Gaming Tools for Teaching Online: Level Up

The current pandemic has upended the status quo for classrooms around the world. Many teachers are now learning the fundamentals of teaching online and doing their best to keep students engaged and motivated. For many, this means classroom content now takes the form of online presentations and the need to screen-capture content and record video.

Traditionally, screen capture software could be resource intensive, and the videos produced with the software could be sizeable enough to make streaming these videos challenging in low-bandwidth contexts. However, with the rise of video game streaming via websites like Twitch and Mixer, new tools for screen-capture and video recording are available and easier than ever to use.

Open Broadcasting System

Many of the techniques and infrastructure teachers can utilize in their online classes has been well practiced and streamlined by professional gamers. One such tool used by gamers, Open Broadcasting System or OBS, is open-source and freely available. It’s well worth exploring as a screen capture and video creation tool.

The main screen of OBS looks like this:

Open Broadcasting System home screen where materials can be staged before recording.

On the main screen, you will find two boxes: Scenes and Sources in the lower left corner. These are the locations where you can set up materials before recording.

Scenes: In OBS, scenes are your stage—where you can add all the items you would like to show on the screen at a time. You can create multiple scenes and switch between them during a video recording.

Sources: In the sources box, you can add inputs. Inputs are what you want to appear on screen, such as a PowerPoint, a camera feed, and a microphone input.

Open Broadcasting System scenes can be set with a variety of inputs from the Sources box.

Each scene can be set with a variety of source inputs, allowing you to switch quickly from a full screen PowerPoint or other media content to another scene that features your media content alongside video of you or an online whiteboard, for example.

Once your scenes and sources have been set, you can press “record,” and the file will be saved to your computer and ready for upload to your course management system, YouTube, or anywhere else you need.

Tips for Video-Based Teaching

Practice, practice, practice: As educators, we talk for a living, so it may seem easy to switch to video-based teaching, but without an audience of students, the feeling changes. Practice your content ahead of time.

Practice, but don’t memorize: It’s important to practice before recording, but be sure not to memorize or read off notes. Instead, have an outline of content you want to cover, but keep the content loose. Students respond better to conversational styles in online materials. Audiences engage more when they feel like they are being talked to and not being talked at.

Keep videos short: Students can find it challenging to sit through a 45–50 minute video. Instead, try to keep videos short—between 10 and 15 minutes. If you need more time than that, try making a series of videos. Or make a long video that can be edited into smaller segments using editing software such as Openshot.

Discord for Communication

Another great game-related tool for engaging students is Discord. Discord is an instant chat messaging system that also features voice-over-Internet functions and the ability to post a variety of audio, video, and image-based materials.

Discord allows people to set up private servers to communicate with others.

Discord is a great option for educators who lack a course management systems and need an effective way to communicate with students. However, before using it, be sure to read through Discord’s description and policies to help you decide it if is the best tool for you and your students.

Here’s hoping these two tools from the gaming world can help you make the best of your online teaching.

Until next month, play more games!

About Jeff Kuhn

Jeff Kuhn
Jeff Kuhn serves a split appointment at OHIO University, working for the Office of Instructional Innovation and in the Games Research and Immersive Design (Grid) Lab. He frequently delivers talks and keynote addresses on games and learning, game design, and the need for games literacy in educators. He is one of the founding moderators of the Electronic Village Online’s Minecraft MOOC, a community of practice for teachers learning to use Minecraft in the classroom. He has served on the TESOL CALL-IS steering committee, as the Gaming Special Interest Group chair for CALICO, and in the U.S. Department of State’s English Language Specialist program. His research interests include game-based learning, second language writing, and computer-assisted language learning.
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