Margaret Christian poses for camera

Margaret Christian, an associate professor of English at Penn State Lehigh Valley, has used both green screen and One Button Studio to create lecture videos.

Margaret Christian, associate professor of English at Penn State Lehigh Valley, started using the One Button Studio on her campus shortly after it was installed this past spring.

She had used it to create videos for her online Shakespeare classes, ENGL 129 and ENGL 444, where she recorded herself doing mini lectures, which she later edited in Final Cut Pro to include lecture note-type PowerPoint backgrounds. Christian said she would then upload those edited videos into YouTube and embed the YouTube videos in ANGEL.

“The students who talked about the videos said that that was one of the things that helped them learn the most in class and that they got more out of the videos than they got out of looking at study help sites online,” Christian said.

Christian said she was really happy to have her students get more out of her lecture videos than study aids like “No Fear Shakespeare” and “SparkNotes.” She said it allowed her a higher degree of control over what her students were using to study and what they were focusing on, something that she likes in a face-to-face class that is sometimes lost in an online class.

According to Christian, online classes tend to not have as many students finish the course, and she believes the lecture videos helped students persist more. Eighteen students signed up for her ENGL 129 course and about 15 persisted to the end. In her senior-level ENGL 444 course, which was available at Penn State Greater Allegheny and Penn State Lehigh Valley, five out of six students finished the course.

Previously, Christian was creating her lecture videos using a green screen in the Multimedia Innovation Center. For this, she had the help of one of the Center’s staff members, Amber Campbell, who acted as camerawoman.

After the green screen videos were recorded, Campbell uploaded them into Box at Penn State, where Christian would download them. Christian then developed a set of PowerPoint slides for each lesson, which she used for the background to her lectures.

Christian said she would scour Google Images with a filter for “reuse” to avoid copyright violation, and then she would collect illustrations she deemed useful to the visual learners in her classes. Campbell taught her how use Final Cut Pro and edit the video to put illustrations behind it as talking head backgrounds and how to overlay the lecture note slides, which were uploaded as PDFs, and other images.

Afterward, Christian said she did a lot of editing of the original video to edit out parts where she said “um” or went off on a tangent. She got better at rearranging parts and taking microsecond cuts so that she would sound more polished in the final video.

“It was really interesting going to a conference recently in Ireland to hear the different speakers and to think, ‘if she were recording this, I could help tighten it up for her,’” Christian said.

Further into the semester, the Center became equipped with the One Button Studio, which Christian used for the last few videos in her courses. This allowed her the choice between a green screen or a blue screen.

“I thought that it [the One Button Studio] made it so easy, rather than going through a lot of scheduling hassle to have my camerawoman Amber,” Christian said. “I was just able to stop in, and as long as no one else was using it, just step right in [the booth] and get to work.”

When asked if she had any difficulty getting used to the studio, Christian said, “It was really, really easy to use. They have it set up with instructions, so it’s very obvious where to stand, where to plug in your PowerPoint (if you want to be looking at notes while you’re being recorded), where to push the button, and how long you can expect to wait. So, it’s set up in a very, very user-friendly way.”

In the future, Christian said she is planning to develop an online Bible as Literature class, ENGL 104, using a similar format to her Shakespeare class, where she looks forward to working more with the One Button Studio.

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