Using Video in Remote Practical Teaching

The closure of university buildings as a result of the pandemic makes practicals and lab-based teaching difficult. Whilst staff may still have access to labs and other workspaces, students may not be able to attend labs in large numbers.

Some of the objectives of practical teaching can be enhanced using video. There are many benefits to using video in this way - cameras can get where students can’t, and time and field of view can be manipulated.

The following guidance will explain how videos can be used in remote practical teaching.

Elevate has also published a resource on the key questions, considerations and decisions to make when thinking about teaching practical subjects in 2020/21, with guidance and examples for specific activity types. 

Teaching practical learning activities: key considerations

Teaching practical learning activities: guidance on specific areas

Planning alternatives to fieldwork

Digital tools to support alternatives to fieldwork


Page Menu


When would you use video?

Garrard, Bates, Beck and Funnell (2020) have codified some of the ways in which practical teaching has been adapted to a remote learning environment. They defined the following six broad categories of activity:

1. Providing digital artefacts

  • Providing digital files and raw data to represent results collected from instruments, including stock data/results

2. Simulated practicals

  • Simulating decision making/errors. For example, using a spreadsheet which randomly generates errors
  • CAD models to view equipment as an image or using VR

3. Synchronous remote participation

  • Live demonstration by staff, broadcast to students

4. Asynchronous participation by proxy

  • Work is designed by the student and executed by someone else and results reported back

5. Perform procedure in alternative environment

  • Students conduct experiments with equipment they have access to (i.e. at home)

6. Remote staff support

  • Replicate the support from staff normally offered during in-lab practicals

Video can enhance any of these categories of activity. An example of remote practical teaching might include the following steps:

  1. A video introducing the practical space and equipment




  2. Written text/article introducing the problem to be solved




  3. Students design an experiment which is conducted by proxy




  4. Written text/table/graph displaying results.

Synchronous vs asynchronous

The activity will dictate whether videos need to be synchronous or asynchronous. A synchronous, live-streamed video can enable students to participate in a practical teaching session, but there are a number of benefits to using asynchronous video:

  • Students in a different time zones or with other difficulties accessing learning materials may not be able to attend a live teaching session
  • Students can work at their own pace
  • More accurate alternative formats can be produced
  • Peer collaboration and self directed learning are more likely
  • Mistakes in filming can be edited out
  • Allows for multiple run-throughs, or camera angles when filming

If you are using live-streamed video to deliver a synchronous session for face-to-face and remote-location students in a hybrid teaching model, please see Elevate's guidance on managing teaching for students in different locations.


What do you need to film?

As a visual medium, video is ideally suited for any learning activity which requires students to see something, or to visually participate in an activity. When planning such an activity, care must be taken to ensure that the right elements are filmed and that all relevant elements are filmed.

An example workflow for a video showing an experiment might be:

  1. Work out what happens during the experiment
  2. Decide which parts need to be seen
  3. Decide if video is the best way to show what needs to be seen - would a still image or an animation be better?
  4. Create a simple storyboard for the video elements to make sure you capture everything you need

Methods of filming

This section will cover a number of filming methods, along with suggestions for when they might be used. Your content will dictate the appropriate filming method, and it is important to note that a combination of methods might be required to meet the learning objectives.

Live streaming / Broadcasting

Best for: Can be used in conjunction with some of the other methods detailed below

Any laptop with either a built in webcam, an external webcam, or a mobile phone will be sufficient for capturing video. We recommend using either Blackboard Collaborate or Google Meet to broadcast to your students. More information about these services can be found here:

Blackboard Collaborate

Google Meet

If the activity isn’t feasible to be captured by a webcam or phone, please contact creativemedia@sheffield.ac.uk for alternative options.

Bodycam

Best for: Detailed work, demonstrating experiments

Detailed work, such as preparing a slide sample, can be captured with a camera attached to the demonstrator’s body. A small camera such as a Go Pro or a mobile phone can be worn on the body using a chest harness. By positioning the camera at the centre of the body (at the solar plexus), the best field of view and angle is obtained.

Top-down

Best for: Hand drawn graphics, some experiments

In some scenarios, positioning the camera directly above the subject affords the best view. This is often the case for capturing handwritten graphics. There are a wide range of stands, clamps and tripods available which can be used to hold a camera in position. A stand can be improvised with everyday objects or laboratory equipment.

More information on capturing hand-drawn graphics and writing

Camera & Tripod

Best for: Large scale subjects, processes of a long duration, formal interviews

A tripod is stable, can be panned and tilted smoothly and can carry larger cameras which often have a wider lens (allowing a much wider field of view). This method is therefore ideal for capturing larger subjects such as machines, multiple, combined pieces of equipment and experiments which take a long time.

It is also suited to capturing interviews and pieces to camera which require a certain level of formality - any situation in which camera movements or a less formal style would distract from the information given or reduce the authority of the subject. For example, a video demonstrating the correct use of PPE in a laboratory.

Explainer

Best for: Equations, complex problems

An explainer is a mixture of handwritten graphics and a piece to camera. This could be working through an equation or explaining a process on a whiteboard, blackboard or light board. A camera and tripod is the best method to use to capture this, but it is possible to use whatever camera is available, such as a mobile phone.

More information on capturing hand-drawn graphics and writing

Animation

Best for: Illustrations, symbols, abstract concepts

Animations are ideally suited to depicting subjects which cannot be seen easily, such as molecular level activity, processes and forces. They can also be used to show abstractions such as graphs, and added to other videos to draw attention to specific things or areas.

Producing animations can be a difficult, time consuming task. Simple animations can be created within PowerPoint. Staff and students have access to Adobe Creative Cloud which contains all of the software required to create an animation. There are many alternative animation programs available for free such as Animaker as well as more complicated programs such as Blender.

Screencast

Best for: Software demonstrations, equipment output

A screencast is a recording of a computer screen usually accompanied by a voiceover. It is most often used to demonstrate a specific task or the correct operation of software. It can also be used to show the output from equipment, such as a microscope video feed. We recommend using Kaltura Capture for screencasts.

More information on Kaltura Capture

Virtual Reality

Best for: CAD drawings and simulating practical activities

Virtual Reality technology can provide a realistic, immersive experience from home. External providers may be able supply complete VR experiments, or lessons to reuse in your teaching. Many such devices can be accessed remotely.

360 Camera

Best for: Spaces, environments, exploration

360 cameras are ideally suited to capturing the environment and locations. The video can then be used to facilitate self guided exploration of work spaces and equipment as well as general orientation. Tools like Google Tour Builder or Round Me can be used to create detailed experiences of almost any environment.

360 virtual tour example from the Department of Chemistry

Capturing Audio

Audio can be captured ‘live’ as part of the filming process, or recorded as a separate voiceover (either before or after filming). If recording audio live, capturing audio on the camera rather than a separate audio device is often better. Using an external microphone improves the audio quality. Some options for external microphones are listed below, along with some suggestions for adaptors:

Rode Smart Lav
Rode Adapter
Go Pro Adapter

If recording a voiceover, it’s usually best to write a script or some prompts and have a copy of the video (or storyboard) to reference for timings. Any audio capturing device can be used to record the audio - most cameras, mobile phones and laptops will capture audio and video. To improve the audio quality, use an external microphone:

Rode Smart Lav
Desktop Microphone

Please contact creativemedia@sheffield.ac.uk if you would like some help or guidance on the best approach to use.


References

Garrard, A.; Bates, J.; Beck, S.; Funnell, A. Codifying an Approach to Remote Practicals. Preprints 2020, 2020060182 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202006.0182.v1)