Captioning

  • We are using a service called Rev.com to provide Closed Captioning for each session.  
  • When in a Zoom meeting, click on the ‘CC’ (Closed Caption) icon and choose ‘Show Subtitle’ or ‘View Full Transcript.’
  • For larger events, we will have Live Captioning by Volunteers (info/instructions for captioning on various platforms) 
  • Captioners will try their best to write exactly what was said. This means if you make a side comment about the captioning, the captioner will type that too. The goal is for participants who rely on captioning to have as close to the same access to everything you say as hearing participants. 
  • Captioning guidelines 


General accessibility best practices

Before your class or session

    • Send out a welcome email to the registrants to introduce yourself, share class materials, and explicitly include something like, “If you have any accessibility needs related to participating in the class, please email me and let me know.”


  • Share your course materials ahead of time via email– handouts, PowerPoint materials, etc. When you “screenshare” on zoom, the materials may be too small to see clearly and they will not be accessible to screen readers. In addition, please ensure that your course materials have large type and clear formatting. Many attendees have specifically requested these supports, so it makes a big difference in participation and accessibility.


  • Meet with your Tech Assistant ahead of time to plan and share expectations for the class needs and their role. 
  • Tech Assistants will be assigned to you and emails will be provided as we gain volunteers
  • If you receive an accessibility request that you are not sure how to meet, please contact Marisa Harford, accessibility coordinator, at marisaharford@gmail.com and she can assist you. 
  • It’s a good practice to send out an email with any materials they’ll need for the session shortly before the class meets.  That way the email will be at the top of their Inbox and they won’t have to scramble to find it. 


Meeting Basics

    • Your meeting link will be populated in your course description in Sched as well as the box labelled ‘Video Stream.’
    • Sign in (using the link in Sched) up to 30 minutes before to prepare.
    • Participants may be in the waiting room, your Tech Assistant will monitor them while you’re settling in.
    • All meetings are password protected
    • All Courses (not workshops) are scheduled with a Waiting Room and participants are muted upon entry
    • Make sure your computer has permission to use your audio and camera
    • Make sure you have good lighting


  • If you get stuck in the waiting room, it’s because your Tech Assistant (the host) has not signed in and made you a ‘co-host’ yet.


  • Only the host or co-host can share screen

At the first meeting

  • Each activity will begin with an announcement from the facilitator about community participation (whether participants are encouraged to unmute anytime to ask questions, type questions in the chat, hold until a designated time, etc).
  • Ensure that you share clear norms for interactions, including:
    • When to be on mute 
    • How to “raise your hand” or indicate that you want to speak
    • How breakout rooms will work
    • How to change your screen name to show the name they’d like to use in the class, pronouns, or anything else.  (This function is available on Zoom and some other platforms.)
    • Do not use the whole class chat function for socializing or side commentary. It’s tempting to have cross-chat or commentary on the main presentation through the chat function, but it interrupts the presentation for those using screen readers and draws focus away from the main conversation. Instead of chatting to the whole group, use private chat with the individual you want to message. Note that private chats will be visible to the facilitator in the transcript.  
    • Provide an opportunity for participants to suggest other norms. As the facilitator, you are not obligated to use whatever someone suggests, but you may have forgotten to address something that is important to participants.   (Encourage them to suggest norms for speaking and listening that are not only about the technology.) 
  • Remind participants that they should turn on the captioning function if they would like to view the captions.
  • Explicitly communicate that it is OK for participants to move around, take breaks, eat or drink, turn off their camera for a period of time as needed, etc. 
  • Share your contact information (as you feel comfortable) and elicit feedback from participants after the session so that you can get input about what worked and did not work for them.
  • “Ice breakers” or short exercises for people to get to know one another are particularly valuable in online classes since there aren’t opportunities for informal conversations.  Creating opportunities for class participants to get to know one another will also help people who are new to Institute to feel connected. 
  • One of the lovely practices at Institute, is to begin class sessions with a familiar song or niggun (a wordless melody).  Unfortunately, the time lag in virtual interfaces makes this too challenging. However, you can sing and encourage people to join in while muted.  Or you might ask for a volunteer to lead the signing.  

During all sessions

  • Be conscious of speaking clearly and more slowly than usual. Try to look straight at the camera, ensure that you have good lighting, and avoid covering your mouth.
  • Allow significantly more “wait time” than usual for questions and comments.  
    • It’s often helpful to call on people to contribute or ask each speaker to invite the next person to speak.  You can say that you’ll do this because it’s hard to read the usual cues that someone is getting ready to say something in virtual spaces not because you want to put people on the spot.  You might tell them they can say “pass” if they don’t want to contribute at that time.
  • Share a general outline of the agenda and timing for each session, so participants know what to expect. If you change the agenda, briefly share with the group how you are adjusting.  
  • Share your course materials ahead of time via email or as a link in the chat box– handouts, PowerPoint materials, etc. When you share your screen, the materials may be too small to see clearly and they will not be accessible to screen readers. In addition, screen sharing makes it more difficult to see the face of the person who is speaking. 
  • When you create your course materials, be aware of making the font size large enough and providing adequate spacing so that they are easy to read. 
  • When possible, present information or directions for tasks in multiple ways or multiple times– for example, verbally, in the chat, and also with notes on the handout or Powerpoint.
  • Understand and support when participants need to move or take a break. Provide quick breaks during transitions, such as a 1-minute optional “movement break.”
  • When you use Hebrew (or Yiddish or other) terms, put that term in the chat.
  • Don’t be shy about gently reminding participants about class norms, such as speaking clearly, respecting each participant’s “air time,” and explaining words that may be unfamiliar, such as Hebrew terms. 
  • Your room will have a Tech Assistant to monitor the chat or look for raised hands so you can stay focused on other aspects of teaching. This role can rotate each session or during different times in the session.   (You might also rotate volunteer responsibilities for filling in translations of terms or noting a verse number or other details.)
  • Consider entering a prompt for a brief comment in the chat at the beginning of each session.  This helps people feel connected to the joint learning experience and also gives folks something to do while they’re waiting for everyone to arrive.  

The prompt can be simply something like:  “Share a word or phrase about how are you feeling right now?”  Or it could relate to the class “Share an image about …. ..that still resonates for you.”  (Aim for a prompt that they’ll all be able to connect with even if they weren’t at the last session.) 

  • You might stress that the Zoom screen is more like a window than a TV screen or a mirror.  You can connect with the people you’re seeing in the frames!  


Tips about Breakout Rooms


Breakout rooms can be a great way for participants to learn together.   Zoom and other interfaces allow you to assign people to groups of different sizes — from a two-person “hevruta” (learning in pairs) to groups of 3-5 or more.   


If this function isn’t available to you, you can coordinate paired interactions by phone or participants’ own virtual technology (Skype, Facetime, Google Hangout, etc.)   (If you choose this option, it would be good to ask participants about their technology ahead of time so you can group them with compatibility in mind.)


Assigning to the Rooms:    Short Video on how to create random Breakout Rooms

  • Random assignment is a good way to do it unless you need to have a specific configuration.  Or you can start with random room assignments and move people around to make adjustments after that.   
  • You can move them at the beginning of the session once all are present and while the large group is doing some other activity (e.g. Ice breakers in the chat, introductions, a niggun (singing a melody) etc).  If it’s a large group, you can assign someone to this specific role so others are free to participate in other roles.   
  • If you have a large group and need to easily spot facilitators or language groups, etc, you can have them mark their names with a 0 or other symbol.  They can then be moved to the desired group.  (If you plan for some people to remain in the large room, you can assign more people to their group and instruct them not to enter the breakout rooms.)
  • It’s good for the person who is setting up the rooms to take a screenshot before releasing them to the groups.  That’s key for knowing who is/was in each group.  It’s helpful to have a list as a reference if you want to regroup them in different groups later in the same session or if you want to reconvene them in the original groups after putting them in pairs, for example.


 Communicating with the Breakout Groups

  • Zoom has a function to broadcast messages to the breakout groups.  These messages need to be short and they appear on the screen for only a short time.  One solution is to distribute the discussion prompts and other guidance in advance of the session or you can share a Google Doc or file (prepared in advance) and  share it in the chat.  If you do so, instruct participants to copy it before they enter the breakout rooms.  (Remember to set the sharing link to “can edit.”) 
  • An advantage of Google Docs is that you can follow the groups’ entries into the document while you remain in the large room.  This helps you see when it’s a good time to bring them back.  You can also provide additional guidance as necessary by typing an announcement into the Google doc. 
  • You can use Google Sheets (similar to Excel) if you’d like each group to take notes independently of the other groups.  You can copy the prompts into separate sheets labeled Group 1, Group 2, Group 3, etc.     
  • You can bring the groups back together and send them back out to the same (or different) groups more quickly than in person.  This means you might do several rounds of small group work with time to report back or reflect together in between.  

Comments are closed.