Lightboard: Lasse illuminates distance learning

As the coronavirus swept over us, Lasse Alfredsson in the Department of Electrical Engineering was already well set up for distance teaching. He uses video films and a lightboard he built himself to make sure that the students can take part in teaching even though they can’t meet IRL at LiU.

Lasse Alfrdesson med sin Lightboard Lasse Alfredsson had just managed to perfect his presentation technique when the corona crisis hit, and LiU activated distance mode. THOR BALKHED

“I’m very happy that I can give the students high-quality teaching also in distance mode. And you could say that some parts are even better, since they now get to see the video material. I cover everything that I would have said in the lecture, and they can now access more material than they otherwise would have had”, he says.

Lasse is senior lecturer in the Computer Vision Laboratory in the Department of Electrical Engineering, ISY. He has always been interested in improving his teaching skills, and has experimented with several technical solutions to continuously raise the standard of his teaching and lectures.

In recent years, he has tested various methods to record videos and how to use them to support his teaching. He started using an iPad in a project financed by the Programme Board in Computer and Media Technology. In a few years, the course evaluations given by the students increased from an average of 3.8 to 4.7 as the videos were used, and he was nominated for LinTek’s teaching prize “The Golden Carrot”.

When he later saw a YouTube video with Professor Michael Peshkin using a lightboard, an idea was born about how to take his teaching methods and video technique to a higher level.

The light fantastic with a lightboard

In essence, a lightboard can be described as a large illuminated glass sheet on which the teacher can write and draw while recording a video at the same time. It’s a bit more troublesome to arrange the practical set-up, but the final result is highly appreciated by those who watch Lasse’s videos.

Lasse Alfrdesson med sin Lightboard Photo credit THOR BALKHED
Before recording, Lasse Alfredsson 
sizes up the lightboard to see how 
much will appear in the final video.
“This is something I can strongly recommend. I’ve invited feedback from the students, and most of them think that it’s extremely good”, says Lasse, who has produced several videos in the last week alone.

Can you envisage putting even more material onto video?
“The thought has occurred to me, but at the same time it raises the question of what I would do in lectures. Because they are an extremely important part. What should I use the lectures for if I move increasing amounts of teaching to videos? What I’m aiming at is that folk should obtain more knowledge and understanding in my lectures – not just the transfer of knowledge from the whiteboard to the students’ notes. Using recorded material frees up time to bring all the threads together and create a unity”, explains Lasse.

Time, technology and ideas

The lightboard project has been made possible by financing from the Pedagogic Development Group.
“The faculty board in the Faculty of Science and Engineering offers grants each year for projects in pedagogics”, Lasse explains. He has put not only money into the project but also a lot of time to create the best conditions for making videos.

The initial plan was to purchase a ready-to-use package with all the equipment. Delivery of this was, however, delayed and it turned out to be significantly more expensive than expected, so Lasse chose to find his own solutions. Everything from lighting, the video cameras and blackout curtains to the sound equipment has been carefully selected. With time, he has subsequently tested and optimised everything to create optimal recordings. Along the way, he has exchanged experiences and discussed ideas with communications officer Thor Balkhed, who built a similar lightboard set-up at Campus Norrköping.

The future: The one-button studio

Lasse Alfrdesson med sin Lightboard Photo credit THOR BALKHED
The lightboard pen is similar
to that usually used for whiteboards
with a heavier ink to give sheen,
making it a bit more difficult to erase.
 
At the moment, it’s a bit too complicated for an untrained person to use the studio for recording, but this is something he is hoping will be possible in the future. One idea that had been raised is to try to build a “one-button studio”.
The ambition is that a teacher will be able to come to the studio, switch on the equipment, insert a USB memory stick, and press a button. The illumination in the lightboard will switch on and the camera start rolling. When the teacher finishes, the film is on the USB, ready to use.

“I would like to see LiU build such a system, so that any teacher can operate it easily, without needing specialist knowledge”, says Lasse.

Right from the start, Lasse has intended that the project benefit others. He has had a greater purpose – to inspire others in the Faculty of Science and Engineering and, indeed, all others who teach at Linköping University.

Will the students get to see more videos in the future?
“Oh yes – now that I’ve come this, far I’m pretty satisfied with the quality aspects. But there are some factors that can be improved. For example, when I’m making the videos I find it a bit awkward that I see myself”, says Lasse.

He continues: “I notice some things when I see myself on video. It’s interesting to see and hear, but it can also be a bit awkward. On the other hand, it means that there is room for improvement.”

Like what, for example?
“It can be anything from the way I speak and move to how long or short the video is. It can be that I get irritated from a noticeable sound when I put the cap back on a pen to stop it drying out. It’s the sort of thing you may not think about at the time, but when you see the video later, it’s irritating. So there’s a lot to be improved – from very small things to very big ones.”

Lasse Alfrdesson med sin Lightboard Photo credit THOR BALKHED Lasse Alfredsson writes on his side of the glass, and creates the mirror image afterwards.

Lasse’s advice

• Keep your videos short: five to ten minutes is a good length.
• Use videos to cover simple topics that take valuable lecturing time, and topics that the students need more time to grasp. Videos are particularly useful for the latter, since students can pause the film and rewatch parts that they didn’t get hold of the first time.
• Make sure that you have high-quality sound and lighting. This is really important.
• If you are using remote teaching, make sure that you get everyone involved in some way. For example, ask the students to switch on their web camera to make the contact more natural when holding a video call.
• Don’t forget the nurturing aspect of your role as teacher. How are the students faring? This isn’t as easy when you meet them digitally.
• More of Lasse’s videos are available on his YouTube channel.

Translated by George Farrants

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And this is the result

The video shows how to calculate the Fourier transform of a dirac delta function and the Fourier transform of a constant (x(t)=1). In the latter case, the Fourier transform doesn’t exist according to the basic definition, since x(t) is not absolutely integrable. It does, however, exist in the distributional meaning, since we accept dirac deltas in the frequency domain.

Lightboard to explain research

The lightboard is eminently suitable to present research to non-specialist audiences, particularly in a field whose concepts are difficult to explain. This example is from the Laboratory of Organic Electronics.

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