Rick Murch-Shafer

Please use the right tool for the job

Blog Post created by Rick Murch-Shafer Champion on Mar 28, 2020

Bob the BuilderHow many of you have seen the show "Bob the Builder"?  One of Bob's mantras is to use the right tool for the job.  This holds true for so many things in life and is not just limited to building things.  It's something we should definitely try to do as much as possible in academic technology as well.  

 

Over the last month or so hundreds of thousands of educators are trying to get up to speed with how to conduct their classes in remote learning mode.  There are lots of tools available and in many cases a lot of overlap from tools meant to do very different things.  I want to focus here on video and using the right video tool for the job whenever possible.  

 

I like to break down the creation of video into three main categories:

  • Solo recorded video: such as a lecture done for people to view on their own time
  • Video Conferencing: a live synchronous event which may or may not be recorded for playback later
  • Group recorded video: a recording that needs to be made by more than one person who are not together.

What I've been hearing a lot recently is "I want to just use one tool for everything" meaning all 3 categories listed above.  And on the surface I agree with that statement, the fewer different tools the better.  And the tools that will do all three of those typically are Video Conferencing tools such as Zoom, Adobe Connect, or Big Blue Button (the conferencing tool built in to Canvas).  But for the first category of Solo Recorded Video, using a video conferencing tool can be overkill pulling resources away from others who need it for synchronous activities, and in some cases providing undesirable results.  

 

There are various tools which can be used for solo recorded video, some for screen capture and some for just plain video.  Examples include VidGrid, Canvas Studio, Screencast-o-matic, Camtasia and even the built in Canvas video recorder or your mobile phone/table.  When you use a tool like these virtually all of the "work" is being done by your device.  Only when the recording is done is it sent over the interwebs to a system to be hosted for viewing.

 

When you use a tool like Zoom to just make a solo recording, (especially a cloud recording) it is having to connect through the internet to Zoom servers to do the work.  That connection is like hopping on the highway with your car AND needing to maintain a speed of at least 45 miles per hour.  If you run into a traffic jam, (network congestion), the recording can suffer because not all of the data can get to Zoom in that constant minimum stream (bitrate).  Plus, just being out on the highway you are causing more congestion for everyone who might be holding a synchronous event. The other issue with some systems such as Zoom when using the Canvas integration; the cloud recordings are made available to your students as soon as they are processed. 

 

In comparison, when a solo recorded video gets sent up to a server over the interwebs, there is no need to maintain a minimum speed.  During times of congestion it may take 30 minutes instead of 10 to upload, but again that is not a problem because the recording has already been made. It just needs to get all of the data to the server eventually so the server can assemble them into a video presentation to be accessed by people on their own schedule. 

 

So obviously there are no hard and fast rules. Do I use Zoom sometimes to make solo recordings?  Yes. Does everyone have multiple tools available? No. So by all means use what you have available.  But if you are in a case where there are multiple tools available to you through your school, consider what the best tool is for the job. In these times of exponential increase of usage of various products, keep these things in mind and know that picking the best tool for the job can help improve your results, and impact work that others are doing as well.

 

#KeepTeaching

The Rickster

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