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Make your #onlinelearning experience more personal with a #lightboard

In August 2019 the DVCA at UC wanted to invest in some light boards as he had seen the educational benefits at the previous university he worked for. I was tasked with putting in a comprehensive bid to an annual equipment fund and, if successful, follow the process through to implementation working with AV Services, and Library Services. As of March 2020 the Library houses UC's first ever Lighboard, and academic staff are putting it to good use.

The Lightboard is a glass panel filled with light which stands between the teacher and the audience/camera. The teacher faces the camera (viewers) and writes on the glass using liquid chalk (for best results), the results glow on the glass, and a camera is used to record the session. The camera we use flips the image horizontally so the writing appears in the correct orientation without having to flip it in a post production process.

The videos capture the face and hand movements/gestures of the teacher, as well as the hand written content and audio, making them engaging and personable. The end result can be made even more social and engaging and enhance learning if a small audience is present to ask questions or hold discussion with. This group would be representative of a larger cohort to ask questions and seek clarification when needed. The light board video feed can also be used to deliver a live fully online tutorial/lecture whereby students can see what is being down on the board and ask questions/hold discussions in real time.


Given the engaging nature of the solution it is best to experience a presentation using the light board. Here's a one-minute video intro to the Lightboard

The aim of the lightboard is to:
  • Enable staff to retain aspects of face-to-face teaching as they migrate to the online environment, adding flexibility for students while retaining the best aspects of traditional in-class teaching.
  • Enables students to benefit from highly engaging, personable and information rich content where communication is multi-modal, due to teachers being able to show working out and explain content more naturally with gesture and facial expression.
This technique will enable teachers across my university to create engaging content that enables communication in far more detail than other methods such as straight video or desktop capture. This tool enables teachers to show working out and thought processes which is critical for revealing and developing in students disciplinary ways of knowing and thinking. This approach is perfectly suited to fully online courses where the benefits of face-to-face human communication that are so essential to learning have been difficult to replicate.

The background and inspiration for the light board approach can be found in an educause blog post here: 
According to this article, the light board was intended to solve the following problem two teachers faced when moving from teaching face to face to online courses:

preserve the immediacy afforded by drawing by hand while lecturing, but turning away from the camera to draw was even more unacceptable than turning away from a live classroom”. The solution they found was “a transparent glass board with lighting inside the glass, so that drawing "glows" on the board in front of the instructor. Video could be filmed from the opposite side of the board, so that the instructor always faced the camera. A horizontal flip of the image obviated the need to learn to write backwards.” © 2018 Matt Anderson, James Frazee, and Michael Peshkin. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0  International License

Jim Stigler (a Psychology Professor  at UCLA) commented in a testimonial that 

“"Our research shows that gesture is critical for learning from online video, yet most videos don't even show the hands of the presenter. Learning Glass adds a whole new channel of communication between teacher and learner, and increases comprehension and understanding."”

The same technology can be adapted for existing lecture spaces, see Erik 

“A Blackboard for the 21st Century: An Inexpensive Light Board Projection System for Classroom Use”.

If you want to look into off the shelf products two board suppliers I know if are: 

Revolution Lightboards

Learning Glass - The original lightboard

You can also build them yourself!


Erik S. Skibinski, William J. I. DeBenedetti, Amnon G. Ortoll-Bloch, and Melissa A. Hines
Journal of Chemical Education 2015 92 (10), 1754-1756
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.5b00155


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