In young children, poor grades often have a surprising cause—they need glasses.
Being unable to see the board in the classroom makes it difficult, if not impossible, for students to learn. It’s an ah-ha moment for parents and children alike, as kids don’t often realize there’s anything wrong with their vision (it’s normal for them, after all) and parents might not see the same warning signs that teachers are privy to.
But why are we talking about kids getting glasses? It’s simple—students perform better when they can clearly see their teachers and the whiteboard behind them. So why are so many teachers content to use poor-quality built-in webcams in distance learning?
Every teacher running a virtual classroom has their own method of conveying lessons. Some have actual whiteboards available that they use, while others use a webcam as a document camera. Some might simply hold up notes to the screen periodically. But how sure are you that your students can clearly see, and thus absorb, your lessons?
In this article, we’ll highlight the benefits of using an HD webcam for online classes over a built-in or integrated webcam that came with your laptop.
What’s an HD webcam?
HD stands for high definition, which means an HD webcam is a high definition webcam. So, what is high definition video? For our purposes, we’ll define an HD webcam as a webcam with at least 1080p resolution and an aspect ratio of 16:9.
Some people consider 720p resolution to be HD in regards to webcams. However, webcams with at least 1080p resolution offer a more detailed video of you and your lessons and are widely available. If you have the choice between the two, go with 1080p.
What’s wrong with my built-in webcam?
Before we talk about why you shouldn’t rely heavily on the webcam that came built into your laptop, we would be remiss to not mention the pros of those built-in webcams. It’s convenient. And that’s about it.
That’s because integrated webcams are built for convenience, not quality. When you compare a built-in webcam to a USB webcam, you’ll find that the integrated built-in webcam offers:
- Lower resolution, which results in video with less detail
- Lower frame rate, which makes video look jumpy and less smooth
- Plastic parts that are prone to breaking and scratching
- No light correction, which means your lighting has to be just right or you’ll be completely in the dark or washed out
- Poor autofocus, if there’s any autofocus at all
What are the benefits of using an HD webcam?
The most obvious benefit of using an HD webcam is higher video quality. When we compare HD webcams to integrated or built-in webcams, we find:
- Higher resolution, which means your students will see more detail
- Higher frame rate, which means your movement on the screen will look smooth and natural rather than choppy and distracting
- A glass lens, which is going to produce a sharper image because glass is clearer than plastic and less prone to scratching
- Automatic light correction, so you don’t have to worry if your lighting isn’t perfect
- Autofocus, so you’re not blurry even if you move around
But what does all that mean for your students? As it turns out, it could mean improvements in student engagement and lessons that are easier to understand.
To put it bluntly, it's easier to look at a screen for a long period of time and feel engaged when you're looking at quality video. Unless your lessons are as engaging as The Blair Witch Project, it’s just not fun to stare at a grainy, jumpy footage.
Quality facetime is important for building rapport and a relationship with your students. Even though we can’t always safely get that connection in person, having a higher resolution webcam is a step in the right direction.
You’re probably used to scanning the classroom to read visual cues from your students. If they’re bored or not understanding a lesson, it’s pretty clear just by looking at their faces. But have you considered that students are also reading your body language and visual cues?
That’s right, students are looking at your posture, facial expressions and more. “A teacher’s body language has a strong (read ever-lasting) impression on students,” according to personality development trainer Abhijeet D Mandve, “therefore, it is the need of the hour to use it effectively in the teaching process.”
A few of those visual cues include:
- Conveying confidence in your teaching with your posture.
- Making “eye contact” with students through the screen.
- Nodding along when students are participating in a discussion.
- Smiling or conveying warmth and safety to your students.
Chances are, you were already working to convey positive body language and visual cues to your students when you were in a classroom together. But for those tools you’ve learned from years in the classroom to work via a webcam, your students have to actually be able to see you clearly.
Show you care
Simply put, investing in your video shows your students that you care about their experience. Just like taking the time to decorate your classroom shows that you want them to have a productive school year with you. You might have even spent time staging your virtual classroom! If so, an HD camera is the best way to showcase your hard work.
Students can better read any physical examples you might use
Without an HD webcam, lessons you write on a chalkboard are difficult for students to see.
Some teachers rely on visual examples more than others. Whether you’re using a physical globe to illustrate flight paths or mixing yellow and blue paint to show how it makes green, your physical lessons are going to fall flat if students can’t clearly see what you’re doing.
If you’re the kind of teacher who likes to show physical examples to illustrate lessons, an HD webcam is going to make your lessons more effective.
Last but certainly not least, video from an HD webcam makes it easier to read any text or writing you display on camera. That might be a whiteboard you use to jot down notes or an overhead camera that you’re using as a document camera the way you’d normally use an overhead projector.
If your resolution is low, those notes you’re taking for your students simply won’t be legible. And if your frame rate is less than 30 frames per second and your writing surface isn’t perfectly steady, your video feed will probably look like it’s jumping around. That will make it even harder for students to read and copy your notes.
What webcam is best for online teaching?
The Logitech C930E is a plug-and-play USB webcam that offers 1080p resolution and 30FPS.
The best webcam for online teaching is easy to use, works with any operating system, offers at least 1080p resolution, and offers at least 30 frames per second.
We recommend USB webcams because they’re affordable, are reliable and are plug-and-play. They work on almost any computer with ease, and there are a lot of options available that work with different budgets and needs.
For example, the Logitech C930E is certified for business use and offers 1080p HD quality at 30 FPS. But that’s not the only option that’s well-suited for teachers. Here are a few more of our favorite webcams for distance learning.
We understand that distance learning isn’t always fun for teachers. But please try to remember that it’s not necessarily easy for your students, either. They want to build relationships and rapport with you as much as you do with them. And they want to learn.
HD video is no substitute for the quality of real, in-person interactions, but it does feel more natural to look at and converse with. Anything that makes remote learning a little bit easier on students and teachers alike is a win.
While you’re looking at options to improve your video quality in your virtual classroom, consider upgrading your audio as well. Just like an HD webcam improves your interactions with students, high quality audio can boost student performance in the classroom. Click to learn more about boosting student engagement with good audio.