Dr Keith Pond, Director of EFMD’s Online Course Certification System, discusses the need for better production quality and on-screen presence for digital learning.
I’m an academic, not a TV star
Is yours the tiny head and shoulders in a box at the bottom of your slides invisible to students using mobile phones?
Are you the vodcast host, talking to the webcam with your kitchen / children/ dog / messy bed behind you?
Is your most frequent opening line “Can anybody hear me / see me?”
Does your audience hear a disembodied voice, because you failed, once again, to work out how the video software can “see” your camera?
Or, how you can stop disappearing into the void of the virtual background?
…and, when you do get the audio, lighting, background and camera angle right are your students still seeing the same old bullet-pointed slides?
Benchmarks have changed
I am sure, that during the pandemic you have experimented with different cameras, set-ups, virtual backgrounds and microphones in an attempt to project quality with your on-screen presence. But as we emerge into the “new normal” of hybrid classrooms, blending, and flexibility in our delivery I am also sure that many seek even better ways of capturing synchronous and asynchronous inputs. Our students will certainly benchmark our on-screen delivery against the level of production quality they consume everyday on channels such as YouTube, Netflix and LinkedIn Learning. The pandemic panic may be over but student expectations remain.
Not every school has its own TV studio, production team or remote working resources to support colleagues who wish to provide high quality blended materials. During pandemic lockdowns, well prepared schools sent packages of movie lights, greenscreens, extra monitors, microphones and good quality webcams to teaching staff. Others suggested staff take their desktop machines home or use their own laptops (typically machines not built for multi-media delivery).
Into this arena comes Jalinga.com with its Studio concept. It promises professional and innovative presentations for synchronous and asynchronous delivery that exceed the expectations set up by communications platforms such as Zoom, Connect or Teams. The Jalinga studio needs no IT team, videographer, lighting technician and sound operator, it is operated by the speaker alone.
No, this is not an advertising break or a poorly disguised sponsorship but a genuine attempt to raise the level of discussion about online video and audio quality.
Levelling the studio floor
Traditional lecture theatres put every academic on a level playing field. Differentiation and quality emanate from the enthusiasm, preparation, planning, personality, subject content, communication, approachability and so many other individual factors. We have all witnessed impressive academic performances in the lecture hall, as well as less impressive ones.
Today there is a new level of skill and professionalism to master. Quality (and possibly satisfaction) will be judged on video and audio precision, on online engagement and interactivity and on the screen presence of academics. Lecture room skills are no longer enough. These elements will be differentiators for Schools, part of the new competitive environment. Unsurprisingly, these elements are also part of the focus of every EOCCS review, as Peer Review panels seek explanations of the technology adopted in the context of the institution’s aims and resource constraints. Quality is not viewed as the deployment of the latest and best technology but the careful choices made by institutions and course leaders around consistency, accessibility, flexibility and effectiveness.
Technology can facilitate good learning when coupled with great course design, excellent content and good student engagement. It can be a clear differentiator, but must also be straightforward to deploy for academics who are not TV stars.
In the brave new post-pandemic world, as we use more online and blended content to reach out to our learners, production quality becomes an important new factor. Are you ready?
Join us at our next Online Community webinar “Digital skills: Developing a screen presence”, scheduled for 26th November at 14.00 CET where these issues will be developed further. Attendance is free but requires registration in advance.
For additional information about online teaching, please see our other posts by Dr Pond: