Improving recorded audio quality in a classroom.

Update: In all teaching spaces there should now be a notice (usually fixed to the lectern) indicating the best camera and microphone to choose when setting up a Panopto recording. Using the recommended microphone is likely to improve the audio quality of the recording, which, in turn, improves the quality of automated captions.

Have you ever listened back to your Panopto recording of an activity in a classroom and discovered:

  • the audio quality is poor?
  • the audio quality varies as you move around the room?
  • it is difficult to hear students when they ask questions?
  • the captions generated in Panopto are of poor quality and require significant effort to put right?

Here are a few tips and suggestions for different classroom set-ups.

uwe microphones

Lavalier/lapel microphone

If a room has a lapel microphone these should be the default choice for teaching. If attached appropriately the audio quality will be consistent as you move around the room. If you move closer to a student the microphone will record them, however the lapel microphones work best when the speaker is close.

The video below from Rode Microphones contains some useful tips. The first three minutes cover the basics.

Handheld microphones

Handheld microphones  provide excellent quality audio and are able to be passed between speakers in the room. This means that they can be handed to or pointed towards students so that their comment or question may be amplified and recorded.

Gooseneck microphones

The gooseneck microphones are directional and only pick up and record audio when the speaker is directly in front of them, with the microphone pointing in the right direction. They will not record the audience and quality will reduce rapidly as the speaker moves away from the microphone e.g. standing in front of the podium.

Ceiling microphones

ceiling microphone

Most general teaching spaces have a webcam that drops down from the ceiling. It is the microphone in the webcam that captures the audio in these rooms. This means that the audio quality is not of the same standard as when using a lapel or handheld microphone. The webcam is pointed towards the lectern, and this is the ideal place for the speaker to ensure the best quality audio.

Multiple speakers/microphones

Multiple microphones can be used at the same time if the room has them (e.g. 1r26, 2q49, 4q56, 1L1 etc.). Any live microphones will be recorded in a Panopto session using the default audio settings in Panopto. If a room has both a lapel microphone and a handheld microphone it is useful to have the handheld microphone switched on, muted and in a convenient position ready to be unmuted and used to capture additional speakers.

Top tips

  • use Panopto to record activities
  • repeat student questions into a microphone to ensure they are heard and recorded
  • practice using the equipment in advance
  • make a test recording to check the quality of the audio recording
  • look at the audio bar in Panopto, speak into the microphone and check that sound is being picked up (see below)

image of Panopto recording level tool

Further information

Further technical advice and information about the UWE microphones may be found in the ‘Panopto – event capture’ training course.

Image courtesy of Pexels