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Concordia’s lightboard studios provide faculty with state-of-the-art facilities for online instruction

The Centre for Teaching and Learning allows professors to record and disseminate lectures on campus or elsewhere
November 10, 2020
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By Alexander Hackett

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With campuses still closed to students due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Concordia has had to shift focus to online learning — including finding innovative ways for professors to record and share lectures.

Luckily, the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) was ahead of the curve, setting up lightboard studios specifically for that purpose prior to the current crisis.

“We’re absolutely delighted with the installation of the two new lightboards, one on each campus,” says Rob Cassidy, CTL’s director.

“They give faculty a unique space to create visual learning content that makes them feel like they’re teaching in their own studio classroom.”

Lightboards are writable glass panels that can be used much like a standard whiteboard or chalkboard, equipped with LED lights that illuminate the content written or sketched onto the surface. Lightboard studios are located in the Faubourg (FB) Building on Sir George Williams Campus and the Central Building on Loyola Campus.

Cassidy adds that these didactic videos can be both instructive and artistic. They’re relatively easy to produce and easy to share, so students can have access to new content quickly and in a timely manner.

“And unlike live lectures, where capturing the right info at the right moment can be critical for learning, students can take their time with these videos. This is something that both students and faculty have been asking for, so it’s great to be able to deliver it.”

Recorded courses can be uploaded to platforms like Yuja and Moodle, allowing students to set their own pace for learning and review.

‘A chalkboard on steroids’

“We were working on these facilities before the situation with COVID occurred,” reports John Bentley, CTL’s senior instructional developer. “But things moved even more quickly once we realised that faculty and TAs needed to have access to boards to teach and at the same time have the content recorded for students to study.”

Set up in collaboration with Instructional and Informational Technology Services, the studios are fully stocked with audio-video recording equipment, a mobile filming kit that can be moved off-campus, lightboards and a dedicated technician if necessary.

“The lightboard can be thought of as a chalkboard on steroids. It humanizes virtual classes,” says Maria José Grasso, a teaching assistant in the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering.

They’re housed in a dark room, where there is a camera in front of a large glass. The instructor has neon markers to write on this glass, and because of how the system is set up, the image of the board is reversed.

“In traditional classes, when the instructor is writing, the audience would be looking at their back. However, a great thing about the lightboard is that students will always see the face of the instructor while they are writing,” Grasso adds.

“Students are more engaged when they can see the instructor, not just hear them, and when they can watch online lectures from the comfort of their home.”

‘Significant added value’

Bentley notes that CTL worked closely with Lyes Kadem, professor and curriculum director in the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering. Kadem was keen to make this happen after seeing a lightboard at McGill University.

“I found using the lightboard in the FB Building very easy, and Étienne Lacelle was always there if I needed any help during the recording and to give me tips for the post-production,” Kadem says, referring to the film production graduate student on hand to lend technical support.

“I am really enjoying recording my lectures using the lightboard.,” Kadem adds. “I find the final product very professional. Facing the audience even when writing has a significant added value, in my opinion, during this pandemic where all courses have to be done remotely.”

Faculty can reserve lightboards for two-hour blocks with a minimum of four business days advance notice by filling out the online booking form.


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