Online Teaching Tool Kit part 2: The PC

After teaching online for a number of years, it became very clear to me that a significant weakness every quarter was the quality of my lecture and announcement videos. I had little to no video editing experience, and while I could record a video using my webcam, and could record a lecture using powerpoint, the overall result was subpar at best and frustrating at worst.

Without editing, the lectures and videos retained gaps and other issues. The problem wasn’t just one of learning the right tricks. Each time I tried to edit videos on my Fuller provided laptop, something went wrong and otherwise was too frustrating.

Given that these videos were not just for teaching but in many ways were the main ways students connected with me and my approach, I realized I needed to make some changes.

Over the course of a year I started looking into a desktop that could handle such tasks smoothly, and soon realized that my goals would be best served by starting from scratch, and building a PC specifically suited for video editing and online teaching.

I have a relative who works for a major processor company, and in addition have access to occasional resources which provided discounts or even free components.  I had about half of the needed parts, but was not able to get over that final hurdle.

Fortunately, the Teaching and Learning department at Fuller seminary offered an Instructional Improvement Mini-Grant, and it came along at a perfect time.  Through the grant I was able to get a processor (at a substantive discount), a motherboard, computer memory, and a video card.  I already had a case, a cooler, power supply, and multiple hard drives.

For those with the technical curiosity, here’s the specific parts:

  • CPU:
    Intel Core i7-8700 3.2 GHz 6-Core Processor
  • CPU Cooler:
    Corsair H115i PRO 55.4 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler
  • Motherboard:
    Asus ROG MAXIMUS X HERO (WI-FI AC) ATX LGA1151 Motherboard
  • Memory:
    Corsair Vengeance LPX 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3000 Memory
    (I have since doubled this, making for 32GB)
  • Storage:
    Western Digital Black NVMe 500 GB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive
    (I had or added a couple other lower quality M.2 drives and another 1TB SSD)
  • Video Card:
    Asus GeForce GTX 1060 6GB 6 GB Dual Video Card
  • Case:
    Fractal Design Define R5 Blackout Edition ATX Mid Tower Case
  • Power Supply:
    EVGA SuperNOVA G3 750 W 80+ Gold Certified Fully Modular ATX Power Supply
  • Operating System:
    Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit

It took an afternoon to put everything together, and I was wonderfully pleased right away.  I have an academic subscription to Adobe for using their design programs, and was able to get into more training, using a local library provide Lynda.com account (which sadly my library has since stopped providing).

The Adobe subscription also comes in really handy for my church work and other online tasks. Because the hardware works so well, I have a lot more creative curiosity about doing even more.

Everything simply worked and worked fast, saving me time and bother that was preventing such work in the past.  I was able to get to design work that week.

I use OBS for video recording and live streaming. Which is both free and fairly robust for all my goals, better than most of the much more costly programs I tried out on trials.

Over the last year, I’ve been able to edit all my previously done course videos and lectures, and have much sharper new production. I have gone from students complaining about the videos to noting their helpfulness.

Mostly, students are not directly aware of the editing process, they simply experience much more fluid and cohesive lectures and more polished videos, saving them time and frustration, helping all my effort in the class work to be as conducive to learning as possible.

Indeed, in all my online efforts, both in preparing videos and in live conversations, this computer has significantly added both quality and ease of use.

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