Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Give Online Students a Headset with Push-to-Talk Microphone

Just about every computer based video/audio-conference I attend has a few minutes at the start where people sort out audio problems. Rather than giving new online students a useless gift (such as a fridge magnet), a headset with a push to talk microphone (costing about $10) would be useful. Headsets are readily available, some with push-to-mute buttons, but ones with push-to-talk are rare. Such a unit would overcome several problems:
  1. Poorly placed microphone: Many people try to use the microphone built into their laptop computer. This results in noise from the room, the computer, keyboard and desk. A headset microphone up near the mouth cuts out noise.
  2. Feedback from loudspeaker: May people try to use the speakers on their computer. The result is feedback, with sound from the loudspeaker being picked up by the microphone and relayed back to the speakers. This results in an echo chamber effect. Some systems offer echo cancellation but this is not entirely effective. A headset isolates the sound from the microphone and eliminates the problem.
  3. Background sound: For a small group, all microphones can be live at once. However, if there a dozen or more parties in the conference it is best if those not speaking switch off their microphones, otherwise background noise can be heard. Video conference systems offer click-on/click-off setting for microphones, but it can be difficult to tell when the microphone is on and easy to forget to turn it off. A spring loaded push-to-talk switch on the headset cable provides tactile feedback and resets to the off position when the user lets go.

1 comment:

CV Template said...

That may be ok from a hardware perspective but what do you do if the issue is more software related ? You still need an initial 5 minutes sorting out these sort of problems and making sure everyone can hear and talk.