Teaching Tools

Creating Online Content

Videos, Podcasts, and more...

There are tens of thousands of tutorials out there on how to make videos.  I HIGHLY recommend starting with Michael Wesch’s series “Teaching Without Walls – Online Teaching Tips“.

I also recommend the stuff the guys at TeachingEntrepreneurship.org are doing. Justin, Frederico, and Doan are all great teachers and have been very generous in sharing their experience. You can also check out their YouTube channel.

If you’re looking to learn how to do something specific (e.g. how to get decent lighting for your videos) and Google is failing you, let me know.  I’ve probably run across something related and can point you in the right direction.

My recommendation is to publish your video content on YouTube whenever possible.  There are two different privacy modes you should consider when doing this..

  • Public – this makes your video visible to anyone, anywhere.  Your video will show up in YouTube and Google searches, etc.  I use this mode for any content videos I want to be able to easily share with my students (and perhaps others).
  • Unlisted – this makes the video available to anyone who has the direct link to it (so if you know exactly where to look for it, you can watch it) but it will not show up publicly in the list of videos on your YouTube channel and it will not be indexed by search engines.
  • Private – I don’t really use this mode, but it’s worth mentioning so you know the difference between private and unlisted.  Private videos are not accessible to ANYONE except for the specific people you opt in to giving access.  This also means that anyone you want to share them with must have a YouTube (aka google) login and must be logged in to watch the video.

Here are some tools you can use to produce video content

  • YouTube (free – online) – YouTube itself has some rudimentary video creation/editing tools built in to the standard account. They are very limited but might be enough to get the job done if you just need to do some simple editing.
  • OBS Studio (free – PC/Mac) – Primarily a tool for “live” streaming but you can record it too… think about this like recording an excellent stage production.  The work goes into doing the live performance itself and there’s relatively little post-production work. I have used this extensively.
  • Screencast-o-Matic (free and premium licences – PC/Mac) – This is probably the simplest of the screen capture tools.  Produces pretty simple videos with a “picture-in-picture” effect (powerpoint/document/browser full-screen and video of you as a talking head in the corner).  Simple and cheap but relatively limited. My partner in crime (i.e. teaching) and good friend, Chris Sutter has used this extensively.
  • Camtasia ($169 education license – PC/Mac) – Just like Screencast-o-Matic but with WAY more features… graphics, multiple cameras, robust editing tools, etc.
  • ScreenFlow ($129 – Mac) – Very similar to Camtasia in terms of function and features.  Mac users might like it better than Camtasia. I have used this extensively.
  • DaVinci Resolve (free – PC/Mac) – This is a professional-grade video editing tool.  It’s very powerful but has a steeper learning curve.
  • OpenShot (free – PC) – this is the closest free PC equivalent to iMovie that I have found.  I’ve only played with it for a few minutes so no idea how good it might be for extended use.  Your mileage will vary


I highly recommend the following hardware to get started…

  • A smartphone – this is a great way to capture video and the cameras on today’s phones are typically much higher quality than anything built into your computer
  • A simple tripod – I like mini size ones like this (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y2VP3C7) because they’re portable and easy to use as handle for shooting on the fly.
  • A lapel mic – these are technically called “lavalier” microphones.  They VASTLY improve the audio quality of your videos and are super cheap. You can plug them into your computer or phone (sometimes requires an adapter)  Here’s the one I use (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01AG56HYQ) which set me back something like $35… but there are lots of them out there for closer to $10 if you’re willing to take. a chance or dig through a lot of amazon reviews.  PRO TIP: getting a mic with a REALLY long cord is a make/break feature.  Mine has an extension that puts it close to 8′ in total.  This lets me plug into my phone and basically shoot wherever without having to worry about being crowded.
  • A cheap light – I have this little battery powered ring light that simply clamps onto my phone (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0753F4CDG).  It’s not a substitute for a nice, big, diffuse light source (like a big window) but it does a decent job of putting a little light on your face and lighting up your eyes (adds that twinkle you see in all professional videos).


Here’s some other stuff I’ve dropped money on since the pandemic hit.  All of it has proven useful and it’s fun to play with, but definitely lower ROI than the basic gear listed above (and not at all necessary to make decent videos)…

You’re welcome to borrow any of this from me anytime.  I’m sure my family and I will get a lot of use out of them, but they’ll still be tragically under-used, I’m certain of that.


There’s tons of free content available for you to use in creating your video content.

HOWEVER… you have to be careful about how these can be legally used. The key words you are looking for in any stock content are “royalty free” or “creative commons” but you will want to look at the licensing details for any source of content before you use it.

I suggest you watch Michael Wesch’s video “Engage Students Online: Off-Camera Options” where he lists a lot of good resources that are usable for our purposes as educators.

It’s also pretty easy to record audio content (i.e. podcasts) which I’m just now looking into for course content.  Once again, Michael Wesch has a really great example of doing this in his video “The Mixtape: Creating Podcasts for Online Teaching”.

I recommend the following software for basic audio recording/editing

Videoconferencing and Online Collaboration

Zoom/WebEx, Whiteboards, Canvas

In my experience, Zoom is FAR superior to WebEx in every respect (the only exception being that WebEx Teams offers a persistent team-room space right out of the box.) All that said, either one can work depending on what you want to do. Here are some tips for each


  • Setting Up AdHoc vs Recurring Meetings – I use ad-hoc meetings (where the meeting is created for one-time use and deleted forever afterward) for any one-time one-on-one or team meetings. I use a recurring meeting (one that persists indefinitely until it is manually deleted) for recurring scheduled meetings like a weekly class session or office hour time block at a set, recurring day/time. Setting up Zoom meetings is easy once you know the basics.  I made a quick video (5min) to show you how… https://youtu.be/__-bSyEj3nk
  • Breakout Rooms – Zoom has several different ways to use breakout rooms that I’ve found useful…
    • Manual Breakout Room Creation/Assignment – will allow you to manually put people in breakout rooms on the fly while your meeting is in progress (useful if you are trying to create an impromptu “green room” during a meeting to let a guest speaker test out their tech, etc.) Learn more here… (https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/206476313)
    • Randomly Assigned Breakout Rooms – You can also create breakout rooms on the fly, during a meeting, and randomly assign people to rooms.  You just tell it how many rooms you want to create (e.g. maybe you have 30 people and you want to put them in 6 rooms of 5 each) and Zoom automatically sets everything up on the fly.  You can also still manually (re)assign people if needed after Zoom makes the initial assignments. This is very useful for discussion groups/activities in class or to pair up people for discussion. Learn more here… (https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/206476313)
    • Pre-Assigned Breakout Room Assignments – You can also feed Zoom a list of expected participants (i.e. your class roster) and build breakout room assignments ahead of time.  Then, when the meeting is running, you just initialize breakout rooms and everyone gets put into the groupings you have pre-ordained. This is useful for creating team breakouts. Learn more here… (https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/360032752671)
  • Virtual Cameras – Zoom supports virtual cameras which allows you to use tools like OBS Studio and other streaming tools.
  • Live-Streaming – Zoom supports live streaming to Facebook and YouTube.
  • Powerpoint/Keynote Picture-in-Picture – (New as of Version 5.2.0 of Zoom) You can now, via screen sharing, run a Powerpoint or Keynote presentation as a virtual background with your webcam video as a floating picture-in-picture in front.  This allows you to easily put your face as a talking head along with your slides in the same window and students will see them together automatically.  Learn more here… (https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/360046912351-Sharing-slides-as-a-Virtual-Background)


  • Connect with Multiple Devices – One REALLY neat trick you can do is to join your own Zoom/WebEx meeting with a second device (e.g. your phone).  In effect, it will appear as though there are two of you on the meeting.  The advantage here is that you can use the main device (e.g. your computer where you are the host of the call) to run the meeting, manage participants/breakout rooms/waiting room/etc, screen share, and the like.  Meanwhile, you can use your second device (e.g. your phone) as a second camera that you can carry around the classroom, use as an impromptu document camera, etc.  NOTE: the key to making this work is to make sure the audio on this second device is completely disabled (so, when zoom/webex prompts you for access to your microphone/speakers when you connect, you need to hit “cancel”) if you don’t do this, both of your devices will be sending/receiving audio and you’ll get horrible feedback.
  • Play Music – You can play music on your meeting without your video disappearing and disrupting your ability to interact with your participants.  To do this you still use the screen sharing function, BUT go to the “advanced” screen sharing options (it’s just one additional click from the initial screen sharing menu) and select audio only.

Miro is a REALLY great online whiteboard tool that I intend to use extensively.  It has great features, scales infinitely, has lots of easy-to-understand tutorial videos (which you won’t really need because it’s super intuitive), AND has an extremely full-featured premium license that they offer FREE to educators to host an unlimited number of whiteboards (all your students need is the free basic account to participate, although they also have a free student license upgrade if they want).

You can get to Miro here… (https://miro.com/)

The instructions for requesting a free educator license (or the student license) are here… (https://help.miro.com/hc/en-us/articles/360017730473-Education-Plan)

Classroom Tech & Techniques

Using tech in the hybrid classroom

When I say “Live Hybrid Class Session”, I mean a live (not recorded) class session where some participants are in the classroom with the instructor and others are joining in online via Zoom/WebEx

My first recommendation would be to limit the use of these kind of sessions as much as you can (I will only be using this format when I’m forced to by fiat.) In my view, this approach will always be of significantly lower quality than 100% online or 100% in-person live sessions. Trying to make the experience work equally well for both the online and in-person participants simultaneously is essentially impossible (at least given currently available technology and certainly when you must also incorporate social distancing, PPE, etc), and trying to do so will not only make your job MUCH harder but will also frustrate students.  Much like trying to have a simultaneous conversation with someone on the phone and with someone in the room with you, there are real trade-offs and it’s impossible to fully attend to both people at the same time. 

SO if you are able to teach ANY OTHER WAY, I would go with that option. In the event you must do this, however, I strongly recommend designing your class activities in a way that accepts the fundamental trade-off this format forces on you.  For example, focus on making a discussion with in-person students effective and ask online students to take on a bit more of an observer/commenter role  (rather than trying to include everyone in one big simultaneous conversation) then switch. Better to give each group of students a great experience half the time and accept the others’ will just be ok until it’s their turn than to give everyone an equally terrible experience the entire time.

Second, I would suggest you also try to limit the amount of screen sharing you do in this scenario (meaning, use powerpoint sparingly or not at all if possible).  This will allow all students (both in-person and online) see you and each other rather than slides and no real connection to the live class.

Third, consider recruiting a student or two who are in-person to serve as the “chatmaster”.  Encourage all students (especially those online) to make heavy use of the chat on Zoom/WebEx.  Ask the “chatmaster” to help make sense of that online, typed discussion and give it a real human voice.

Finally, it’s likely the only person everyone will be able to audibly hear during these sessions is you (because you’ll have a microphone). So, be sure to repeat what others say so all can hear (like you would in a big auditorium where only you have the mic).

Livestreaming Tricks with OBS

This is pretty advanced stuff. I will post more info here as I gain more experience with this (planning to use it extensively starting Fall 2020).

Before you dive into any new technology (and before you feel intimidated) consider how you can do a lot of pretty cool stuff just using Zoom.  Here are a few things to try…

  • Combine Video and Slides/Graphics using Zoom’s built-in virtual background/screen share feature – This is a pretty simple way to combine multiple video sources into a single stream. (https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/360046912351-Sharing-slides-as-a-Virtual-Background)
  • Use your phone as a second camera – By logging into the same Zoom meeting twice (once with your computer where you host the meeting and again with your phone) you can effectively show two video sources simultaneously.  This could be very useful as a document or whiteboard camera or just to have the ability to move around the physical space to show something.  A little desktop-sized tripod is a useful accessory for this.
  • Play Music – You can play music on your meeting without your video disappearing and disrupting your ability to interact with your participants.  To do this you still use the screen sharing function, BUT go to the “advanced” screen sharing options (it’s just one additional click from the initial screen sharing menu) and select audio only.

Try these out before you dive into OBS or any other new tools/gear.  Zoom might be all you need, but even if it’s not, these will help you wrap your head around what kinds of things you want to be able to do when you move on to more advanced tools.