HYBRID TEACHING

There will be "live" and "online" students in my PhD class this semester. I usually teach this class from the whiteboard because it is much easier to convey how ideas develop. It allows me to "spread out", draw pictures, write over multiple boards, and communicate better. It also means that students need to take their own notes, which is much more active than just writing in the margin of some powerpoint printout (with equations in bad font).

 

Having online students creates an interesting challenge because they won't be able to see the whiteboard properly if I just use the camera on my computer. Writing on the screen of my computer, an iPad, or some sort of "visualizer" is too restrictive in terms of board space, it is tiring to spend 2.5 hours hunched over a screen writing at a funny angle, and it is boring. A tired, hunched and mumbling version me is not an engaged or engaging me, especially if my back is sore.

My solution is to set up a few video cameras, one on each section of the whiteboard, and to logon to the same Zoom account from multiple computers, one for each camera. This allows me to teach close to how I normally would, and online students can view multiple boards at the same time and choose which of these they wish to enlarge on their screen. It also gives me the option to record footage from multiple cameras, and conceivably, to edit this footage to create a video of my lecture.

 

Here is the list of things I got to pull this together. Feel free to contact me if you have suggestions on how this might be improved, or if you have other ideas.

My hybrid teaching "shopping list":

  • Video camcorder or DSLR camera. You can also try using a webcam or a cell phone, but a camcorder/camera gives a better quality image, which is important if you're using a wide expanse of the board (like I am) and details need to be clear. I'm planning to use a camcorder and a phone, each focused on a different part of the board.

  • If you are using a camcorder or DSLR camera, you'll need an Elgato Cam Link 4K card or similar device so that footage can be viewed on your computer. Check that your camera is compatible.

  • Tripod for each camera.

  • Lavalier mic. My classroom has its own sound system which amplifies my voice and also feeds it into the computer. Amplification is good because my voice will be hard to hear if I'm talking behind a shield. Having a mic that feeds into a computer logged onto Zoom will also make it easier for the online students to hear me and will improve recording quality. I bought my own mic to plug into the wireless transmitter for the existing system, which I'll carry around, because sharing is not caring when there is a virus going around (just ask Rudy Gobert). Wireless is good because it gives me more freedom, and tripping over a cord is not cool. Depending on your circumstances, you might choose to do something different.

 

This is just technology. The bigger challenge is being able to reach across the analog-digital divide and to penetrate their souls. Being ridiculously good looking would help, but I can't do too much about that unfortunately. Teaching is partly performance and it's not enough just to have a big camera (... though it helps).