With the shift to work from home and remote instruction triggered by the pandemic, faculty have had to adapt pedagogies and teaching styles that relied on the physical environment of the classroom, especially in regards to technology and functionality. This article is meant as a guide to help recommend technologies and workflows that can emulate the traditional classroom experience while teaching remotely.
Many of these recommendations assume a reliable broadband internet connection. If you need assistance in that area, please review our guide on Improving Internet Performance When Working Remotely or From Home.
For more information about purchasing some of the technology referenced below, please refer to our Remote Instruction Recommended Equipment Guide.
Typical Classroom Functionality
The typical Davidson classroom has the following audiovisual components:
- Classroom computer - provides access to the internet and campus software
- Instructor monitor - allows faculty to view materials privately and/or to view what is being displayed on screen while still facing their class
- Display system - displays the classroom computer and other AV sources to the room
- Whiteboards - allows for freehand writing of notes, drawing diagrams, etc.
- Document camera - aids in displaying printed text and magnifying physical objects such as petri dishes, circuit boards, etc.
- Optical disc drive - used to play CDs, DVDs, and/or Blue-Ray discs for sharing media that is not available for streaming
Additionally, the typical classroom has a number of architectural and environmental components that contribute to the teaching experience. These components are designed to support a wide range of pedagogies and teaching styles.
- Visibility - classrooms feature a number of design elements that allow its inhabitants to see the instructor, visual media sources, and each other without obstruction at all times
- Acoustics - similarly, classrooms are designed so that the instructor, audio media sources, and its inhabitants are all audible and intelligible
- Architecture - courses are assigned to rooms that match both their enrollment size and anticipated pedagogical style
Recommendations by Functionality:
- Laptops and Desktops
- Most faculty receive laptops as their primary work machines, which may be taken home for use during remote instruction. Though it is less convenient, the college is also allowing faculty to take home desktops and associated peripherals like monitors, keyboards, and mice.
Instructor Monitor & Display System
- Add a secondary monitor so that you can keep your software and course materials visible on one screen, while keeping a video conferencing window with student participants visible on the second.
- Consider a monitor with built-in webcam if you do not already have a webcam at home and/or would prefer that your camera be located on the secondary display. This could improve the sense that you are making “eye contact” with student participants.
Whiteboards & Document Cameras
- Consider the use of Google’s Jamboard platform, which offers more robust features including the ability to share boards with students and archive boards from each class for future reference.
- Simple drawing tablets can eliminate many of the difficulties of writing or drawing with a mouse and present a more natural writing format. Additionally, most models offer hotkeys that can help switch between different tools and writing colors.
- Entry-level tablets with styli offer the benefits of a drawing tablet, as well as a number of others. Some software programs can be run natively on the tablet and shared as a screen. They can also be used as a primary or secondary camera within Zoom.
- Document Cameras
- USB document cameras offer plug and play capabilities and image quality comparable to or better than those currently found in Davidson College classrooms. These are a good option for people who prefer writing by hand or have physical materials they would like to share.
Optical Disc Drive
- Disc Players
- Faculty are encouraged to work with Library staff to convert physical media to streaming formats, whenever possible and permissible by copyright law. These materials can then be made available to the class to stream directly, as opposed to being shared over Zoom.
- If conversion to digital media is not possible, USB optical disc drives offer plug and play functionality and the ability to play a variety of formats that can then be shared over the course of a Zoom session. Note that anti-piracy technology (such as HDCP) may still present difficulties with streaming media over Zoom, even if it is able to be played on your machine without issue.
- USB web cameras offer plug and play capabilities, and are often of noticeably higher quality compared to those that are built-in. They also offer more options in terms of focus and zoom, which could aid you in crafting a more deliberate camera image.
- HD streaming cameras offer even higher image quality, and greater functionality around zoom, focus, and lighting. These may be useful to faculty who need to demonstrate physical activity or share the environment they’re working in to include visual aids.
- Ring lights and other desktop mounted lighting sources are designed to be placed near or around a web camera and provide appropriately bright and diffuse lighting across your face and body, dramatically increasing visibility.
- A USB microphone offers plug and play capability and higher quality than a built-in microphone. They are also designed to better pick-up and transmit your voice as well as filter out background and ambient noise.
- Participant Visibility
- Faculty and students are encouraged to use the “Gallery View” option in Zoom over the “Speaker View”. Adjust settings to display maximum number of participants possible while in gallery view, to more closely replicate the classroom experience.
- Participant Audibility
- For larger classes, consider muting all participants by default and using the raise hand feature. Alternately, establish a decorum whereby students are not muted but are expected to speak one at a time and crosstalk is discouraged.
- If a student is encountering issues with transmitting or receiving audio while on Zoom, advise them to turn off their camera feed. This will require less bandwidth from their internet connection, and may increase audio intelligibility.