Robert L. Frazier ( www.rlfrazier.org )

Remote teaching

Teaching requirements

During Trinity Term 2020 I am doing two types of teaching. The first type is revision sessions for those sitting Final Honour Schools (exams) during the latter half of term. There are two groups of 5-10 attending. The second type is students reading for either Final Honour Schools, or who would have been sitting Preliminary Exams at the end of terms, but are now doing mock exams instead. These are either taught singly or in pairs.

The topics I'm teaching this term are Ethics, Knowledge and Reality (Epistemology and Metaphysics), Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Science and Social Science, Logic and Language (Philosophical Logic and Philosophy of Language), Frege and the Foundations of Arithmetic, Mill's Utilitarianism and General Philosophy (Introduction). I sometimes use logical notation and sometimes draw pictures.

My hope is to make the teaching as interactive as possible. It isn't the same as face to face tutorials. For example, it is harder to read body language, there are lags in communication, sometimes signals drop, and bandwidth for high quality communications isn't always available. So, it is important to be able to have some communications even if there is signal degradation.

Platform

The university has a preference for people using Microsoft Teams, so that's what I'm using. I use linux, so that complicates things. Microsoft provides a client for linux (astonishing, but true). However, it does not have the full capabilities of the Windows client (not so astonishing). In particular, Microsoft's linux client does not allow screen sharing, which is a capability which I find important. Consequently, I'm not using Microsoft's client, but another client, Teams for Linux, which has more capabilities.

For all teaching sessions I use the Teams meeting function. Instead of using the camera directly, I share my screen, or, actually, the contents of one window on my screen. This allows me to manipulate the images, etc., using local tools.

In particular, I use Open Broadcaster Software Studio (OBS Studio) for image manipulation. It allows for the use of a green screen, cropping camera displays, and, most importantly, the easy use of multiple cameras.

Hardware

Logitech C920 HD

A good basic camera. The field of view is a bit wide for my use, so the image is masked to the size I want. Unfortunately, they seem to be in short supply. Luckily, I had one.

Ipevo VZ-1 HD

This is a specialized webcamera, often used to display documents with a projector. They too seem thin on the ground. Again, I had one. Ipevo website

Lights and stands

Given that I have had an interest in film photography for some time, I had various lights and stands, which have proved useful

Green screen

The green screen is a roll of paper with a standard green colour, bought online. It is hung from stands made from various bits I had to hand. For example, I put an old curtain rail through the cardboard tube about which the paper is rolled, and laid the curtain rail ends on the stands. (Having made little cradles for the rail ends using a bit of junk wood.)

Set up

Here are two pictures of my setup.

Having even lighting is important for using a green screen. So the lights. Also, this is cluttered because it is in the garden room part of our shed, as my study is even less well organized for the use of a green screen.

You can see main camera on the top of the monitor. The document camera is to the side. The monitor show the image from the document camera.

Here is an example of what is displayed when only the main camera is being used. The green in the green screen background is replaced by an image of my choice. In this case, a photograph I took some time ago of the attic of Aston Hall, Aston Villa, Birmingham.

When I use the Ipevo document camera, I leave a small image from the main camera in the top left corner. Here is an example image.

It is easy to switch between views (or "scenes" following OBS Studio use). And, so far, this setup seems to work okay for teaching.