The recent pandemic has forced Teachers like myself to reconsider our working model.

I have to say that there’s been a lot of trial and error, but I feel that I’m now able to teach online and in other settings, such as the park, my home and classrooms. I decided to share my journey and findings with you, in case you want to follow this path!

I’m a Qigong teacher, so during the recent Pandemic, being in a class setting was not allowed. Initially this felt like a great threat to my livelihood, but has turned out to be a boon. It’s really interesting to have a heavy classroom rent lifted off my shoulders, whilst discovering that having moved to a new city, meant that students from the old city could rejoin my classes! (The added bonus was that students from all over the world could join in too!)

As the pandemic recedes, I find that I really enjoy teaching online, and have now integrated it into my physical teaching scheduled, without causing upset for my physical students (I hope! There’s only a few minutes of faffing about to get set up!)

I teach exclusively on Zoom, it works really well via mobile and laptop.

With full disclosure, I have always had an Amazon Associates account, so if you chose to purchase products listed in this article from Amazon, I’ll profit in a small way! If you find them for a better price elsewhere, then I’ll just be happy to have helped you!

Teaching from my Laptop

My first challenge, was to teach from my own living room. I have made plenty of video’s before, so realise that controlling the lighting is a really important factor. Most laptops have a decent webcam these days, but if the room is too dark, the webcam struggles to cope. It’s important that my students see certain details of movements well. I invested in a set of “Soft box” video lights, which I use for classes, and making Youtube instruction video’s too!

The next issue to get over was walking away from the built-in Microphone, and doing exercises that required me to bend over. This muffled the sound terribly. I decided that what was required was a headset radio mic.

This turned out to be one of the best purchases I made, I now connect it to my mobile, and use it in all settings! (The version I purchased chews batteries, this version is a USB charge version, better I think!)

Teaching from the Park!

This was a new set of challenges. I firstly used a Bluetooth Headset which hooks up with the phone really easily, allows you to hear student feedback (and chat in the car!)

I decided that I was going to be teaching so much, and some classes for over 90 minutes, that I wanted to use something other than a Bluetooth device.

I went back to my Radio Mic, featured above, but realised that I couldn’t plug it into my phone! (Phones are increasingly dropping the headphone socket for a USB C type socket.)
If you can plug straigth in to the headphone jack, then that works really well with Zoom, I had to add an adapter to allow my Radio headset to go into my phone.

This now works well. (Various things I’ve learned! When I plug this adapter in, occasionally I see a brief notification saying this is the main mic, often it doesn’t come up – you just have to trust! I ask a student to tell me if the volume is ok, by stepping away, and bending over! “Could you still hear me!!?”

The next issue was mounting my mobile in the park!
I used a simple Tripod

And a Mobile Phone attachment on top of the Tripod

Here’s another more elegant idea I used! (I attached the Monkeygrip to my Bicycle, when I cycled to the park! The Bike made a good Tripod!)

I’ll be able to use the same setup in the teaching space I have, which has Wifi – there, I’ll be able to use my tripod / wireless mic and my tablet.
I purchased this Tablet stand – I prefer the tablet, because you can see the students more clearly than on the mobile phone. Especially important in big classes..

Video blogging

Vlogging, Video blogging, putting stuff up on Youtube.. whatever you like to call it!
For this, I wanted good quality pictures, not just a webcam.

I had a Sony A5000, that also records Video, so I decided to turn it into my webcam! I have it behind my laptop on my desk, perched on a nice Mini travel tripod, that worked well on a desk, to get the camera at face height.

I decided I’d like to get a decent “Phantom Powered” Microphone, with an arm, to mount on my desk. I went for this excellent Neewer set-up, and now have a top quality mic, that I can move right in front of me (Out of camera-shot) which I’m really please with!

To capture the Video from the camera, you need a USB Video Capture card that takes the signal from the camera, and feeds it into the laptop. You’d think it would be as simple as an HDMI cable from one to the other – apparently NOT!

The final thing was actually “broadcasting” with all this KIT! I have decided to use free software called OBS studio. (With a little extra plug-in called Virtual Cam)
The essential idea is as follows.
Plug the camera into the USB HDMI capture card, from that card into your laptop (All on Windows, I can’t vouch for Mac!) Plug the mic, through the phantom power box, and into the laptop. Start OBS Studio, where you’ll hopefully see the capture card showing. select this as the video, the mic will hopefully already be working for audio.

As I teach on Zoom, I soon discovered I had to download an add the Virtual Cam plugin for OBS, so that it shows up on Zoom as my webcam. (You then have to start the cam, mic, and then OBS, start the Virtual Cam plugin, and then start Zoom! – don’t worry, it’s difficult to get going, but flawless, when you have it running!)

I thought it might be nice to have a mixer for my mic, so I can monitor and control the audio better.. here’s a possibility

or really push the boat out with this one, if you think you’ll do two mic interviews etc…

Finally, I though I’d add this cheap video recorder, which might make the whole thing much more simple that my Sony Camera!
It’s not 4K, and it’s probably not very good for anything except a studio set-up, but just in case..

I have finally decided to capture really nice quality audio and video for my Youtube site – and to capture the audio, to submit to AnchorFM as a podcast.

If you are interested in Qigong, please like my Youtube site, or come say hi on Facebook, or Instagram!

I really hope that this article might help answer some of your questions about blogging, vlogging and the likes!

August 2020 – Update

I’ve been working online for quite a bit more time now.
I’ve reviewed my kit, again and again.

I upgrade my phone to a Samsung S20, partly because I needed to upgrade, but also because I though 5G (The devil’s work!) might actually help me in my “outside” broadcasts on Zoom.
I tried all variations to avoid having a bluetooth headset in my ear whilst teaching for hours, but to date, nothing has beaten it for audio quality and reliability.
I struggled to teach, in the park, away from the cameraphone, and still see what my students were doing (even who was in the class…!)

My next step was to go for a Samsung Tab S6. I had initially thought that I would buy the model with the sim card slot, and get a new 4G/5G account. In the end, after a bit of a review, I was convinced that “Samsung World” hangs together so well, that I could tether my Tab and phone together.

It works really well! I use my S20 as the modem, the Tab S6 as a nice screen to see my students, and the tablet holder and tripod above as the stand. The Bluetooth headset connects to the tab as well, so I can now see and hear my students really well.

It’s such a portable set-up, that I think I’ve finally found my perfect set up! Hope that helps somebody!
(I treated myself to a very nice case and keyboard for the Tab too, just so it wouldn’t get damaged in transit!)

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