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This is similar to another question about teaching online, but I want to focus on something specific: what are the most popular setups for recording math video lectures? What's the easiest and best way to do it?

I have a document camera, and I was planning to record lectures using Zoom -- this would allow students to see simultaneously a video of what I'm writing (and what I'm pointing to with my hands) and my face as I'm talking / explaining. I think both of those things are important. The problem with this plan is that the Zoom servers seem to be swamped, with like 24 hr processing times before a video can be viewed.

What are the most popular setups? Which software is most popular?

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    $\begingroup$ Regarding your comments about "pointing": learn to use the mouse cursor to point at things. This works just as well as hands or fingers. $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson Mar 17 at 13:51
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding Zoom servers, I have been making 5-10 minute videos with it for the past week and they never take more than a couple minutes to process. However, that may be because I'm saving them locally, and because they are short? Anyway, that may be a way to get around that particular problem. $\endgroup$ – kcrisman Mar 21 at 2:24
  • $\begingroup$ Also, the doc cam is just fine of an idea - with a few different colored pens or markers (whiteboard for latter) you can do quite a bit with small whiteboards on a table. $\endgroup$ – kcrisman Mar 21 at 2:25
  • $\begingroup$ You can record videos to your local computer rather than using Zoom's cloud based storage. With this approach you'll have to find somewhere else to put the video so that the students can see it. You might also want to have video editing software on your own machine to edit out any mistakes. $\endgroup$ – Brian Borchers Apr 5 at 18:15
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I use a combination of PowerPoint for the lecture content and my "2 in 1" laptop with a stylus for writing. PowerPoint has an option to record the lecture which is what I use for the actual recording part. I then do any after the fact editing in Camtasia. Camtasia also has options for things like recording your screen and recording from both the screen and a camera at the same time. It keeps the two recordings synchronized so it's easy to do an insert from the camera overlaying what you're writing so viewers can see both you and your text.

With that said, when I'm recording lectures, I just use PowerPoint and don't include a recording of my face. I used to but then I realized that what I really wanted students focused on was what I was writing and saying. My facial expressions and hand gestures were just a distraction.

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I use Zoom because that is the default software I'm supposed to use for the company I work for. You mentioned 24 hours processing times, but what I've noticed is that most of the live videos and teaching I record actually ends up processing within a few hours (like anywhere between 1-6 hours approximately). Using the document camera works fine but what I use instead is have a digital blank copy of the page I want to show on my 2-in-1 laptop itself, and write on screen exactly the way as I expect my students to write in their notes. I've also used iPad to write as well by logging in as another user on Zoom. You should use mouse to point to things using the built-in pointers/tools that come with Zoom and also in PowerPoint itself.

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I just spent ~3 hrs making a 4-min video :-). A few notes that may help those in similar software situations:

  • MacOS, Catalina. Others ignore.
  • I used QuickTime to record a subset of my screen ("Screen Recording").
  • Apparently there is no way to pause QuickTime. So I recorded, stopped, recorded, stopped. And eventually stitched the ~8 recordings into one (using QuickTime edit: drag each into the 1st).

  • Re @XanderHenderson's point: There is an option to track the mouse cursor (or not).

  • Upload to YouTube. I recommend ignoring your IT's advice to use Moodle or Blackboard. "YouTube re-encodes every upload at multiple resolutions so your viewers can..." etc. They already have a sophisticated setup that your local IT cannot match. Select "unlisted" and send your students the URL. They are already YouTube experts.

Concerning processing time (OP: "Zoom servers seem to be swamped, with like 24 hr processing times before a video can be viewed.").

  • Save on your local computer, so you are not limited by Zoom's cloud storage.
  • Use YouTube.

Caveat: I am not an expert. Learning day-by-day.

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    $\begingroup$ Just for info, I still have El Capitan and can do this as well (and have done so in the past on many snow days). $\endgroup$ – kcrisman Mar 21 at 2:22
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    $\begingroup$ I just learned the Mac shortcut (latest OS only) Cmd-Shift-5 to Screen cast any part of your desktop with or without audio. Pretty helpful. $\endgroup$ – Nick C Mar 21 at 3:37
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I have an old Wacom Bamboo tablet and pen and a microphone. I use xournal (http://xournal.sourceforge.net) and record what I'm writing and saying using a screencasting program called vokoscreen, starting and stopping occasionally so I get a bunch of video files. I use flowblade (https://jliljebl.github.io/flowblade/) to splice these together and then use ffmpeg to compress them. I upload to YouTube, though I'm looking into also uploading to alternative sites that are accessible from within China.

Once I've got a video ready, I watch it back and type up a transcript (with timings) in LaTeX: this ensures that the splicing didn't introduce any errors (e.g. including bloopers in the final cut) and also gives students a transcript. Technically, it's not LaTeX that I write, but a shorthand I devised a few years ago which I call lazy latex (lzl). I have a Python script (available here: https://github.com/jde27/lzl) which outputs HTML from the lzl file, in particular turning tikz into embedded images and rendering maths using MathJax. Then I end up with an HTML page with the notes and the video embedded at the top.

This may sound like a big faff to set up, but once it's up and running you can record quite quickly: I made eight videos today. In the past I used this to produce a flipped lecture course on algebraic topology:

http://jde27.uk/tg

and am in the middle of doing the same for my linear algebra lectures for next term (for coronavirus-reasons)

http://jde27.uk/la/01_matrices.html

My advice: if you're trying to produce videos like this, don't aim for perfection, trying to rerecord every little glitch. It takes long enough as it is. Only rerecord if you think your explanation is going on too long/is too complicated/is really bad/misses some really crucial point. The occasional "typo" or slip of the tongue doesn't matter too much and gives people something to ask questions about in comments.

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    $\begingroup$ Indeed, the temptation to cease recording and/or edit out mistakes is the easy way to make teaching online take way way more time. That is the beauty of in-class teaching, there is no editing. $\endgroup$ – James S. Cook Mar 20 at 22:05
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I will share what I have been doing. I cannot claim this is popular, nor that it is necessarily the best, feasible option for everyone. But I know that when I started searching online for suggestions, I could not find a full description of anyone's method. So I'd like to at least share mine here.

tl;dr: I make slides in Beamer (LaTeX). I use an app on a tablet device to record my voice and the screen as I write on the slides with a stylus. I then share these videos with students, along with a link to download the annotated slides. Here is an example: https://youtu.be/QeCYkvoXudg

  1. I use Beamer to make some slides to present during the video. You could use Powerpoint, Google Slides, or anything similar. But, it's important for what I do later that I have a pdf file to write on.
  2. I have some slides with "all information", like definitions and theorems, or pictures of graphs, etc. I have some slides with much more blank space; perhaps the statement of a problem is on the top and the rest is blank, to leave space for writing.
  3. I sometimes include a url to a desmos graph. While recording the video later, I can switch to the desmos app on my tablet and show that graph and demonstrate things with it. I say, "You can pause the video and visit this url to see the same graph."
  4. I now have a pdf file. I open the Inkredible app on my tablet and import that pdf file. (I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab A tablet. I chose Inkredible because it allows me to load a pdf, has easy-to-use writing tools, looks good in landscape mode, allows me to switch pages easily without scrolling, and is not expensive.)
  5. I fire up the AZ Screen Recorder app. You can use the app to record a specified area of the screen, but I just have it record the whole screen. (Turn off pop-up notifications from all other apps first!) It is also easy to pause recording. So, I sometimes pause, write/type some annotations on the screen, then un-pause and say, "Now you can see I've written..."
  6. While recording, I use different colors of pens and highlighters to write and point to information. Sometimes, while talking, I will highlight something on the slide, and then immediately hit "undo". This serves to emphasize the information while I am talking, but it will not appear as an annotation on the finished pdf file.
  7. While recording, I sometimes jump over to the desmos or WolframAlpha apps to show a graph or a calculation, or even to demonstrate how to use those apps.
  8. When I'm done, I click "Stop recording". I upload the video to my Dropbox folder, and I use the Inkredible app to share the annotated pdf to that same folder. I then share these files with my students (through our LMS or on YouTube).

For me, the most work goes into planning the slides and graphs ahead of time, and then deciding what to say and write while recording. I often start the video and mess up somewhere and start over. This happens once or twice for each video. But these are also lessons that I've been giving for a while. Don't be worried if you start and stop multiple times.

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I usually present (live) lectures by using Beamer to prepare a PDF document with slides that are about half-completed, and I then use PDF Expert on an iPad to project this.

The slides contain things like the definitions (which I don't want to waste time writing out) but then I illustrate, explain and give examples using an Apple Pencil. Students can download the half-completed slides in advance, and I publish the annotated PDF at the end of each week.

So I now do the same thing with Zoom - more precisely, I run Zoom on my 6-year old MacBook Air and after greeting the students, I screen-share the iPad screen via Air Play and just annotate the slides as usual. Students are free to raise a virtual hand (though so far they seem reluctant to do so). I simply use the Zoom record feature to record the entire thing to the MacBook Air, and then upload the resulting file to our LMS at the end of the lecture.

I have done it like this for a few reasons:

  1. Minimal change for the students - I stick to the regular lecture times and lecture for the same amount of time etc, and they can ask questions. I hope this contributes to establishing a routine for the students working from home.

  2. I don't find it easy to give a lecture without immediate feedback as I rely heavily on body language, facial expressions, actual questions to let me decide on the spot if a concept needs another example, or a definition needs more explanation etc. I ask a few students to leave a webcam on so that I can see them and hope that they are representative of the class.

  3. I want the students to see me and interact with me while actually working problems - calling me out when I make mistakes, watching me puzzle things out. Too many of my students seem to believe that solutions / proofs magically materialise in their lecturers' heads fully-formed and polished. So when they cannot just "see" the answer to a problem, they simply assume that the magic is not working rather than actually getting out some paper and pencil and start working things out.

  4. (Selfish reason here) I don't want to create a unit that can easily be run in its entirety without me. My university was already out of money before this virus started, and now it will be losing tens of millions of dollars. We know from experience that literally the only financial thing the university has in its control is staff numbers. So when this is over, unless some magical money tree appears, the university will be laying off hundreds of staff. I'd rather not create my own replacement just yet.

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