How to optimize sound quality while teaching

Last Updated: 08/17/2020

We recommend that if instructional staff are concerned about being heard while teaching in an on-campus classroom that they use a disposable mask rather than a cloth mask. Cloth masks tend to muffle the instructor’s speech whereas disposable masks are more acoustically transparent allowing the listener to understand the speaker better. A recent university study confirmed this.

To provide additional context, we suggest that while an instructor is in motion in and around campus the CU Boulder-issued cloth mask should be worn. The disposable mask would be used when you are providing instruction and physically-distanced from the students. You may find that a disposable mask will allow for better articulation and clarity.

In addition to concerns about enunciation, there are concerns about amplification and instructor voice fatigue, especially while wearing a mask in a classroom that doesn’t have built-in sound amplification. OIT has addressed this concern by procuring personal voice amplifiers for instructors teaching in-person classes in those spaces. Learn more about requesting a personal voice amplifier.

In the remote-capable classrooms (RCC), the Crestron Mercury systems have a built-in microphone array that provides omnidirectional pickup, which helps remote students hear those in the room. This system is designed to pick up the voice of the instructor and the students in the room for the remote participants; it does not amplify the sound for those in the room. If a personal voice amplifier is used with the Crestron Mercury system, it might help with amplification for those in the room but it would interfere and degrade the sound experience for the remote students. These remote students rely heavily on the clarity of the instructor’s voice for their learning experience. Therefore, using a personal voice amplifier with a Crestron Mercury system is not recommended. This is why the Crestron Mercury systems are not deployed in large lecture spaces where amplification is needed, but rather deployed in medium and smaller sized spaces. Larger classrooms are generally equipped with more sophisticated audio systems that amplify the instructor’s voice. A subset of these are equipped for classroom capture. See the full list on the Hybrid Capable Classroom webpage.