The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many of us into the world of online teaching. We have been asked to switch our teaching to an online format, and even though it sounds quite straight forward, it’s a big step to take. Having the proper tools to undertake this task is essential to being successful as an online instructor. This short guide aims to help you learn some of the basics to get you started.
“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”Abraham Maslow (1908-1970)
To develop acceptable quality content it is necessary to consider some of the following tools:
A good webcam is essential if you will be conducting synchronous (live) sessions or recording lectures. A high resolution dedicated webcam will provide you superior quality video. Videos can be used synchronously or asynchronously and can help learners feel more engaged and willing to participate in your online session or course. There are many webcams available at many different price points but I recommend getting one with at least 1080p. High Definition (HD) cameras have become easy to find and inexpensive, with some of them including advanced features such as face tracking and integrated microphones. It is not necessary to have an expensive camera to shoot good quality video, but being able to control features like resolution and frame rates is definitely useful.
When it comes to resolution, it is best to record in 1920×1080 (1080p) resolution. Lower resolution often result in poor image quality, and high resolutions increase your video file size (very important when uploading to a Learning Management System (LMS) without offering much advantage in terms of image clarity.
Frame Rate per Second (FPS) is another important feature to consider, most of the videos we see today are filmed at 24FPS, which provides a cinematic type effect we see in moves or professional TV productions. Lower FPS will result in unsmooth motion and higher FPS gives unnatural visual effect we used to see in low budget TV shows in the 90’s.
Audio quality is one of the most important success factors for educational videos, live lectures and podcasts. Watching videos that have distorted audio or a lot of background noise is tiring and unnecessarily increases cognitive load. Getting a good mic is a great investment and will help you create better content that facilitates understanding. A good quality microphone will capture audio more precisely and help you get rid of unwanted sound problems, allowing you to transmit your message loud and clear.
Condenser microphones have been around for over a century, but are still one of the best alternatives for voice recording and are widely used by music studios and podcasters. When it comes to condenser mics there is a huge price range, but an entry-level condenser mic with a USB connection is more than enough for educational video production.
Light is essential to make your videos stand out and be engaging. Poor lighting will break your video even if you have the best camera available. Fortunately, with a little planning and simple equipment, you can make great looking videos with ease. When you consider lighting, you can use natural light (from the sun shining through your window) or artificial lighting (from a light source).
Natural lighting is inexpensive and but is not always available, while artificial lighting can be used in any place at any time. When using natural light, the subject should be facing the window (not the camera) so the speaker’s face is well illuminated. If the sunlight is too bright, you can soften the light by covering the window with a white cloth (like a bedsheet).
If you decide to use artificial lighting, ring lights or LED lights are inexpensive and offer good illumination. Ring lights are easy to setup and offer even illumination of the subject’s face.
Putting it all together
These are some basic components to get your started but as you continue to develop your videos you will encounter new equipment to match your budget, specific needs and preferences. The best approach is to start simple and build up your kit once you get some additional experience.
Shooting educational videos is not difficult is you have the right tools for the job, allowing you to better engage your learners though good quality content to peak their interest and retain their attention.
It is important to keep in mind that effective video materials don’t need to be perfect, so be flexible and allow yourself space to improve your skills and fine tune your equipment based on what you want to do and your level of proficiency.