Let there be lightboards!
Today's online students have all been there. A videotaped class where a whiteboard is used. Trouble is, every time the professor writes on the whiteboard, his or her back is turned to the class — making it harder for students to hear what the professor is saying. Or the camera shows only the whiteboard, making the lecture sound like a voiceover. As a result, the flow of the lecture can be disjointed, and true dynamic interaction between teacher and student is hampered.
From whiteboard to lightboard
Though it looks like something out of Star Wars, the lightboard is both very real and potentially game-changing. What's a lightboard, you ask? It's an ultra-clear glass writing surface that's revolutionizing the way educators provide illustrative support for online video lessons.
All it takes is a dark background, a very large sheet of high-quality glass (ultra-clear low-iron PPG Starphire Glass, to be specific), and special studio lighting. The glass is lit on the top and bottom by a row of LED lights. When making a video, the professor stands on one side of the lightboard with the video camera — and the online students — on the other. The professor gives a lecture while writing on the glass lightboard using neon-colored dry erase pens.
But wait. Since the professor is facing the camera, doesn't the writing on the lightboard look backwards to the students watching the lesson? No, thanks to a simple camera trick. By bouncing the camera off a mirror, students watching the video see the reflection of what's being written. As a result, the writing displays the correct way to the viewers. Those watching see the professor and whatever is being written on the lightboard.
Making magic happen
According to Shawn Daley, Concordia's Chief Innovation Officer, the Office of University Innovation and the Center for Learning Solutions were looking to experiment with new ways of delivering online content. That's when two Concordia staff members — Phil Sedgwick and Michael Shepherd — approached him with an interesting idea. "They showed me video of lightboards in use at Notre Dame and San Diego State, highlighting all the benefits of being able to see the professor and their notes and drawings all at the same time. With his imaginative leadership, Phil was the real driving force behind getting the studio up and running."
With that, the project was underway. But as of now, there's no place you can buy a ready-made lightboard. Instead, those wanting one have to visit an open-source project website to learn how to build their own. And that's exactly what Daley's team did. "The Office of University Innovation has invested in the build-out of the recording studio at the Columbia River Campus. Building a lightboard on site is one of our first functional pilots. We hope to be able to offer additional programming involving video editing and live webinar production.
The future is clear
Using the lightboard allows for timely video communication with minimal post-production — all without sacrificing eye contact, notes, or lesson-appropriate visuals. Michael Peshkin, an engineer at Northwestern University and creator of the lightboard open-source website, describes the key benefits: "Filming a chalkboard lecture results in a dismal video. Good video lectures have usually gone through a lot of post-production editing to merge a video of the instructor speaking to the camera, with graphics to illustrate the material. Nice, but time-consuming. The lightboard lets me draw highly visible sketches and equations as I lecture, work with my drawings in a natural way, face the camera, talk with my hands, and capture good quality video without post-production editing."
"At the moment," says Daley, "five faculty members have been engaged to experiment with the lightboard — Chad Lakies, Dana Sendziol, Michael Godsey, Emily Kosderka, and Julie Dodge. The Office of University Innovation and the Center for Learning Solutions will collaborate on evaluating the impact of the project with students to see if we can continue to iterate new ways to provide video content for the campus community."