Leopold Koff was like most of us before COVID-19 turned our world upside down.
The supply chain and operations and purchasing management professor at Conestoga College commuted from Burlington to Kitchener to teach classes.
He’s never at all minded the commute, except on days with bad weather, like snow and rain. Some time in the car is always an innocent escape – time away from the computer, household chores, and people.
Then COVID-19 shut the world down.
With this, he began searching for new ways to keep students engaged in our new remote learning world. Sure, online learning has been around for quite some time; however, the pandemic forced most professors and students alike into a virtual classroom setting.
Remote teaching and learning became the new game in town, and it took getting used to on everyone’s part.
“The pandemic hit and before we knew it, remote teaching and learning became part of our everyday lives,” recalls Koff, who teaches in the college’s School of Business. “But we adapted, and we all learned how to deal with change. It wasn’t necessarily easy, but there are solutions.”
The LightBoard Depot Inc. is priced at about $2,000 (CDN), but it’s worth it, contends Koff. The LightBoard Depot Inc. is fascinating in its design and application as it utilizes a webcam, tripod, and a piece of glass that allows the user to broadcast to an audience in a conference, seminar, or classroom setting.
“My wife and I talked it over and we agreed that getting this technology was a smart move. I mean we saved a bunch on gasoline, parking fees, and maintenance fees for our vehicle, so I have eaten up the savings but it’s all for the benefit of the students,” he smiles.
With the world getting back to normal – thanks to the strong vaccination push from local, provincial, and federal governments, and leading health agencies – Koff doesn’t see remote learning going away anytime soon.
“The pandemic really changed the world and made us all think about how we do things,” he says. “Moving forward in the ‘new norm’ we will most likely see a hybrid model of teaching and learning; that is, a mix of in-class and remote, so I am happy to have The LightBoard as the students just love it. They are more engaged, and they feel connected with classes.”
The LightBoard Depot Inc. became popular during the pandemic and is now being used by scores of professors, teachers, instructors, and business, finance and healthcare professionals across Ontario and Canada.
Ask anyone using this new an innovative technology, and they will attest to one thing: The LightBoard Depot is now revolutionizing the way we present and generate online content.
“The LightBoard is a piece of glass positioned between the camera and the presenter and it allows you to draw in much the same way you would on a blackboard or a whiteboard,” explains Mike Justason during a live demo of the product.
Justason, who is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Engineering at McMaster University, is the brainchild behind bringing this new and innovative technology from the studio into the homes of educators. Six years ago, he was introduced to the concept of a lightboard studio at McMaster, and he became fascinated with its benefits for online learners. With this, he began creating several iterations of home-lightboards and also studied what was available on the market. Fast forward to the global pandemic changing the world, he dusted off his gear to teach online.
What’s interesting is that he is giving his Zoom presentation to the media from his son’s bedroom, and you wouldn’t even know it: a dark background and The LightBoard Depot Inc. – that’s all you see and in seconds you are immersed into his remote class that he broadcasts through a webcam on a tripod. And thanks to Free Open-Source-Software that is easy to use and readily accessible, his drawings and words are flipped so the audience can see them front on.
“If I have any kind of course content that really necessitates drawing, that’s no problem. The LightBoard will allow you to draw and effectively deliver the right content to your audience. More importantly, our new technology allows you to maintain eye contact. You can continuously face an audience and it helps to maintain that relationship between the student and the instructor which can be very challenging in online teaching,” he adds.
But wait, this new technology gets better.
The Lightboard also allows instructors to integrate other familiar methods for learning, like PowerPoint, videos, and so much more!
“Over the years, I’ve built up a whole bunch of PowerPoint slides and I can still use those with this new technology,” he says during his Zoom presentation to the media.
As the PowerPoint slides load up on the glass, Justason begins to underline and circle words to better interact with the audience.
“The students really enjoy this,” he says, “because they are engaged, and they are learning. The technology is also perfect for spreadsheets, word documents, PDFs, and videos – just click a button and the content appears together with the presenter in an interactive space.”
The technology is also completely compatible with all online teaching platforms, like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
Those in the post-secondary system enjoy using this new technology.
“I don’t know how I would have taught virtually without it,” says Christine Dicarlo, Professor at Mohawk College. The ability to transition from a school classroom to a makeshift classroom in your basement or home office is remarkable. Yes, you can jazz up your space but without kids in the class, it can be extra challenging to talk to just a screen. That’s where The LightBoard Depot Inc. comes in. The LightBoard is a piece of glass positioned between the camera and the presenter where you can then draw as you would on a blackboard.”
Erik Sorensen, McMaster University Astronomy & Physics Professor, says The LightBoard Depot Inc. is, “better than certainly a whiteboard or even chalk.” He explains that if you are thinking of buying a high-end iPad, or a laptop for doing your teaching, that The LightBoard Depot is the best way to go.
“What I like about it is that I don’t have to change my sort of style of teaching around too much,” Sorensen boasts. “Compared to writing on a blackboard or something like this, this is way nicer because you have the audience in front of you.”
The design allows the user to face their audience, speaking directly to them while maintaining eye contact. The user can work with The LightBoard in various spaces of their home with a 54-inch transparent screen.
“My desk is just on the other side of the screen. Whenever I need to teach here, I can just go over and get going,” Sorensen highlights.
The LightBoard Depot Inc. has plans to soon launch its mini version, which is ideal for travel or people teaching in smaller spaces.
“At first, I thought The LightBoard was complex but it’s easy to set up and very easy to use and I recommend that anyone who wants to give their remote classroom a real boost, then they should really consider using this technology,” says Koff. “It’s a great investment and most of all it benefits students who want to learn and obtain an education.”