My first classes are online! – after a somewhat discouraging start, I got the whole system working now.
I decided not to give virtual classes at a fixed times because it would require too much organization from some of the students, or even a quality of internet connection they don’t have. My digital classes consist in powerpoints with audio which I make available to the students, who can then either call me during my skype open hours or e-mail me or leave remarks in the common pad if they have questions about the content. They also have individual and/or group exercices to send to me via e-mail at fixed times.
Recording audio with powerpoint is really very simple, even for people who have no affinity to technique. You can pause to drink; when you’re done, you stop and save, and that’s it… but I still had a couple of rough hours until it really worked. First, it is extremely disconcerting to stare at a screen instead of students. I have recorded video classes in the past: having a microphone, a headset and a camera rolling kind of helped imagining who I was talking to or for. Sitting in front of my laptop at home is a completely different story.
One thing that irritated me at first was not to have any sound coming back at me. In the few class recordings I did in the past, the headset was a great help getting orientation in terms of what people are hearing in the end. And one additional problem while sitting at my desk staring at my monitor is that I get nervous and start fidgeting and touching things and then think about the fact that maybe this is very loud – which would make me lose track very easily.
Also, I belong to the people who speak more fluidly when they stand, better yet: walk and gesticulate. I need to move my hands. My family is very much making fun of me for that, but fact is that what I say is more coherent, more articulate when I can move my hands. So, again, sitting in front of my laptop, not being able to move in case it would be loud, was a really petrifying experience; the first part of my class, recorded yesterday afternoon, and the second part, recorded yesterday evening, were recorded with me sitting at a table, where I had the additional inconvenient of being poorly placed opposite my monitor and having trouble reading my text as soon as I started moving a bit. I think you can hear my reading difficulties, me losing track, and, well, some fidgeting.
So this morning, I asked my daughter if I could borrow her room for my recording sessions, and things were much easier: I could place my laptop at a level where I could stand, find a comfortable position to watch the monitor, and move my hands and legs around.
The third and fourth parts of my first class were recorded in these conditions, and I started to speak more freely.
But figuring out where and how to record was not the only problem. Making the files available to the students was not as easy as I thought, due to the limitations in uploads on my university CMS. But I could “slice” my class in 5 segments (each segment lasting between 20 and 35 minutes), use my cloud space at the university, and link back to it from our CMS.
Now that I get the whole thing, though, I would be happy to make my classes available to a wider audience. But powerpoint is proprietary and apart from giving access to my university repository, I don’t really know how to make these resources available. I will look into that when term is over – the overview of German Literature could be useful to other people than just my 5 first years…
If you want to access these teaching materials (they are far from perfect! – rather first attempts…), you can access them per hyperlink: the powerpoint is in German, and my audio is mainly in French. You can also access per hyperlink and with an access code (the access code: IntroHN) the 10 to 15 minutes Introduction to Digital Humanities video classes for my first years (all in French, there are 20 of them).