Both physical diagrams and digital diagrams are useful for remote training. Physical diagrams illicit a stronger, warmer response though.
Physical Drawing Area
The Mk III Teaching Station, has a physical diagram area, just as the Mk I had. There have been a few improvements made, and I’ll describe them here, but before that, I’d like to talk about how physical diagrams are received.
I have found that attendees enjoy seeing a physical diagram. There’s something about its more primitive, physical nature that I think comes as a relief during remote training, especially during COVID-19. And while it is primitive, it’s trickier than the purely digital form (also present on the teaching station). I’d had a taste of this with the Mk I, but this is an experience that has been repeated through multiple trainings.
In the Mk I, the drawing area was on the desk, and the camera was hastily strapped onto the teaching station’s frame. More work went into the new version. It’s attached to the desk and extends from it. The camera is a manual focus no-name webcam ($60). The quality isn’t impressive, but it does the job, and manual focus is ideal for this situation. The camera is attached to a repurposed piece of air duct s-cleat. The actual material is unimportant, but it needs to be solid. I had tried mounting the camera using the boom arm that came with the microphone. Alas, this was not stable. Its flexibility was also its downfall. You don’t want the position of the camera changing relative to the pad. Because so much is ‘fixed’ about the diagramming area, it is a good thing that it can be removed. Mine slides onto the corner of the desk. If you have a large enough desk, it could just sit on the desk. A USB powered ring light ($30) was added, but I’m not yet convinced it makes the difference I thought it would. The camera adjusts to essentially the same picture in both cases.
One of the scenes in OBS is the view of the diagram camera. On top of the view I can overlay a picture-in-picture of the main camera, or any of the other main sources, such as the slides, if it would help to see it at the same time as the diagram.
I thought I had a smart idea about using LUTs in OBS. A LUT allows you to map colours and I figured I could map all colours close to one of my pen colours to a single colour. Things that were light could be mapped to white. That way, the diagrams would be much cleaner. It didn’t work though - there was too much fuzzing at the edges of lines, and it made the circular view of the camera much more apparent. I may return to the idea at some point.
Digital Drawing Area
I don’t use digital drawing very often, but it is available through the Wacom tablet pictured above. I use Autodesk Sketchbook as the drawing application, but I would like to find a vector based application for this. But the tools I know about, such as Inkscape, are too noisy with controls in their design mode, so I am still looking. Just like there is an OBS scene for the physical diagram area, a scene captures the Sketchbook window.
The Wacom table sits on a tray connected to the teaching station’s shelf, conveniently angled for drawing either standing or sitting. When down it occupies space needed by the physical drawing area. Therefore, as shown in the following photo, it can be stowed when not in use.
Both physical and digital diagramming are useful, and the teaching station supports both. I have, however, had a noticeably pleasant reaction from attendees when using the physical drawing area. Picture-in-picture can be used to maintain a connection to the presentation material.