Educators, This DIY Hack Will Make Your Zoom Lessons More Engaging

Spill The Tea

A professor from University of Southern Carolina (USC) has come up with an ingenious DIY way of engaging students through zoom lessons. It incorporates a blackboard-style presentation method that students can view while still being able to watch their teacher onscreen.

Wow. How’d it come about?

Teaching is difficult enough as it is — add the component of Home-Based Learning (HBL) into the mix, and educators face the challenging task of managing an entire classroom over a zoom call while ensuring students keep up with the school’s syllabus.

Emily Nix, assistant professor of finance and business economics at USC, was concerned that the experience of learning from home would be a subpar experience for students enrolled in her economics course and asked herself: “How can I best replicate the in-person learning experience online and make it engaging and exciting and cool?”

Go on.

As a regular user of the basic blackboard, Nix wanted to recreate a similar experience online. But not wanting to resort to rebuilding the curriculum to suit an online teaching environment, she learned a few tricks from the internet and assembled a small prototype that resembled a glass chalkboard infused with light.

She then posted a short video to her Twitter feed — the response was astounding, with thousands of people watching it.

So, what materials do I need?

Simple: a sheet of plexiglass, a mounting bracket made of wood, and LED lighting strips.

This DIY setup costed Nix US$60 from the hardware store — a steal compared to professionally built lightboards that cost US$8,000 or more.

How does it work?

The hack is to rig the LED lights around the edges of the plexiglass such that when you write on the it, the words and diagrams glow. And if you think the words will appear backwards, a free software called OBS Studio does the trick; it flips the image.

Tech is cool.

Nix shares with USC News, “We’re almost all trying to do our best, given our constraints.” And she is finding new ways to enhance the online teaching experience. On top of PowerPoint slides, video clips and a live lecture feed, she intends to explore breakout rooms, polls, online tests, and other virtual learning tools.

Something better might be in the works too as Nix plans to build a larger prototype to her lightboard innovation.

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