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Virtual Exchange: Tools and Resources

Across Global Cornell, we are persevering through unprecedented changes in how we work and collaborate—and trying to do it all with economy. This webpage pools our collective knowledge and identifies Cornell-supported tools and resources in major categories of virtual communication.

Host a Webinar or Virtual Meeting

Cornell supports both Zoom and Skype for Business for web conferencing. IT@Cornell recommends Zoom for scheduled events. See IT@Cornell’s web conferencing comparison chart for features and best uses.

Host Workflow for Zoom Webinars

  1. Confirm moderator(s)
  2. Confirm speakers
  3. Confirm order or speakers with the moderator
  4. Assign roles for cohost(s)
  5. Create a chart with event details and flow
  6. Create a welcome slide and collect other slides, if applicable.
  7. Two days before: Practice session for the cohosts
  8. Day before: Practice with panelists and cohosts
  9. Day of: Panelists and hosts arrive a half-hour before the session
  10. Hosts turn off video and microphone, so they become invisible to attendees. Make sure to check the box in Preferences/Video to make invisible.
  11. Panelists mute microphone
  12. Open session 10 minutes before the official start time with a welcome slide

More detailed steps for hosting Zoom meetings and webinars

Tips from the Cornell Broadcast Studio

If possible, connect your computer to the internet via an Ethernet cable rather than using WiFi. Do a speed test ( works well) to determine your upload and download speeds. 3 Mbps upload, 25 Mbps download speeds (or higher) are recommended. Keep in mind that speeds may vary from one location to another, especially if you’re using WiFi.

Video tips

  • Find a spot that’s well-lit (but with the strongest light source coming from in front of you or to the side, not behind you)
  • Know where your camera is, and try to look directly at it while speaking, to the extent possible
  • Make sure your camera is clean (you can wipe it with a cotton cloth) and stable

Audio tips

  • Find a quiet place with little to no background noise
  • Choosing a room with soft surfaces (curtains, carpets or rugs, sofas, etc.) can help with reducing noise and echo
  • If you have one available, use a USB microphone rather than a built-in laptop mic (a headset may be best if you can’t eliminate background noise)
  • Don’t forget to mute yourself when you are not speaking—and unmute when you start speaking
  • Position yourself so that your head and shoulders are visible, and your eyes are about a third of the way down from the top of the frame
  • Be aware of what else is visible in frame, and remove anything that might be distracting to viewers
  • If you use a virtual backdrop, choose one that won’t be distracting

Zoom Security: Cornell Best Practices

When you’re organizing a Zoom session, it’s important to take steps to prevent unwanted attendees and unwanted behavior, otherwise known as "Zoombombing." Passwords are required by Cornell for all Zoom meetings. Other security measures include limiting who can enter your meeting, restricting what attendees can do during the meeting, and not publishing meeting links on websites or social media. Learn how to keep Zoom meetings private and reduce the odds of Zoombombing.

We have developed guidelines to help you keep different types of meetings more secure.

1. Cornell and external participants, open forum, publicly promoted:
Use a Zoom webinar and not a Zoom meeting. (See Request Webinar.)

2. Cornell-only participants, open forum:
Use the Only Authenticated Users option, choosing Cornell Users.

3. Cornell-only participants with all participants known to you:
Use the Only Authenticated Users option, choosing Cornell Users.
Do not post the meeting link on websites or social media.

4. Cornell and external participants with all participants known to you:
Use the Only Authenticated Users option, choosing Sign in to Zoom.
Do not post the meeting link on websites or social media.

If you need additional guidance, the IT Service Desk can help you decide the best way to protect your meetings. To report abuse on Zoom, contact Zoom Security.

Record a Zoom Webinar

As a default, Zoom webinars are auto-recorded once the broadcast button is clicked. Zoom meetings will not automatically record, but the event host can choose to record the session with a simple click of the record button. For both types of Zoom sessions, the moderator should let the audience know the session is being recorded, and panelists should know in advance.

Recordings should be saved to the cloud option, rather than the desktop option. To retrieve the recording, the host needs to log into Zoom and select recordings from the left column. Then with cloud recording selected, fill in the date range, and the webinar will appear. Next, select "More" on the right side of the screen to download the files.

If the video will be shared publicly, at a minimum, the beginning and end will need to be trimmed. Quicktime is a simple solution for this basic editing.



Faculty Teaching Support

Staff Experience: Webinars with Audience Questions

At our TeleTown Halls, we’ve found that chat questions are not as productive. If we ask people to raise their hands and introduce themselves, at least then it gives them some ownership of the questions. Steve Israel is a good moderator and being able to mute guests after they’ve asked a question eliminates follow-up or pushing. We invite all guests with only an “on the record” option and will not take questions from those who dial-in.

Natalie Ryan, Institute of Politics and Global Affairs

Support an Online Discussion

If you’re interested in fostering a discussion with partners around the world, creating a space for student connections, or streamlining your team’s internal communications, a chat channel or social media group could be the answer. There are many viable options—here are a few to consider.

Cornell Chatter (Salesforce)

Chatter is an enterprise social network—one of the tools available in Salesforce. It is Cornell-supported and convenient for units already using other elements of Salesforce. Chatter looks and performs like a Facebook group. Page managers can promote discussions using poll and question features, and users can also interact with each other. It is secure and easy to navigate.

  • CALS has used Cornell Chatter extensively with entering students and orientation.
  • The Office of Global Learning plans to use Cornell Chatter to build community among virtual Prepare pre-orientation students.

Staff Experience: Chatter is User-Friendly

CU Chatter is very user-friendly—it works like a Facebook group, where the page managers have the ability to filter what information is posted on the page itself. However, students are also able to post to the page. This will be useful for mentors to stimulate discussions and for the incoming students to ask questions. It’s available as an app, and students are also able to join other campus groups as they see fit.

Dikshing Lama Nelson, Office of Global Learning

How to Get Started in ChatterAnn LaFave (CALS) and Rebecca Schimenti (ILR)

Cornell Yammer (Office 365)

Yammer is a social network that is part of Cornell's Office 365 services. Yammer’s primary purpose is to connect people within the Cornell network­—anyone with a netID. You can easily join existing Cornell groups or create new groups on shared topics of interest. You can also use it to create external groups, including people outside Cornell.

Documentation and Training


Slack is widely used by Global Cornell staff, including the communications team. Slack’s free version offers the platform’s basic features, including multiple shared channels, searchable messages, and one-on-one video calls. Web-based, desktop app, and phone app versions are available. Slack is not Cornell-supported, but IT@Cornell offers limited resources.

Documentation and Training

Staff Experience: Slack Best Practices

  • Create an account via the invitation received
  • Access Slack by navigating to the workspace URL,  example:
  • At its core, Slack is a chat platform with “channels” for different topics. Use the @ symbol to mention a specific user (they will receive a notification).
  • The default channel for communication is called #general, which is a default. Other channels can be added/removed and privacy settings can be adjusted.
  • There may be optional channels that you can join in addition to the ones that you are a member of by default.
  • Private channels can be created and specific users can be added.
  • Direct messages can also be sent to specific users, with the option of sending to multiple users, creating private group messages.  
Brad Alderman, Global Cornell

Facebook Groups

A Facebook group allows invited members to communicate about shared interests. You can create a group of any size using a business page (@EinaudiCenter, for example) or an individual account. The group administrator invites new members by user name. Facebook groups can be permanent special-interest communities or provide a space for short-term “pop-up” conversations (around a conference topic, for instance).

Facebook groups are easy to set up and manage, good for sharing photos and events, and convenient for users to access on mobile devices.

Other social media platforms offer options, as well, and may be more suitable for your audience or geographical region.

Lead a Seminar or Training

Cornell supports two major platforms for virtual learning. The distinction is the audience: Canvas is for student learners, and CULearn hosts non-credit employee trainings.


Canvas is Cornell’s learning and course management system for students. It’s supported by Cornell and free to faculty and instructors, including staff. Canvas is designed to organize and store course materials, including videos. It offers resource sharing for collaboration, web conferencing, easy tools for creating quizzes and other assessments, and portfolio and grading options.

Some Global Cornell units have used special instances of Canvas. The Office of Global Learning created a Canvas course as an additional way to communicate with international students during the spring 2020 period of virtual instruction.

Canvas Is for Students!

Cornell’s license with Canvas does not allow us to provide staff training courses. We will be directing others who may want to use Canvas for these purposes to find alternate options. CULearn is one option.

Patrick Graham, CTI instructional technology specialist (June 10, 2020)

Documentation and Training

Center for Teaching Innovation offers many resources, webinars, and online tutorials.


CULearn is Cornell’s training and non-credit learning portal for employees. Email CULearn if you’d like to create a new course.

Documentation and Training

Hold an Online Fair with “Tables”

vFairs lets you offer an immersive virtual event where students can browse through virtual booths and access uploaded content. Students can talk to university reps via chat tools to receive answers to queries in real-time, as well as saving brochures and other materials for sharing and reference. Tech support is offered by vFairs on the day of the event to ensure smooth functionality for keynote speakers, breakout rooms for specialized discussions, and booths for campus organizations. Data reports on who attended and what they saw and post-event transcripts are part of the service.

Planning for events needs to start at least 10 weeks in advance to have sufficient time to prepare. The cost for vFairs is substantial, in the $8–10K range. 

Recommendation: Zoom Breakout Rooms

Consider using Zoom breakout rooms as a cost-effective alternative for virtual fairs.

Electronic Publishing Options

Whether you're interested in electronic publishing as a cost-savings measure or because we're not currently holding face-to-face meetings, electronic publications can be an efficient and elegant solution for various projects, including annual reports, stewardship, and magazines, to name a few. The following software options are all Cornell-supported.

Spark (Adobe)

Adobe Spark lets you create presentations, newsletters, web pages, and social media posts (including video) quickly and easily. The software is part of Creative Cloud and can seam with other Adobe apps. Spark makes it easy to combine text, images, links, and video clips into visually compelling presentations for a variety of online mediums without needing to have a design background. You can take advantage of one of their templates or create your own with the ability to choose fonts, colors, and apply your brand. Not ideal for archiving purposes.


Documentation and Training

Sway (Microsoft)

Sway is similar in scope to Spark. Anyone in the Cornell community can connect to the Sway homepage from the Microsoft 365 app launcher.

  1. Easily compile text, images, videos, and other content in an interactive online format.
  2. Apply designer-created layouts and color schemes, or let Sway suggest design elements that match your content.
  3. Search and import relevant content from other sources.
  4. Share your completed Sways on the web.


Documentation and Training

Cornell Blog Service

Cornell supports a WordPress blog option for anyone on campus. It is free if the domain name uses this standard convention:

CU Blogs can create a full-featured website or blog that could be used for conferences, workshops, or publications. The interface allows static webpage publishing. It can be incorporated into an existing website with interactive features, such as content submission by non-Cornell participants, Google maps integration, document embedding, and annotation, and print content capabilities. Archiving is an option; see the Cornell in Rome sample below.


Documentation and Training

Recommendation: Einaudi Forums

The Einaudi Center previously offered Einaudi Forums, a custom blog interface currently in use in IAD’s Savannah Dialogues. Creating new blogs on this platform is not recommended due to development costs.

Cornell Blog Service offers more agility than e-Forums, considering that an existing e-Forums codebase would need to be cloned, configured, and hosted in similar fashion to our existing websites—incurring a cost with Custom Development—whereas blogs can be created within the WordPress multisite system with a few mouse clicks.

Brad Alderman, Global Cornell


Medium is generally regarded as a blog host. The platform provides a rich text editor interface for online editing. Cornell has had a dedicated Medium presence for many years, with posts from colleges and programs. Cornell Alumni Entrepreneurs has a focused presence on Cornell Medium (see first bullet below), enabling an archive-like presence where all of their stories are aggregated on one page.


Documentation and Training

Recommendation: Flipbooks

Currently, no flipbook software meets Cornell’s required accessibility standards. If a flipbook program was used to present a publication, then an equivalent accessible alternative would need to be posted.

Brandon Brylinsky, CIT accessibility coordinator