18 July 2020

Getting ready to record Distance Learning material

We always record our lectures. The idea is that some students might have a valid reason for not being in the lecture room. Illness, for instance. And maybe some students who are physically present might want to listen to the lecture again for revision purposes. But what we record when we do that, is the screen and our voice. So it's not the same as being there! You hear us saying things like 'and on this part of the graph you see this, and here look at this outlier here' and stuff like that, and you know that we are pointing at something but you can't see what. So it does the job if it's just the backup; if it's the main thing it needs to be better!

Now that we will have to do a lot of our teaching online, we have to step up our game. We are encouraged to re-record our lectures, but in a different way; where we also record our faces, and what we are pointing at. You can do that in PowerPoint; it allows you to narrate your talk with your face showing up in the bottom right corner, and you being able to point at things and highlight them and all sorts of things like that. All that gets recorded. So you get much more the total experience! We had asked the students to do just that for their dissertation talks. So when my dissertation module was launched I started with that. But not without difficulty!

I decided to start with a module in which I only have two lectures. I have to learn! And firstly: the first ones will be slowest, and only having to do 100 minutes' worth of it will make it look doable, and secondly; if I get better quickly at this, then the quality difference between the first and last recording will not be so big as when I would have ten 50 minute lectures to convert into short recordings. So let's start there!

The first thing I did was adapt my first partial lecture. We are supposed to record in smaller chunks than normal. And I made sure the bottom right corner was clear. And then I wanted to record it. But there was no 'record presentation' button. Oh dear. I couldn't toggle it on in the options. Hmm.

I googled a bit. It couldn't be done in Office 2010, which was what my computer was running. And it couldn't be done in the online version of Office either! I really needed to download a newer version of Office. Would my computer cope?

I got to Office 365 via the university. But I had to leave the computer to get on with installing overnight! My computer isn't that fast, and neither is my internet. But the next morning I could finish it. It worked! I had Office 365. And now I had two versions of Office. I should uninstall the old version. I don't think I still need that!

Next I needed to try it out. My first attempt resulted in truncated narration. PowerPoint had decided to add timings to the slides. But I figured out how to delete these! And that helped.

I also figured out I could save my narrations as either a slide show or as a movie. The movie is snazzy but the file is two to three times bigger than the slide show! And that again requires leaving my computer to calculate overnight. Not very good for the environment! But so be it.

I think the initial hurdles are taken. I can start producing teaching material now! And there is a lot to make...

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