In these COVID times, I’ve been required to do all my lecturing online. LJMU have continued to give practicals face-to-face, but the lectures are being delivered via the internet.
In almost all cases so far, I’ve given live lectures over Zoom, and this has worked really well. Not only have the lectures been delivered smoothly (so far!), but engagement from students has been up compared to ‘normal’ lectures. I think the ability to ask questions in the chat window, either privately or publicly is a big part of that.
However, in the next two weeks the timetable requires me to simultaneously teach a practical (split into two sessions of 50 students) and give lectures at the same time, so I’ve had to pre-record them. This has been way more difficult simply because of the lack of interaction, but it’s also been a massive pain in the behind to find a good way of recording everything.
Most of my lectures rely heavily on animations and video clips, and that’s combined with wanting to use my Surface and the pen to annotate slides as we go along. Here’s what I’ve tried and what’s gone wrong. Usually this is less a problem with the method, and more a problem with my implementation.
Panpoto is screen capture software integrated into our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), Canvas. I’d never used it before. I was required to download an installer, install it, then I launched powerpoint and hit record.
I recorded my 2hr lecture (the lecture is actually about an hour and half because of the lack of interaction, and don’t worry, there are break points for students to consume the content in chunks).
It uploaded it.
Then I discovered it had recorded the slides as images, and none of the animations or annotations. This meant there were long parts of me saying “compare this to this” and no indication of what the this’s were.
Apparently, you can elect to record slides and the full screen view.
Rather than re-record with panopto I threw my rattle out of the pram and turned to:
Recording directly in PowerPoint
If you record in powerpoint, you can record your voice and webcam image in the corner. I’ve done this before, and I quite liked it. I wirelessly project to my Surface Go so I can use the pen and view the presenter view.
When you’ve finished, PowerPoint adds a little video from the webcam to the corner of each slide. I had to go in and move it around or resize it depending on what content was on the slide.
That was a minor pain, but the biggest failing was that embedded YouTube videos wouldn’t play back in the recording. As such, I had to upload it as a PowerPoint show, so that hyperlinks and YouTube videos could be clicked by students. I also uploaded the MP4 video file. However, both MP4 and PowerPoint show were very large files (nearly a gig) which isn’t great for students to download. I ended up uploading the MP4 to panopto directly so that students could stream it at variable bitrates over less than optimal connections.
It was a bit of a faff, so I tried something different for the next lecture:
Using a Zoom session to record the screen (+my webcam)
I saw this recommended on twitter, so gave it a shot. The advantage here is that you can set the presentation to presenter view, and share only the main-window of that view via Zoom.
It seemed to go relatively well until my phone rang. Then the presenter view started bugging out and reverting to full view, which meant only a portion of the presentation was being recorded.
I powered through with the intention of editing out the interruption in a video editor (I use Blender for this). However, when I was finally able to download the recordings (after waiting an hour for them to process in the cloud), I found Zoom had recorded at a low framerate, and all those animations I used were basically useless. Rather than record another 2 hour session, I brought the files into blender, then overlaid the original videos and animations. That took ages, and I’m now rendering out a 1hr 40 minute video from Blender.
I think there’s a setting in Zoom to optimise screen recording for video clips. I did not know this when I started.
So, for now I’m sticking with recording using PowerPoints built-in recording tools. I’m hoping the rest of my lectures can be given live though – it’s both a simpler experience, and a more rewarding one being able to interact with students.