Thursday, March 15, 2012

Teaching over Skype -- some thoughts

One of the observations that I have made after the first few lessons over Skype is that it is difficult to use the whiteboard effectively over webcam. In particular,

  • Writing is difficult to see, especially when the network connection becomes degraded (and video quality worsens);
  • There can be glare on the whiteboard surface;
  • The webcam shows only a very small amount of the board, and it can be tricky not to block the board, and to capture everything in the shot.
Due to these problems, I've noticed that it is useful to share the desktop screen instead, and to digitally display the circuit (and other diagrams) so that students can copy them down with ease. To this end, I've been using the MITx's built-in circuit simulator environment, but have found some alternatives that are also quite nice.

While browsing the web for some lightweight and friendly circuit diagram editors, I found CircuitLab (screenshot below) which turned out to be quite nice for my drawing purposes. Interestingly, the two guys who created CircuitLab are two former graduates from MIT (few years older than me) that I've met at the Institute!

Also a fairly massive solar panel (like a picture frame!) came in today:

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