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Lighting and Sound — Two Easy Ways to Immediately and Significantly Increase the Quality of Your Online Classes

by | Aug 15, 2020

If you want to teach effectively from home there are a couple technical fundamentals that, combined with your teaching skills, can provide for a wonderful learning experience.

These two fundamentals are sound and lighting.

My goal here is to make this process as easy and accessible as possible for all teachers and online instructors.

If you apply the tools that are to come, you’ll be well on your way.

Sound Quality

The most common complaint for educational content online is the sound quality.

Sound

This is probably the most important element in creating a powerful and effective learning experience. 

The good part is that there are tools to get better sound than you could achieve in a classroom.

My favourite solution to getting great sound is to use a USB microphone. This is such a great and easy solution.

It plugs straight into your computer and can be used with any video-conferencing platform you choose.

Quality Sound

Improving the sound quality beyond the capacity of your computers internal mic is one of the best steps you can take to improve the quality of your class experience.

 

I use the Blue Yeti. It’s ben excellent for me. I’ve created several videos and participated in many zoom conferences, with stellar audio results.

Take a closer look at the Blue Yeti here.

There are two dials on the back of the mic: Gain and Pattern.

I set my gain to the 2 o’clock position so that the mic captures all the nuances of my voice.

I set the pattern to “bi-directional” as I usually face a wall in a relatively quiet room when working. But, Yeti has a “cardioid” mode which is designed for one person speaking into the mic, so this is also a good option. Try them both and see which of the two you like best.

I have found that a good quality USB like the Yeti is far superior to my laptop’s microphone — there is really no comparison.

This step alone will make your online teaching stand out.

Lighting

To take your presentations up another notch, use a couple simple and inexpensive good lighting practices.

Any camera you use (a webcam, a digital, or your phone) can provide some really excellent results when you take a few simple steps. This can really up your game.

In general terms, ensuring that you have enough light at the correct angle can bring your image to life and hide all manner of imperfections — allowing you to shine as you teach.

Natural Light

If you have the option to use natural light, by sitting facing a window, you can improve your image quality a lot.

Choose a spot that has indirect sunlight, as direct sunlight can cast harsh shadows across your face.

Lights

You may choose or need to use supplemental lights — by itself or in combination with some natural light.

If there is no natural light, you’ll just need more from your lighting, but this can get you a great result as well. Not to worry.

You can buy a single soft-box lighting kit for around $50, or you can do what I did which was to buy four $10 lights from the hardware store.

Remember, you’ll also need a light stand if you go the hardware route.

The Set-Up

Use two directional lights positioned on either side of the camera and shinning downward on your face. This creates what is called “flat-lighting” or “high-key” lighting which has an even and flattering effect.

To take this a step further, shine a third light against a wall or surface behind you to create contrast and help you to stand out in the shot.

Here is the best video I’ve found online that provides a step-by-step on the lighting process. It is among the best types of lighting for teachers:

DIY Lighting Tutorial from Wistia

Sound and Lighting Summary

These two improvements — in both your sound and your lighting —  can be accomplished for around $225 ($175 for a good USB microphone and $50 for lighting).

This will immediately and significantly increase the quality of your online presentations and classes.

You may also want to check out our free step-by-step guide to creating online courses by clicking here.

Stay safe, stay well, and thanks for being an educator!

Bonus Tip

If you’re using Zoom (this feature is available on other platforms as well) you can record your entire session for future use, for students who may have missed a class, or for building your own online lesson catalogue.

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