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Published August 22, 2019 | Mechanical Technology

Video Tutorials to Make a Mechanical Engineering Technology Course More Accessible

This article is a translation of a text first published in the French edition of Profweb.

In the Mechanical Engineering Technology courses I give, I teach students to use different machine tools: lathes, milling machines, etc. To optimize the efficiency of my demonstrations of the use of these machines, I created video tutorials, based on the principles of universal design for learning.

Presentation of my project producing video tutorials on machine tools [in French]

The Problem

When I use a machine to demonstrate it in class, students:

  • are not always able to clearly see what I am doing: not everyone can be in the front row, close the machine
  • are sometimes distracted (especially if they have an attention deficit disorder)
  • are sometimes absent
  • are sometimes surprised by the noise generated by the machines (especially if they have a sensory disorder)
  • sometimes have difficulty understanding what I say (especially foreign students)

In addition, machines are not always accessible to students outside of class hours: they can not use the tools at home.

The Solution

The solution I found was to record most demonstrations related to the safe use of machine tools. I posted all the videos on the Moodle site of my course. I produced these tutorials as part of a project funded by a budgetary envelope to support students with disabilities or special needs.

For now, the tutorials are brand new and have not really been tested yet with students. The particular conditions of integrating these videos in the course remain to be determined. However, it is certain that students will be able to:

  • watch the video tutorials before the class to prepare
  • watch them again after class to review or simply to feel more confident

One of the video tutorials I have produced for my students [in French] ]

Technical Aspects

Audiovisual Equipment

Initially, I used 2 camcorders that were lent to me by the Audiovisual Service of my college. However, I quickly realized that their size and fragility did not meet my needs. Since I had a personal interest in all of this, I decided to equip myself.

I use two standard tripods and my camcorder or my cell phone to shoot wide shots. To zoom in on the action, I bought 2 cameras similar to GoPro (much cheaper Chinese replicas) and I tweaked 2 magnetic bases and a suction base that allow me to install the cameras inside of the "danger zone" of the machine tools.

The filming equipment I use.

Editing Software

Currently, I am using Adobe Premiere Pro and I recommend this tool if you want to get started. It takes a little training at first, because it can be a daunting piece of software, but it's worth it!

I started with Windows Movie Maker, then used the online editing tool of YouTube (which no longer exists since 2018). I consider that it was a mistake not to start with a professional software program because even if you can learn how to use simple software programs very quickly, they are so limited that you quickly feel restricted with regard to the speed of execution and the quality of the final product.

Some Advice

I recommend you take the time to learn how to use your tools (software, camera, etc.) before you start shooting. It allows you to know their limits and their functionalities, and to decide on an optimal work method. Personally, I lost a lot of time doing unnecessary or repetitive tasks because I was not familiar with all of Adobe Premiere’s functionalities. For example, it is possible to automatically synchronize sequences taken by multiple cameras in 5 seconds... I used to do this manually, which took me 10 to 15 minutes each time!

Do Not Be Afraid To Get Started

To encourage you to embark on a similar project, I want to reassure you about 2 things:

  1. You may be afraid that you do not have the technical skills to make videos yourself. Make use of the resources available at your college: audiovisual or multimedia technicians, for example! And contact people in your institution who have headed similar projects; they can help you. [Editor's Note: If you do not know what resources are available to you in your college, consult your institution's IT Rep.]
  2. You may be afraid that students will stop coming to your class if you record part of its content. In my opinion, this will not happen. Students will want to be present in class to perform the manipulations themselves. In fact, the students may even attend more often: the class time that you free up by offering part of the learning content in the form of videos will allow you to better supervise the students during classes and provide them with more individual guidance (allowing it to be tailored to students with disabilities or special needs). Your course will be more effective!

Is there a portion of your course that would benefit from being video-based?

About the Author

Jean-René Rodrigue Passionné de technologie et d'enseignement, Jean-René Rodrigue est bachelier en génie mécanique (Université de Sherbrooke) et en enseignement (Université Laval). Il enseigne depuis 2006: d'abord suppléant au secondaire, puis enseignant en formation professionnelle en Dessin industriel, et maintenant, enseignant au collégial en Techniques de génie mécanique. Jean-René Rodrigue enseigne aussi en ligne via son entreprise, Cours en ligne Québec.

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