By Andrew Jessup on February 19, 2021
With a few quarters of remote instruction in the books and the shock of transitioning to Zoom and CCLE (hopefully) subsiding, now is a great time to look back and see what opportunities we have to improve our students’ experience.
One area in particular that has an enormous impact on the student experience is the quality of lecture videos. In this article, we’ll cover small changes that can be made to your lecture video productions that make a big impact. We’ll also cover services and resources HumTech is offering Humanities instructors to help them produce amazing lecture videos.
Creating the ideal environment
Lighting plays a huge role in the quality of your webcam video. Darker environments typically yield worse quality video, so open the blinds and turn on the lights! Ideally, you’ll want to have the light source(s) in front of you. Avoid bright light sources behind you in the shot – this will cause the camera to adjust to that bright area in the frame, potentially obscuring your face. Your students will notice what you have in the background, so take some time to consider what is behind you. If you’re not happy with how your background looks, consider using a virtual background.
Sound is a little harder to control than lighting, though there are still some things you can do to get better audio quality. One simple yet effective measure you can take is letting others in your household know that you’ll be lecturing. Find a quiet, distraction-free space to give your lectures, and close any windows and doors to prevent outside noise from creeping into your environment.
Finally, make sure you have a strong, reliable internet connection. Your connection tends to improve the closer you move to your WiFi router, so if you’re having connectivity issues, try moving a bit closer.
Keeping your students engaged and interested in what you are saying is more of a challenge online than in person, though there are some ways to help mitigate this. First of which is to raise your webcam to eye level. Raising your computer can be accomplished by using a laptop stand, or simply stacking some books under your computer. Not only is it more of a flattering camera angle for you, but it gives your students the sense you are speaking to them, rather than you looking down into your computer. Equally important is looking into your webcam as you speak, as if you were looking at your students directly. Though looking at a camera lens feels strange, this will help give your students the impression you are speaking directly to them.
The clarity with which you speak is tremendously important. Regardless of how good your computer’s microphone is, it will still pick up background noise that your voice will need to compete with, so be sure to speak up.
Finally, if your lectures are more than an hour long, consider breaking the recording into smaller parts. Students tend to retain information better when it is delivered in smaller pieces, so three 30 minute videos may be more effective than one 90 minute video.
Use the best equipment available
Though most of us might be limited to our built-in computer webcams and microphones, if you do have access to better equipment, use it! Your students will thank you.
In addition to traditional USB webcams, there are other devices you can leverage to get better video quality. Here are a few articles that go over how to use your cellphone as a webcam, use your DSLR as a webcam, or use your GoPro as a webcam.
We can help
To help Humanities instructors create the best recorded lectures possible, HumTech is now offering a video production service. Instructors are able to utilize our recording studio and editing service to create lectures that look and sound amazing. For instructors that have utilized this service in the past, student feedback regarding the quality of lectures has been very positive:
“Honestly, it was the closest that I have felt to being in an actual classroom..I truly wish that every professor that I had could lecture in this way”
For more information on our video production service, see our webpage.
Instructors can also borrow equipment to use at home. Through our Gear to Go program we offer laptops, USB microphones, and even small studio kits that include a camera, tripod, lighting, green screen, and microphone.