Standing in front of a class of students and keeping them engaged and interested and perhaps even entertained can be tough in the best of circumstances.
Right now isn’t the best of circumstances.
Many classes at UTC are online this semester, and many faculty members haven’t taught by that method before. It’s not an easy assignment.
In the Gary W. Rollins College of Business, Sarah Canatsey helps teach the teachers.
Her exact title is “instructional developer,” but what it means in down-to-earth terms is that she shows faculty members how to produce good videos, podcasts and PowerPoint presentations on whatever subject they’re teaching. She also guides professors on how to livestream, teaching a class in real time, without seeming stodgy or uncertain or, worst of all, boring.
“It’s better if you’re recording your video and you know it’s recorded well and you know it’s recorded in a way that students can go back and look at it,” she explained.
To help that happen, the College of Business built a small recording studio on the fourth floor of Fletcher Hall during its renovation.
“We offer a lot of online classes and didn’t have a dedicated space for faculty to really come in and make good, quality videos. The idea is to give our faculty a way to make better instructional videos,” said Ms. Canatsey, who has a background in studio work, multimedia programs and setting up technology for live theater performances.
College of Business Dean Robert Dooley said Ms. Canatsey’s expertise is “a tremendous resource for the faculty.”
“Sarah was instrumental in helping the faculty transition to all online in the spring at the beginning of COVID and in preparing for this fall,” he said. “The new studio in the college, under Sarah’s direction, provides an additional resource for faculty to develop outstanding online courses and content to augment traditional classroom instruction.”
The studio is decked out with technology. It has a video camera, audio mixing board, microphones, lighting, software, playback speakers, computer and what’s known as a lightboard, a piece of framed Plexiglas that professors can write on the same way they use a blackboard or whiteboard in the classroom. During editing, the image is flipped horizontally so students can read it as they would in class.
The studio can record videos projected on a screen for classes when students are actually in the room. It can stream a professor’s live lecture into the classroom, onto a tablet such as an iPad or through a computer. Anything that’s recorded in the studio, live or not, will be archived so students can watch the lesson whenever they need.
Part of her job, too, is to teach the finer points of making a video, including how to plan it out before actual recording starts, Ms. Canatsey said.
“There are a lot of things that go on when you’re creating a video,” she said. “Like pre-planning so you’re not spending eight hours in post-production editing because you didn’t plan it out well.
“There’s even educational pieces on how long a video should be. There’s an entire set of research, multimedia principles, we have found that, for novice learners, are helpful and not helpful when you’re putting together multimedia and educational pieces.”
At this point, Ms. Canatsey hasn’t contacted all the College of Business faculty to let them know the studio is ready for use because she’s still getting all the technology in placed and ready to go.
“I haven’t sent out my ‘hype’ video to folks,” she said, laughing. “That’s on my to-do list today.”