Improving my WFH video tutorial setup for better audio and video quality

My first videos in my new work-from-home basement office were a bit rushed, so I didn’t have much time to work out all of the details before recording the research sessions for my students. While the content was okay, I wasn’t happy with the quality of the audio and video. I watched a few YouTube videos and some Lynda training, and have adapted some ideas to improve my video tutorial setup.

Chad is talking on camera to his webcam while shooting a video

The picture above shows my latest setup when making videos at home.

Before making the changes

Here’s what the video looked like before I made the changes outlined above.

  • Webcam sitting on top of monitor, making adjustments of the camera angle a little limiting
  • Background is a mess, though reflects reality of my life at that moment. (I have to day the guitars on the wall do make me look cooler, I think?)
  • Blinds are open and overhead lights are on, but the webcam was on “Full Auto”. As a result, I am a bit blue in the video
  • Audio recorded with a headset — not necessarily bad, especially if you’re going for the “air traffic controller” look. However, the audio was “tinny” sounding
  • Nice flannel shirt

After

  • Webcam at eye level and a bit closer to the subject. (supposedly this creates more trust with the audience)
  • Less cluttered background — No Legos on the floor, open bathroom doors, or sons playing Xbox photobombing me
  • Background picture, lamp and plant are not distracting, but still provide something to provide some depth to the video image
  • Blinds open to the left, overhead light on, two lamps behind me. This makes the video less pixelated.
  • Webcam settings (exposure, white balance, saturation, etc.) were tweaked manually (more on this in another post)
  • I still need to work on the white balance. While I’m not as blue as the “Before” shot, I am a bit too warm in this shot.
  • I’m not doing any color correction (yet) as I just edit in Screencast-o-matic, so I need to get the white balance as close as possible when I record
  • I also feel like I need a key light for off to the right and behind the camera to help balance the light from the window
  • Different day, same flannel shirt
  • Same shiny head, too

Video resources that helped

Here’s a selection of the videos that gave me ideas for improvements.

Lynda.com Training

YouTube

Using my son’s toys for a green screen

Today my son and I experimented with his Kaskey Kids Football Guys field fabric for potential use as a green screen. The results look promising and may open up some more options for my videos.

Kaskey Kids Football Guys toys

The fabric seems to work fine as a green screen in Screencast-o-matic. I just need to combine a few of the fields and hang them up somehow.

Chad  with is son in the background holding up a green screen

This could be fun. More later.

How to add a Microsoft Teams chat link to your Libguides profile box

Last week I added my Microsoft Teams chat link to my Libguides profile box. Since this required some different code than just adding a Teams chat link to a general guide, I thought I would share it here. Maybe you’ll find it helpful.

The code

<style>
#teamschat {
  background: #FFFFFF;
  border: 1px solid #545AAA;
  border-radius: 4px;
  color: #333333;
  font-size: 18px;
  font-family: 'Barlow', 'Trebuchet MS', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
  padding: 8px 20px;
  cursor: pointer;
}
</style>

<div id="teamschat"><a href="https://teams.microsoft.com/l/chat/0/0?users=boeninge@ohio.edu&message=Hi%20Chad%20I%20have%20a%20question"><img alt="Click to Chat with Chad in Microsoft Teams" src="https://libapps.s3.amazonaws.com/accounts/7927/images/teamslogosmall.png" style="border: 0px; vertical-align: middle; float: left;" /></a>

<a href="https://teams.microsoft.com/l/chat/0/0?users=boeninge@ohio.edu&message=Hi%20Chad%20I%20have%20a%20question" target="_blank">Microsoft Teams Chat</a> 
</div>

<br />

How to customize

  1. Copy the code above.
  2. Navigate to your LibApps profile.
  3. Scroll down to the “Other Widget Code” box and paste in the code.
  4. Change users=boeninge@ohio.edu to your Teams email account. You will need to change this in two places . As much as I love your students, faculty, and patrons, I am sure they would rather talk to you. 😉
  5. Change the “Chad” to your name. You’ll need to change this in two places (unless your name is “Chad”) . My other Teams post has more details about changing your introductory chat text.
  6. If you know a little CSS, you can modify anything within the <style> section at the top of the code to change font, size, etc.
Add Microsoft Teams chat to your Libguides Profile Bbox

Let me know if this was helpful and if it worked for you.

Good luck!

Outtakes and Bloopers

I tried to make a video yesterday but couldn’t quite get it together. This was the result. I hope you find humor and can laugh at yourself even in frustrating and uncertain times.

In other news, I got a new mic and it sounds great!

Research @ Home: Delivering asynchronous library instruction with web video during the Covid-19 pandemic

Chad Boeninger business research thumbnail

With the abrupt move to a blend of synchronous and asynchronous online learning for business students for the remainder of the semester, the faculty asked me to record a video for my research session. Here’s my writeup of how this worked out. Perhaps others will find this useful as they develop their own remote teaching plans.

Under normal circumstances, on Monday I should have delivered my business research instructions sessions from my office to over 400 students in the classroom, as I have done in the past with Microsoft Teams. However, with students not on campus and me working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic, things are definitely not normal.

The Video(s)

Instead of one long, rambling video, I created six videos to divide the content into more manageable chunks. Creating six different videos also allows me to more easily recycle and embed the videos on different pages in my guides. Shorter videos means that students can watch a few videos at a time, and my YouTube analytics seem to confirm this behavior.

Usually I like to do a personal on-camera introduction with each of my videos where I introduce the content. This is important for me so that students recognized the face (and the expert) behind the voice on the screencast. Since these videos were all part of the same page, I decided to just record a general introduction to students for the first video, where I give them a little pep talk and discuss ways to connect for research help. The other four videos are demonstrations of how specific databases can be used for the personal fitness industry project. I posted all videos on a page for the specific guide I made for the semester project. The final 6th video was another pep talk vlog encouraging them to ask questions if they needed help.

I recorded and edited the videos with Screencast-o-matic using a Jabra Evolve 65 headset for audio. The audio is not as good as with the Blue Yeti mic, but it’s serviceable. You may notice a slight lip sync issue with the on-camera shots, but I believe I have that figured out for the next time. I created the custom images for the videos using YouTube templates in Canva ( the free version).

a screenshot of page with instructional videos
A screenshot of my page with the videos.

Finally, I created six simple quiz questions that faculty assigned in Blackboard. All told I have about four hours in the creation of the guide page, the videos, and the quiz questions.

Did they watch?

Well, right now, the jury is still out as my analytics are a bit confusing. According to Google Analytics, the guide page has 379 unique views since Monday. That seems to line up with the total number of 350 students, plus a few serendipitous hits from other people (perhaps faculty?). I’m basing my analytics on the past two days, as the quiz was due in Blackboard by midnight last night.

Here’s what YouTube Analytics says:

  • The top video was viewed 280 times.
  • The least viewed video was viewed 63 times, but it didn’t contain critical content. It was more of a “you got this” and “I’m here to help” vlog and was posted late in the day on Monday.
  • Average percentage viewed was 72.81. This is not bad considering that my channel lifetime average for view percentage is around 40 percent.
  • I’m a little disappointed that my “Analyze the Local Fitness Market” video (in purple below) did the poorest of the bunch. I think the resource that I demonstrate, SimplyAnalytics, is the most important tool for their project. This was my longest video at ten minutes in length, while the others were less than five.
a screenshot of YouTube Analytics, with data described in the bullets above

Takeaways

Unfortunately the data does not show that each student watched every video and that is a bit disappointing. However, it is helpful to consider that for each project, business cluster students work together in teams of four to six students. I have seen this play out in how they conduct research. For example, on my guide I might suggest four resources for understanding personal fitness consumers. Typically the team will divide up the resources so that only one student looks at a resource. They follow the same behavior when writing the final paper or creating the presentation; each student takes a section and does their part. Unfortunately this usually makes the paper or presentation look and read like it was literally pieced together, but faculty have been doing their best to discourage this practice. One theory in the video views is that the teams divided up the videos among the members in their typical divide-and-conquer strategy and completed the quiz through collaborative effort.

I will say that I am very pleased with the average percentage viewed for the videos. This tells me that those who did watch the videos watched most of the content. Even the lowest percentage watched video (at 53.6% of total viewed) is higher than the YouTube relative audience retention of similar length videos. So that’s not bad at all.

YouTube anlaytics showing the data mentioned in the paragraph above

My highest percentage viewed video outperformed the YouTube average for similar length videos. That’s pretty cool!

screenshot of YouTube analytics demonstrating that percentage viewed for the video was higher than YouTube averages

Ideas for next time

For next time, some ideas that I might consider:

  • Do the shorter videos work if we want all students to watch all of the content?
  • Would they watch a longer 20-30 minute video if they couldn’t easily divide the work among the team members? How would this affect the total percentage of the video watched?
  • Or in the case of my 10 minute video, should that have been separate videos no longer than 3 minutes each?
  • Did having 6 videos make it too easy for the teams to divide up the work?
  • Also of note is that I was crunched for time and my usual production value and edits suffered. I probably could have trimmed 30-60 seconds off of each video with additional edits or takes.
  • Were the quiz questions too easy? Should I have provided more quiz questions? Ideally they’d watch all of the videos just because their faculty told them too and that the content would help make their research easier.
  • Will the students come back to the videos throughout the remainder of the semester? Will they watch videos that they missed? Will they re-watch videos?

I also need a better understanding of YouTube and Google Analytics. Seeing as how I’ll be working from home for a bit, I’ll have plenty of opportunity for learning and improvement.

A Success?

All told, the viewership across the six videos for the past two days totals 58 hours of total watch time. That’s impressive and demonstrates something to build on for more remote/online learning projects.

If you’ve read this far, what are your thoughts? Have you done any similar analysis to your online guides, tutorials, or other learning objects? If so, leave a comment or reach out for further discussion.

A great book on remote work is now free!

One of my favorite books about remote work, The Year Without Pants, is now free on Amazon Kindle at the request of the author, Scott Berkun.   You don’t need a Kindle to read it, just the Kindle app and an Amazon account. 

I liked it so much when I first read it, I even blogged my thoughts about it a few times many years ago. When I read it in spurts in 2013-2015, the book prompted me to think about libraries and support work, how we can change our mindset about our jobs, what we can learn from the WordPress creed, as well as librarian perspectives on telecommuting. I now want to re-read it and discuss with my newly-distributed teams . Book club via Microsoft Teams, anyone?

It’s a great read and highly recommended. However, webcams have advanced a bit since the book was published, so keep your pants on. 😉

How to add Microsoft Teams chat links to your Libguide and Libcal

Now that we’re working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty, staff, and [sometimes] students are encouraged to use Microsoft Teams for chats, calls, and meetings. To help faculty and students connect directly to their librarian, we have added individual Teams chat links to our subject librarian and archivists directory. I have also incorporated my Teams chat link on my Libguides contact pages , my Libguides Profile Box, as well as in my Libcal appointment confirmation and reminder emails. Here is how you can do it, too. You can also use the steps below to create links to embed in other websites or in your email signature. Professors and instructors can also use Teams links for students to directly chat or meet with them during their online office hours.

Create your link

Microsoft has some in=depth documentation in how to create “deep” links to Teams chats. However, it can be a bit overwhelming so I’ll try to keep it simple.

Let’s look at my link: https://teams.microsoft.com/l/chat/0/0?users=boeninge@ohio.edu&message=Hi%20Chad%20I%20have%20a%20question

To make it work for your Teams account, just simply replace the user, boeninge@ohio.edu (that’s me) with your own campus/corporate Teams account. You will also want to replace “Chad” with your name, unless your name is also “Chad.”

For my Libcal links I have a different message: https://teams.microsoft.com/l/chat/0/0?users=boeninge@ohio.edu&message=Hi%20Chad%20I%27m%20here%20for%20my%20research%20appointment

This will allow me to see if the person is coming via my general link, or if they here for an appointment. To add your own language and get the url, just delete everything after the “message=” and customize your message. For example: https://teams.microsoft.com/l/chat/0/0?users=boeninge@ohio.edu&message=Hi Chad this Teams Thing is really cool

Copy the url that you just made, and paste it back into your browser address bar in a new tab. This will add all the code for the spaces and punctuation, so it should now look like this: https://teams.microsoft.com/l/chat/0/0?users=boeninge@ohio.edu&message=Hi%20Chad%20this%20Teams%20Thing%20is%20really%20cool

Add the link to a Libguide

Adding the link to your Libguide should be just as simple as selecting the text or image in the Libguide editor, then adding the link you created above.

Add links via the Libguide Rich Text Editor

Add Link to Libcal confirmation and reminder emails

First, go to your personal appointments settings, as outlined in these directions from Springshare. You will want to modify both the confirmation and reminder emails.

For my confirmation emails, I have the following:

Hi {{NAME}},

This email confirms your appointment:

When: {{TIME_DATE_DIRECTIONS}}
With: {{MY_NAME}} ({{MY_EMAIL}})
Where: Online Only. At the time of your appointment, <a href= "https://teams.microsoft.com/l/chat/0/0?users=boeninge@ohio.edu&message=Hi%20Chad%20I%27m%20here%20for%20my%20research%20appointment"> connect with me online via Microsoft Teams chat </a>.

{{NOTES}}

To cancel this appointment visit: {{{CANCEL_URL}}}

For my reminder emails, I have the following:

Hi {{FIRST_NAME}},

This is a reminder about your appointment at {{START_TIME}}, {{DATE}} at {{DIRECTIONS}}.

Until further notice, my research consultations are limited to online meetings only. At the time of your appointment, <a href= "https://teams.microsoft.com/l/chat/0/0?users=boeninge@ohio.edu&message=Hi%20Chad%20I%27m%20here%20for%20my%20research%20appointment"> connect with me online via Microsoft Teams chat </a>.

To cancel this appointment, visit {{{CANCEL_URL}}}.

In theory, you should just be able to cut and paste the above, change your Teams link, and you’ll be good to go.

What the user sees

After the user clicks your chat link, they will have the option of either using the Teams Web App or opening the Teams Desktop App (if it is installed).

What the user sees in their web browser

Once the Teams app is open, the message that you added to your url will populate the chat box, so the patron can just start chatting by hitting enter. Since I can’t chat with myself, the image below shows what it looks like when starting a chat with a colleague.

Does it work?

We’re still on the extended spring break, but classes resume (online only) on Monday. I’ll post again with an update soon. In the meantime, if the directions here work for you, come back and leave a comment to share your story. Likewise, if you have questions, leave a comment. Good luck and stay healthy!

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