The Audio-Visual department addressed the unique challenges of teaching in the Welding program. Using special cameras, microphones and wireless projection technologies, AV has improved the running of the program for both learners and faculty.
When we think of traditional teaching, most of us conjure up an image of an instructor at the front of the room and learners in rows of desks. But how can instructors teach and address learners in a setting in which the noise level is a constant 85 dB and can easily gust upwards? How can instructors demonstrate a procedure in real time to a group of learners that can no longer huddle up to watch a close-up view of blinding light and sparks? These issues are further complicated by the need to teach from behind a mask or shield during a pandemic in addition to the regular personal protection required for welding. This fall, we were approached by the Welding department to offer a solution to these challenges.
The first major hurdle for instructors is being heard by learners. Instructors attest to struggling daily to not lose their voices as they try to be heard above the extreme noise, with masks adding to their struggle. We in the AV department are working to overcome these issues by using over-the-ear wireless microphones and installing overhead directional speakers in each of the welding teaching pods. This will allow learners to hear instructions in the welding pods without the need to huddle up, and instructors will no longer have to yell out directions.
Capturing a weld with a camera is challenging. The process goes against most principles of photography as it involves balancing low light and transitioning to extremely brightness repeatedly. There are specially designed welding cameras that cost in excess of $30K, which isn’t a fiscally responsible option for the program. Our video production expert, Ryan Robinson, and Welding faculty members were able to come up with a reasonable solution with a fixed camera, darkening glass, and a telephoto lens that broadcast to the instructional monitors throughout the space. Again, this minimizes the need for students to gather around to watch a welding procedure.
Welding faculty members were looking for a way to free themselves from being tethered to a podium. Much of their content delivery revolves around explaining concepts through drawing diagrams, which lends itself to utilizing a stylus and a tablet. Combining our AirMedia solution and teaching over Wi-Fi with iPads, instructors are now able to present their content from anywhere in the room cable free. Our short-term goal is to set up each of the four teaching pods with its own display and wireless presentation tool. Each pod will also be linked to the welding demo camera feed to maintain social distance.
While this is still a work in progress, initial feedback from Welding faculty has been positive. If you have an instructional challenge in your area, the Audio-Visual department is always happy to consult with you and address any specialty needs you may have.