Adam Jacobsson, distansundervisning hemifrån
Photo: Anna-Karin Landin

At Adam Jacobsson’s home in Solna, his office space has been transformed into a studio. Over one wall hangs a greenscreen, which makes it easy for him to get the particular digital background he prefers. Three light bulbs with SoftBox lighting studio equipment direct the light towards Adam as he stands in front of the computer’s camera.
As Director of Studies at the Department of Economics, one of Adam Jacobsson’s responsibilities is working with pedagogical development at the Department. The fact that he is curious about new technology and wants to make investments has of course been an advantage. The Department has covered some of the costs, but most of it he has bought in himself.

“An experiment that’s happening live“

“If I hadn’t been forced to, I don’t think I would have attempted teaching online. But actually, I think it’s been great fun. It feels somewhat like an experiment that’s happening live. Sure, I had to buy a new computer and everything, but I have use and benefit from it myself, too. I ‘really gotta have this,’ I think to myself, and it’s great fun cause now I have an excuse to buy gadgets,” Adam Jacobsson informs us.
However it is not necessarily the most advanced technical solutions that have been most important. Finding the proper arrangements to facilitate learning and get students engaged is more critical than the perfect lighting.
Adam Jacobsson tried out two somewhat different arrangements for his courses. For the course “Intermediate Microeconomics,” he recorded all his lectures in advance, in clips of 20-40 minutes.
“It’s a course with basics that all economists need to know, a lot of mathematics and derivation of formulas, a heavy course. So it’s useful that the students can pause in the video and replay a segment. I think it’s certainly important that students come physically to University campus, when possible, but I think we can gain efficiency by recording certain things.”

Tests and on-line hours for motivation

He put in voluntary rehearsal tests between the lectures, with the idea of motivating the students. For questions, he created scheduled on-line hours at the same time as regular lectures.
“I hope it gave the students some structure. In fact, I’ve never had this much student contact before. It’s been a positive experience.”
The second course, “Economic Strategic Thinking,” went live instead, due to that Adam does many experiments with the students at the lectures themselves. But it’s difficult to talk to a student group of 80–90 students over Zoom, and it’s hard to keep track of the chat alone by oneself. To interact with the students, he used a free app, Socrative, where the group can vote and follow along with the results. It’s something he highly recommends.
“The most important thing has been to do something that means that there is more interaction, such as the question app and scheduled on-line times for questions. Plus I think that a greenscreen gives me a freedom in teaching; it is easier to stand up and point in an image, almost like in a normal room. And I don’t think the students nod off as easily.”

Adam Jacobsson framför greenscreen.
Adam Jacobsson in front of the greenscreen at home. Photo: Anna-Karin Landin

Inspiration from YouTube

So just how did Adam Jacobsson go from never having taught online to embracing so much advanced technology?

He started by watching YouTube videos. A professor at KTH, Mats Ericson, had made some videos about how to use greenscreen and Open Broadcaster Software®, OBS. Adam Jacobsson started experimenting. At first, he hung a cloth over a line, but it was difficult to get an even background. Then after trying a few things he ordered a background with a stand. Then he tested out lighting. He purchased spotlights, and that didn’t work out at all; and after a bit of further googling he figured out that it was SoftBox lighting he needed. He learned how to manage the software and purchased a Stream Deck, a small-format control panel that allows quick switching between different prepared scenes in the programme, such as background effects or presentations in PowerPoint. He made the recordings in OBS and exported to iMovie for editing and some extra special effects, such as audio.

”Pick the raisins from digital teaching”

“What I have done is of course a bit over the top, and it’s not reasonable to expect that everyone would do this. I don’t know of anyone else who bought a greenscreen, but I have colleagues who have done other useful things – we can learn from each other. For example Anna and David Seim have found a good form for examinations with Zoom monitoring and an oral part on the exams. And I would like to give a huge thank you to the Department of Statistics for having access to their website for the submission and distribution of examinations electronically, a system they have themselves programmed.”
However, even the most technology-friendly person does not want to continue in distance mode forever.
“My hope is that my courses will be on campus next time, but at the same time you can pick the raisins from digital teaching out of the cake. At the Department, we have considered having a meeting room that can serve as a recording room even after the distance learning mode is no longer standard. For a Department at the University, it is a small investment – simply paint a wall green and the quality becomes more professional. It is our job to facilitate academic studies and it is no longer possible to pretend that digital solutions aren’t out there to use. The genie is out of the bottle,” notes Adam Jacobsson.

This is what the students think

Read more about what some students think about Adam Jacobsson's courses, teaching online in general and what has facilitated their learning: Structure and passion facilitates distance learning