Adventures in online lecturing mathematics to biochemists. Part 2.

In the last post, I described how I’ve converted Professor Elspeth Garman’s lecture notes from OHP to jupyter-notebooks, which is quite a jump, but I had to do so I could record the dozen lectures making up the course which started in October 2020.

So how did it go? Some things I learnt

  • scribbling on the ‘screen’ using a pen+graphics tablet worked really well but it did a bit of practice to be able to write legibly. (I used this one
  • you need more than one screen since you need Panopto to record a screen to capture the browser running jupyter and a second screen for the Panopto control window
  • using a lavalier microphone not only helped improve the audio but had the unexpected benefit of improving the automated captions (although it will always struggle with ‘maths speak’). I used this one.
  • having said that, don’t let your cat chew through your microphone cable, especially just before you need to record two lectures in the middle of pandemic when you can’t go out.
  • if you make a mistake or stumble for your words, don’t panic. Take a moment, and then start the sentence again – you can edit out the word salad later and it saves a lot of time compared to starting again.
  • you can talk faster and more fluently than in a lecture; on playback I think I sounded best at 1.5x speed…
  • setting up the jupyter-notebooks to automatically convert via LaTeX to PDF handouts took a bit of time but was a life-saver at times.

Next time

  • The warm-up exercises are a bit forced when recorded so I’d make more use of the quizzes within Panopto
  • I’d use Curtis the hand-puppet crow (see image) more to reinforce common misconceptions
  • I’d like to try making it a bit more like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure i.e. “if you know about logarithms, click [here] to move ahead to calculus”. As it is a series of recordings, it doesn’t have to be linear.
  • To make it even more relevant to Biochemistry, I’d add more examples and numbers from e.g. Cell Biology by the Numbers.

By Philip Fowler

Philip W Fowler is a computational biophysicist studying antimicrobial resistance working at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

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