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Rachel Schats is preparing an archaeology course from home: ‘Do what you can and don’t make it yourself too difficult’

As a lecturer of a block 4 course, osteoarchaeologist Dr Rachel Schats is preparing to give her education remotely. For this she uses Kaltura, Leiden University’s video platform. While she is new to remote teaching, like most of the University’s lecturers, she already has some tips and tricks based on her experience. ‘It might be a good idea to invest in a good microphone.’

Short videos

Normally, Rachel’s course [Osteology] consists of lectures, alternated with practicals in which students can look at skeletal materials. This concept is hard to translate to a remote education setting, so Rachel has made some crucial changes. ‘I make short videos with Kaltura capture, which allows for filming your screen as well as using your webcam.’ These videos consist of short powerpoint presentations of 10 to 15 slides, alternated with showing some actual (plastic) bones on the webcam.

Staying true to the structure

‘I try to stay true to the structure of a regular course, only making content available on days that would feature a lecture.’ She fears that students would lose their overview in case multiple videos and assignments go online at the same time. ‘On lecture days, I have Kaltura Live Room sessions planned. While I am not going to livestream lectures, I do want to hold Q&A sessions to answer questions students may have about the lectures and discuss  articles the students need to read.’ Rachel feels that livestreaming complete lectures would not be beneficial, due to everyone’s attention span, both lecturers as well as students. 
Because Rachel’s course involves practical knowledge, she has made 3D models available through Brightspace. ‘This replaces the use of actual bones to a certain extent. SketchFab is a good resource for this. Files from SketchFab can be embedded in Brghtspace.’

3D models

She tests the involvement of her students with quizzes and assignments in Brightspace. ‘. Normally the students need to analyse skeletons, to determine their sex, for example. We now do this with 3D models of skull, mandible or pelvis.’ In the assignment to determine a skeletons length, Rachel provides the students with measurements, where they would normally measure the bones themselves.

Tips and tricks

Based on her experiences so far Rachel has some tips for lecturers starting remote education:

  • It is a good idea to invest in a good microphone. The build-in microphone of laptops is often not good enough.
  • Try to make short videos. Do not record a video of 30 minutes in one take. It is very different from lecturing.
  • When making videos, make sure you have  something like script first. It is hard to improvise while recording.
  • Do not use the same powerpoint presentation you use in regular teaching. I removed many details from my presentation and have tried to make it as simple as possible. Students should be able to read it if they are watching the video on their phone.

And, perhaps most importantly, ‘do what you can and don’t make it too difficult for yourself.’

Join the daily Office Hour Remote Teaching for staff Archaeology

From Wednesday March 25th on, we invite all Archaeology lecturers for the daily Office Hour in Microsoft Teams from 10:00-11:00. 

See for more information the announcement.

Tips and tools

For tips and tools about online teaching, see the Remote Teaching website. Here you can learn how to record a video lecture and share this with your students through the Kaltura video platform and how to make your teaching interactive – despite the distance. The information is divided into topics, but you can also search for keywords. There is also an FAQ.

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