University COVID-19 update

The University of Waterloo is constantly updating our most Frequently Asked Questions.

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Please note: The University of Waterloo is closed for all events until further notice.

Digital Assets Group

In addition to the Keep Learning site, the Digital Assets Group wishes to provide more information for instructors wishing to create online lecture resources. CSCF has a page on technology options for synchronous streaming of lectures. Below are options for asynchronous lecture content:

If you require any assistance, please email Peter Wood and we will try to provide as much support as possible.

Before we start, we want to provide you with some information that will help you decide when to use narrated slides or video. This type of media should be used to address bottleneck and/or difficult concepts that students struggle with and require additional narrated explanation that they would not get just from reading text. E.g., explaining a diagram or explaining your though process when working through the solution to a problem. Cognitive psychology research indicates that these lectures should be short (e.g., 5-10 minutes) and should follow some basic principles. If you would like to dig much deeper into this, check CEL’s How do we create useful online learning experiences page.

Although video brings some instructor presence into your course, it is not the only method to accomplish this. You can have group discussions in LEARN or Piazza, regular announcements, office hours, or provide support via email. For a list of tools to help you better communicate with your students check the Ed Tech page on the Keep Learning site.

If you decide to do short narrated slideshows or videos, here are a few tools that can help you with this task.

Deployment

There are two main platforms to deploy your content: LEARN and Mobius.

  • LEARN is well known to most instructors and it is reasonably easy to upload video or other content.
  • Mobius requires a bit more setup, but you can upload video files, audio files, text including LaTeX and any other HTML content directly on the page, providing an easier to follow final product. We will have co-op student support available as the term progresses to assist instructors who wish to go this route. This is especially valuable for instructors preparing for F/20 classes.

Camtasia (or similar screen capturing software)

  • Permits capture of any on-screen activity, Beamer, ppt, interaction with software (R, Excel, any code window) with real-time voice over
  • Camtasia is currently free for 30-days
  • Allows for video editing, annotations etc
  • Works on Mac and Windows
  • Can capture writing on a tablet in real-time (see demo video)

PowerPoint

  • For course slides already made in PowerPoint, you can record a presentation directly in PowerPoint, with or without showing the presenter. 
  • You can record each slide separately. Almost no need to edit your audio. On a Mac, if you save your work as mp4, audio may not be available. Open the file in QuickTime Player and export it again to get your audio back.
  • More information here.

Document cameras (or smartphones)

  • Several of the doc cams in MC and SLC have a built-in mic and can capture the audio and lecture presentation on an SD card. File size limits appear to restrict to lectures less than 30 min, but small chunks is best practice anyway. We will provide more information soon.
  • A typical phone can also be easily configured to capture a lecture on paper, simply by recording video of you writing on paper. This is an excellent and fast way to record an example solution.  Some video editing may be needed as the video may be upside down for some recording configurations. This is an easy fix.
  • Demo video of a set up for a phone

Video capture of an actual lecture

  • Using a video camera (laptop webcam, even a phone) a blackboard lesson can be recorded and uploaded. Testing may be needed to ensure audio quality is acceptable.

iPad + Apple pencil + screen recording with audio

  • Captures handwriting and annotations of content
  • More information here.
  • You can use the app Notability to include screenshots/photos to your handwritten notes.

QuickTime for screen/audio/video recording and iMovie for video editing

  • Similar to Camtasia but for the Mac
  • More information here.
  • For another implementation of this, see this video (with final product). This method can also be implemented with an array of different video editing tools including OpenShot, Camtasia, Sony Vegas, Windows Video Editor) and the audio can be captured with many tools in including Audacity)

SimpleScreenRecorder

  • Permits capture of any on-screen activity
  • No editing capabilities so you have to do things in one take. 
  • It is a Linux solution.

Mobius

Mobius is a university-supported platform that is integrated with LEARN. Slideshows can be created in Mobius:

  • You can create HTML slides using WYSIWYG editor. Insert math through GUI editor or LaTeX code. (The Mobius slideshow creator does take a bit of effort to learn. Co-op students can assist with slide creation)
  • You can leave slides without audio or record each slide separately within Mobius.
  • See Slideshow Authoring section of https://www.digitaled.com/support/training

Bongo and WebEx

  • Although these few tools are most often used for synchronous sessions you can use them in your asynchronous delivery of content too. They allow you and your students to set up sessions and record audio or presentations.
  • Additional information on the Ed Tech page on the Keep Learning site.

Technical Considerations

Given that students may have limited access to high-speed Internet, it is strongly recommended that you optimize raw video files. Consider providing standard definition (720p) videos for students and, if necessary, provide a separate high definition (1080p) version.

The dimensions, bit rate you choose, and the length of your recordings determine the ultimate size of your video file. We recommend keeping file sizes to less than 250 MB, splitting longer videos into smaller chunks if necessary. Let context determine your bit rate. Videos that include just static text and audio can use lower bit rates than videos that include complex graphics, other videos, or animations.

If you have the ability to set or change any of the following settings when creating videos, here are some recommendations.

Recommend Video Settings

  • Use MP4 (also known as MPEG-4)
  • 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratios
  • 720p (and 1080p if including a high definition version)
  • Try to keep files to under 250 MB
  • Bit rate:
    • minimum 700 kbps VBR (variable bit rate)
    • maximum 4000 kbps VBR
  • Minimum 128 kbps audio
  • H.264 codec – this is usually the default setting when choosing MP4

If you are unable to change the settings when creating the video or you have files in an output other than MP4, such as MOV or AVI, you can convert it to MP4 using a variety of free and paid tools. These tools also allow the exporting of files, including a larger MP4 file to a smaller MP4, at different bit rates to create smaller files.

Further Support from CTE and CEL

If you have questions about how to incorporate these tools into your teaching, or want to discuss use cases and best practices, please email remoteteaching@uwaterloo.ca  to connect with a learning design expert from CTE or CEL.