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Back to School with New Video Teaching Skills

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Typically, after finishing production on a video-intensive online course, faculty return to in-person teaching reinvigorated, taking away from the experience a student-centric perspective on how learning from the course can take place. Witnessing this semester after semester has been a genuine source of satisfaction in my career. As nearly every American school district is expected to resume normal in-person operations by the start of the 2021–2022 academic year, my hope is that the millions of teachers who were forced into online teaching will return to the classroom with new perspectives, unexpectedly acquired new skills, and renewed enthusiasm for the teaching profession. 

Now, the question is, how do teachers integrate all of the skills and techniques they learned over the past year or so into their physical classroom? The answer depends on what aspects of online teaching worked well for the individual teachers and their students.

Most schools, both K–12 and universities, maintained operations by using videoconferencing technology to mimic the on-site experience as closely as possible. It is my firmly held opinion that content presentation or lecturing is best done asynchronously with prepared videos and that synchronous technology should be reserved for interactivity. Many teachers used the screen-sharing features of their videoconferencing platform to play canned videos to their classes and followed them up with interactive activities. 

At the university level, after a professor produces tightly prepared video microlectures for an online version of his or her course, it’s fairly common to use those in the face-to-face offerings of the course as well. In a flipped class, students watch the videos on their own time prior to class sessions, and the in-person time is spent in discussion and other interactive activities that reinforce the core content, often bringing in ripped-from-the-headlines examples or currently available data to work through. 

In K–12, doing that full flip is impractical, since students spend so much time at school and can’t be expected to watch and understand videos at home on a consistent basis. The same thing done during the videoconferenced class time still works, though. If the class session is 50 minutes, you can spend 10 minutes screening a short microlecture that you or another teacher, YouTuber, or TikToker produced, followed by 15 minutes of reinforcement activity and then another microlecture/activity pair to efficiently use the class period. While the video is playing, the teacher is free to either prepare the activity, observe body language to identify students who need special intervention, or check in with the remote audience if the class is hybrid.

If you found compositing visual aids using OBS Studio to be something that made for very effective instruction, that option is likely available to you as well. By "compositing visual aids," I mean layering multiple video sources atop one another. For example, the shot composition might be a webcam pointed at your desk with carefully prepared graphics or PowerPoint slides superimposed on top of them, but with the background color chromakeyed out, so that you can add virtual labels over the video feed. OBS Studio can be used to record video, live stream it, or send it to videoconferencing software as a virtual camera, but it can also be used to send the program output to a projector or monitor in the classroom. This technique provides an augmented reality-style lecture that can be very helpful for learners.

Finally, if the remote instruction lifestyle worked well for you overall, a career change is a real option. So far, data shows that the number of homeschooling households in the U.S. roughly doubled in the past year. Online companies that connect homeschooling households with professional online instructors and tutors already existed pre-COVID, and more will emerge as school districts go back to normal and innovators step up to satisfy this new marketplace.

[This article appears in the June 2021 issue of Streaming Media Magazine]

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