A perfect audio recording won’t make bad online content good, but poor audio can destroy good content. I found this out the hard way when I first taught an online course in Fall, 2014. Much of the online content for the course came from video of the classroom lectures that our Instructional Tech team captured, mostly as an aide for the occasional student who could not make it to class. I never planned to use these recordings for the online version of the class, but on review I found the content and presentation style much better than I expected, such that with careful editing I could have reasonably high quality content. However, the sound ranged from OK to unintelligible. I tried to use Audacity, an excellent free, open source sound editor, to correct the problems. It helped… but couldn’t perform miracles. So I turned to recording new content. Certainly, the sound would be better with newly recorded content and audio in my office, right? Wrong! I quickly discovered that background noise present in most office environments–the hiss of AC vents, the click of a trackpad, the shuffling of notes–wreaked havoc with audio quality. And then there were inexplicable periods in which the audio was completely garbled. I ended up spending a considerable amount of time over a 2 month period learning about audio recording equipment and sound processing software. I now have tremendous respect for audio engineers. In an effort to distill what I’ve learned, I’ve created a page on Voice Recording Equipment that I plan to update as I learn more. Check it out and let me know what you think.
In Fall 2014 I taught my first online-only course, HI6340: Health Information Visualization and Visual Analytics. After completing the original Stanford MOOCs on AI and Machine Learning and a few UDACITY classes, I knew that I liked the UDACITY style of video with embedded questions, but wasn’t quite sure how to go about designing and producing an online course. I spent Summer and Fall 2014 researching online course design and best practices and preparing (while also teaching) the class. Although I still have a lot to learn about online education, I’ve learned a lot that I will be sharing through this site. Today I’m starting with Pedagogy for Online Courses. I’ll be adding others to this, including pages for interactive content preparation and audio recording.