What does it take to deliver a successful learning experience in a virtual classroom? Whatever else you provide, the people present in that virtual space had better be able to hear the presentation. Otherwise, their learning outcomes may not be what you intended.
As simple as it seems, an instructor or facilitator in an online session needs a microphone that matches the requirements, connections, and environment. In this article, I outline the fundamentals you need to know when putting together your audio input equipment.
You only have two basic types of microphone from which to choose:
- Dynamic microphones are the cheapest option. They are less sensitive so they respond less to distracting sound, such as air conditioning or other sources of ambient noise. They are also less rich-sounding. Dynamic microphones do not require an external power supply, just plug them into your system.
- Condenser microphones produce better sound, they are more expensive, and they require an external power supply. Condenser microphones are not a good choice if you are in an area with background noise because they will pick it all up.
Stands, cables, connections
There are other considerations, and these apply to both of the basic microphone types. Choosing from among these options depends in part on convenience, in part on the type of presentation the instructor will be making, in part on whether multiple presenters will be involved, and the amount of space available.
- Lavalier microphones clip to your clothing and allow hands-free operation; these may connect to your audio system wirelessly or using a cable or lead.
- Other microphones are intended to be mounted on a stand or boom.
- You may also choose a headset with a noise-cancelling microphone or a web camera with a built-in microphone.
- Some presenters simply use the microphone built into their laptop or other device.
- Some microphones connect to a laptop or other audio equipment using a cable and a USB or specialty connector.
Microphones have different sensitivity patterns: some are omni-directional, and some are highly directional. This applies to all the microphones listed above, whether they are dynamic or condenser microphones.
Audio quality depends on a microphone’s frequency response. Look for a microphone with a frequency response of 20hz to 20 khz. A noise-canceling feature reduces background noise. A separate volume control on the microphone can be handy, as well as a mute switch.
Make sure your microphone is compatible with the computer or other device to which you will be connected (Mac or Windows or Android), so it is actually “plug and play” and does not require the installation of a separate driver.
The most expensive microphones are not necessarily the best, and the cheapest are not necessarily the worst. Read reviews and talk to other virtual classroom instructors.