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General DiscussionsBranching out into remote learning

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Duck
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Branching out into remote learning

Post by Duck » Sat Apr 22, 2017 11:15 pm

I run an amateur photography group through Meetup.com, hosting workshops and lectures throughout the year. It's a great way for me to share knowledge, interact with other like-minded enthusiasts and view photography from different perspectives. With a member base of over 500 photographers one would think that it can be a nice lucrative side line business. The truth is that like anything else it's a numbers game. Only a small percentage are actual active participants, the biggest obstacle being distance. I am in the South-Western part of Connecticut but my membership extends as far as New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Unless I present something phenomenal why would anyone want to travel two or more hours to learn from me?

One of my more popular events are my Lightroom workshops. Seems everyone has issues with their Lightroom and have a desire to get a handle on their workflow. Until now members have had to grab their laptop, drive to my studio, plug in and physically attend my workshops. This means anyone not willing to drive or who lack a laptop were excluded. This got me to thinking about converting these workshops into a remote learning event rather than an on-location event. Of course there are some criteria that would need to be met in order for me to consider doing something remotely. Interaction being top of the list. The obvious solution seem to be in the form of a webinar format. After some research I settled on Join.Me as a possible solution. I have attended webinars hosted through GoToMeeting and thought that might be the other option but after spending some time with Join.Me I think I found the right solution for me. Come to find out... I learned that LogMeIn, Inc. (owner of GoToMeeting has merged with Join.Me. Hope they don't ruin it).

I planned a test run with a group of volunteer members willing to help me beta test the system but a buddy of mine volunteered to help me do a pre beta runthrough. It was definitely a learning experience. There were more things to consider than I initially realized. We spent almost four hours playing with the program, getting used to the interface, seeing what the functions were, how to access each feature, how to configure my presentation workspace, and so on. I am happy to report that it looks like remote teaching will be something I will definitely be offering more of in the near future.

As this is all new to me, I have basically limited myself to just sharing my desktop (Lightroom, Photoshop, Powerpoint, etc.) but I can see this growing to be able to handle something larger like what Alex Koloskov (Photigy) does in his studio with multiple cameras as he teaches his techniques. Or even something like on Creative Live. Well, maybe not to that kind of audience, or with that kind of star power, but...

So on April 10th I ran a beta test with a half dozen volunteers from my photo group. A couple had experience with web meetings (one with the Join.Me platform) while others were interested in the program for their own needs. Only one was interested in the platform as a means of learning as she lives a distance and would rather attend remotely than have her husband drive her out to my studio. :-)

Rather than just do something simple I opted to pass everything through Open Broadcaster Studio (OBS) in order to have multiple scenes and a personal live camera on me at all times. Going through OBS also allows me to expand to teaching other things beyond Lightroom. I can lecture, show slide shows, do one-to-one tutoring and so on.

Using both OBS and a screen sharing platform was new to me and I have to say I was more than a little nervous about pulling it off. I spent a couple hours setting up OBS, finding it relatively easy to use. When the time came to go live I was fairly comfortable with my setup and there was nothing left to do but dive in. There were a couple of glitches, mostly with users trying to figure out their mics and stuff. I also found a glitch in the video capture of the Lightroom window, but nothing detrimental that can't be worked around.

I'll see about putting together a little demo video of my setup if anyone here is interested in working with OBS or Join.Me (GoToMeeting, etc.) for their own purposes.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this with the group in case anyone here has had similar experiences and is willing to share insider tips or perhaps you've had the idea to try this and need some answers. More than likely you already have the necessary equipment to do this. Feel free to share your thoughts.
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Post by TomCofer » Sun Apr 23, 2017 1:18 am

good luck with your new projects Duck.
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Post by St3v3M » Sun Apr 23, 2017 2:45 pm

I've had similar thoughts about doing the same here and it's good to know I wasn't the only one that found it harder than it seemed.

Let's share notes when you have time and see if we can work out the kinks and incorporate some of those ideas here! S-
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Post by Duck » Sun Apr 23, 2017 6:16 pm

TomCofer wrote:good luck with your new projects Duck.

Thanks Tom

St3v3M wrote:I've had similar thoughts about doing the same here and it's good to know I wasn't the only one that found it harder than it seemed.
Let's share notes when you have time and see if we can work out the kinks and incorporate some of those ideas here! S-

This idea's been in the back of my head for a few years. Then it was a nice idea but with no real need for me to push forward on it. This year I found a need so I opted to dust off the idea and really act on it. I did some research to possible methods of teaching online and screen casting seemed the most obvious. I have used Skype for teleconferencing and have used GoToMeeting as a lecturing platform (as a participant in this case) and found both rather one sided. I wanted something that was a bit more interactive. I came across Join.Me and it seemed as if that may be the solution as it allows group annotation, white board and presenter swapping. In my search I found that a lot of tech people use this for remote troubleshooting computer systems for clients.

Join.Me offers a 14 day free trial with all the software's bells and whistles. I tried it out and found it really easy to use but somewhat awkward for what I really wanted to do with it. My primary intentions are to screen cast my Lightroom screen so attendees can see the lessons. I also wanted a whiteboard available for me should I need to explain some concept. As an artist I do better with pen and paper rather than trying to explain it verbally. Having the option to switch as needed is a plus for me. Since Join.Me shares my screen it doesn't matter what program I use, I simply switch from one to the other and everyone in the meeting sees what I'm doing. I am used to this because when I was doing live workshops I would always project my screen onto a large monitor for people to see in order to follow along.

During the trial run I quickly realized there were a few inconveniences and a few drawbacks. The first inconvenience of note were the "bubbles" Join.Me uses for attendees. Join.Me limits video conferencing to 10 people. Those 10 people get video bubbles so that as the meeting progresses you can see who's talking. This is good for normal teleconferencing but not so good for software demonstration. I found that the bubbles get in the way. You can move them, sure, but only to the four cardinal positions on your screen. Anyone who's used Lightroom or Photoshop knows that there is a lot that goes on in the edges of these programs, specially Lightroom. The bubbles would need to be juggled if they are to be used. The workaround is to remove the bubbles but, as was pointed out to me, people then become disassociated voices, including me. Not necessarily a deal breaker but an annoyance.

The solution seemed simple enough. I'll just turn off the bubbles and find some way to just have me as a talking head somewhere on the screen. After all, that's how most online tutorials do it. I downloaded Open Broadcast Studio (OBS) and found it easy to set up what I wanted to do. I simply created a 'scene' for Lightroom and one for the whiteboard. I then created a small window in the corner to have my camera capture presented. I actually placed it over the image preview of LR for my talking head. Worked great. This allows me to create a sense of connection with my audience as I talk to them simply by turning my attention to the camera. Later on I played around even more and was able to get a little fancier with it. Here are some screen caps of my current setup;

Screen1.jpg
Intro Screen
Screen1.jpg (67 KiB) Viewed 1049 times

Screen2.jpg
Presenter Screen
Screen2.jpg (56.54 KiB) Viewed 1049 times

Screen3.jpg
Lightroom Screen
Screen3.jpg (47.58 KiB) Viewed 1049 times

Screen4.jpg
Whiteboard Screen
Screen4.jpg (20.13 KiB) Viewed 1049 times

Screen5.jpg
Outro Screen
Screen5.jpg (71.07 KiB) Viewed 1049 times


My goal is to eventually have one or two cameras that overlook a portion of my studio whereby I can do live demonstrations of lighting setups or live workshops. I know I won't be able to do that on my own and will need help, but until I get to that point... this will do.
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Post by Didereaux » Mon Apr 24, 2017 5:55 pm

I am going to play the Devil's Advocate here, and hopefully voice some considerations of a none pie in the sky manner. I have been around teaching, tech, and such for a long time. I have watched with interest how the internet has blossomed forth with on-line teaching in various venues and formats. I have watched it become super-saturated.

Those who have made even a marginal success of doing this have all started with a strong base. In the case of software the vast majority have been sponsored by the software companies because they had made a name for themselves on YouTube, or CreativeLive or some such. I simply don't see where you have a base from which to jump whole hog into the pot from. Show me/us a p[ortfolio of your work that exceeds what the average user does or knows. The time is long past when you could simply say you know such and such and for some $$$ you will teach them. To many real experts are know flipping burgers. just like a lot of pro photographers who missed the boat.

Would I pay for some webinar on LR or photography from an unknown when I can purchase cheaply and entire course by proven experts? These facts must be considered before big investments are made or other opportunities cast aside.
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Post by Duck » Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:25 pm

Didereaux wrote:I am going to play the Devil's Advocate here, and hopefully voice some considerations of a none pie in the sky manner...

You are very correct in that the market is over saturated with 'teachers'. That was one of the main reasons I never really pursued it. The biggest question I asked myself was this; What do I have to share that can't be found elsewhere?

The short answer was obvious, absolutely nothing.

As a semi-pro photographer looking to go pro, I still find myself roaming the YouTube hallways for things to learn (and finding them). Although now I am looking for different things than I was, say, three years ago. I also know that almost all my students watch YouTube videos to better their education. So why bother duplicating what's already out there, you ask? Interestingly enough, I get two major answers to the video learning issue; Interaction and focus.

My students come to me to learn because of those two main points. Learning is a complex structure requiring multiple sensory inputs in order to retain the lesson. As you know, we all learn in different ways. Some learn by watching, others by doing while others it's a combination of both. Everyone, however, learns through repetition. Having lessons repeated helps reinforce previous lessons until the pieces of the puzzle start coming together easier. For the beginner, watching a video is like having someone build a puzzle for you. You then go to your own puzzle only to find out yours doesn't match the puzzle you saw get built. The frustration comes from not being able to ask pertinent questions about your own puzzle, thereby derailing or slowing down the learning process.

All my live workshops receive high praise because I explain the fundamentals, show those fundamentals in a practical way then make that student do it (with their own equipment, i.e. their own puzzle) on their own with me there in case they run into issues. They leave my workshops knowing something they didn't before. I pride myself in not offering meaningless drivel or having everything set up where I just tell everyone the settings without any explanation to the why's and how's. The benefit to these workshops is that over time I get to know my students and their habits and can target a lesson so they 'get it'. How many videos have you watched online that say's, "Hey, Didereaux, remember that issue you had? This is how you fix it!"

A couple years ago I developed a full two day intensive workshop for Lightroom. It was two eight hour days where I go through the entire workflow from capture all the way through to exporting a finished product, with an explanation on why I structured it that way. I have run this workshop three times and all three times I sold out so I know there is a local market for this. At the beginning of this year I decided to make Lightroom an ongoing workshop every other week. People came to my studio with their laptops and we tackled various issues, mostly organizational issues, structuring the lessons specifically to the student's problem and how to resolve it. You'll never get that kind of troubleshooting in a video. At any point a student could ask questions, show me their screen or have me take over and receive immediate feedback to their problem (all for $20 per 3 hour session). I want to be able to take that into remote learning. Live events work great for those who can take advantage of it and that's where the biggest issue was. A lot of people complained that they either lived too far away or did not have a laptop to use. This led me to rethink remote learning.

While I see your point, realize that I am targeting a smaller demographic than some of these other online educators. I am not looking to build a nationwide platform (although I wouldn't say no to it either.) I'm not looking to be a CreativeLive, I just like their structure and want to replicate it for my own uses. My goal is to reach the members of my amateur photography group and most of them know who I am and what I can do. I have enough of a reputation around here not to worry about what others have to say. For those who do not know me and are interested in learning more, I do have a very public profile online. I can be found just about everywhere. My skills are open to inspection on my personal website, Flickr, my blog and on Meetup. The only thing I lack is the marketing these bigger personalities have, but I'm working on that. :-D

Thanks for playing devil's advocate. I really do appreciate opposing viewpoints as they often can reveal flaws. Hopefully I've illustrated how I'm trying to differentiate myself and, of course, suggestions on how to improve are always welcomed.
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Post by Didereaux » Tue Apr 25, 2017 12:36 am

That does add some clarification i.e. you are strictly targeting a local demographic. Lot more latitude in approach at that level.
Got a chance to look through your Flickr account. Is this your main 'portfolio'? If so I would strongly suggest you need to do what the successful pros do. Sift through all those and select say the best 5-10 in each genre and post those each in their own album. Some do rotate photos in and out every 3-6months much like you do in galleries. As it stands your portfolio is as cluttered up as mine is, and the snapshots simply overwhelm the good stuff. I am not, nor have any intention at my age of going pro so I leave the on-line stuff as is. A lot of the bird and critter shots are for ID purposes for friends and other amateur wildlife shooters I talk with. Point is a snapshot doesn't reflect on anything of importance in such a jumble, whereas a mere handful of mediocre shots can literally kill an otherwise superb portfolio.
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Post by Duck » Tue Apr 25, 2017 3:45 am

Didereaux wrote:That does add some clarification i.e. you are strictly targeting a local demographic. Lot more latitude in approach at that level.
Got a chance to look through your Flickr account. Is this your main 'portfolio'?...

No, Flickr is my sorely underused dump site for much of my 'fun' stuff. My professional portfolio is at unitasphotography.com and is much more carefully curated.
Most of the stuff I shoot nobody really wants to see anyway. Product photography isn't all about glamorous hero shots. You probably saw some of them in my Flickr feed. ;)

I enjoy street photography but find I am having less and less time to indulge in aimless wandering in hopes of a good image. Some of my past street shots I post to 500PX.com. There's a link to that in my signature below. Unfortunately I still have to maintain a day job to feed my side job. :wall:
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Post by Didereaux » Tue Apr 25, 2017 10:43 am

Duck wrote:
Didereaux wrote:That does add some clarification i.e. you are strictly targeting a local demographic. Lot more latitude in approach at that level.
Got a chance to look through your Flickr account. Is this your main 'portfolio'?...

No, Flickr is my sorely underused dump site for much of my 'fun' stuff. My professional portfolio is at unitasphotography.com and is much more carefully curated.
Most of the stuff I shoot nobody really wants to see anyway. Product photography isn't all about glamorous hero shots. You probably saw some of them in my Flickr feed. ;)

I enjoy street photography but find I am having less and less time to indulge in aimless wandering in hopes of a good image. Some of my past street shots I post to 500PX.com. There's a link to that in my signature below. Unfortunately I still have to maintain a day job to feed my side job. :wall:



Now that's more like it! You're blog and that commersial photo site are very professional....why are they not updated anymore, maybe the commercial is and I ddn't notice, but the blog is definiinetly old and if you have some spare time(right!!!!! lol) you need to bring that uptodate. Could be a positive thing for your new venture. Anywho I have squeezed this orange dry....kudos on some nice work.
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Post by TomCofer » Tue Apr 25, 2017 1:50 pm

Looks good to me Duck.
From the interaction I've had with you, I think you do present things in a manner that the big wigs out there don't. It's also nice to deal with someone who isn't pushing some product of a sponsor.
Best wishes with your new venture.
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