Online instructors must realize they’re performing

Whirring fans, squeaky chairs, vibrating computers and sounds coming through windows can disrupt audio
By: | May 6, 2020
Instructors must hone their remote teaching skills because a noisy online environment can distract students and lead to less retention of information.Instructors must hone their remote teaching skills because a noisy online environment can distract students and lead to less retention of information.

Professors teaching online classes—whether for a live feed or a lecture capture—need to be exceedingly aware of their surroundings.

Rustling papers or typing notes, the noises that are picked up by microphones, can be pretty irritating to viewers and listeners.

Plus, that’s a problem an AV tech can’t fix with software or hardware, says George Chacko, the senior manager of A/V services at Pace University in New York.

“One of the biggest factors with audio is user presence and awareness,” says Chacko, whose presentation at UB Tech® 2019 in Orlando covered audio and video for online collaboration. “A lot of times people are too involved in the presentation and don’t realize they’re making ambient noise.”


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Presenters who speak softly or who don’t adjust microphones to suit their height can make audio harder to hear.

Whirring fans, squeaky chairs, vibrating computers, fingers drumming on tables and sounds coming through windows can also disrupt the audio, particularly when listeners are using headphones, adds says Ian Wilkinson, the director of technology support services at Texas Tech University’s College of Media & Communication.

Poor audio also causes accessibility problems, making videos harder to caption.

What this all means is that instructors need to treat online learning as a performance.

“A noisy environment is distracting and leads to less retention of information,” Wilkinson says. “The stuff we tune out as people, the mic doesn’t tune it out. If a video is noisy or the sound is terrible, students will not enjoy the presentation and not learn as much from the content.”

Read the other stories in our “Sound Quality in Distance Learning” series:

  1. 5 steps for making online learning sound great
  2. You need top-notch microphones for distance learning.
  3. So, train those presenters!
  4. IT and AV leaders should stay in touch with instructors.
  5. Instructors must learn to multitask.


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