Let There be Light(boards): Using an open-sourced lightboard to create agile, interactive, online content

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Incorporating the open source “Lightboard” into our suite of media tools has fostered a positive shift in faculty buy-in to online content creation. This addition has also significantly shortened our production time and reduced costs. We would like to share our experience and best practice examples.


Allen Hoover is the Director of Media and Design at the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia. He has over 20 years experience in the creation of instructional media, online course design and documentary filmmaking.

Extended Abstract



The alchemy of creating well-crafted, timely, and pedagogically sound online educational content continues to be a challenge for most institutions. Between the seemingly inevitable trade off of high-production value and high-cost, the difficulty of incentivizing faculty to rethink their content and delivery methods, and the often lengthy production cycle of an online course, it can feel like the task of taking a course or program online isn’t worth the effort. And while all of these challenges remain, we here at The McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia have found one solution that has begun to bridge some of those gaps. By incorporating an open-sourced “Lightboard” into our suite of media tools, we have begun to see a shift in both faculty buy-in to online content creation as well as a commensurate shortening of our production time and a reduction of costs. While not a silver bullet for all online media dilemmas, the Lightboard offers a unique blend of technology and pedagogy that can solve some serious content-creation issues, and it can do so with a “wow factor” that’s hard to replicate.


The University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce currently has several online offerings, including two completely online certificate programs and one for-credit course, with several others in development. All of these programs were highly produced and took a great deal of time and resources. While this production model has been successful, it is neither scalable nor agile. It has also limited the number of faculty members who participate in our online programs. While we will continue to create these broad online offerings, our goal has also been to implement smaller instances of online instruction into all of our courses. The dilemma has been threefold: to continue to produce high-quality material in a quicker and less costly manner; to make online attractive to all faculty members by limiting their preproduction and production time; and to produce materials that are engaging to students and are more than passive instruction.  

After reviewing various options, the McIntire Media and Design (MMD) department identified the open-source Lightboard, created by Northwestern University Professor, Michael Peshkin as an innovative solution.  From our research, we concluded that the lightboard would be easy to use, would create an informal, relaxed teaching environment, and would have a very quick production time.

During our session we will talk about the Lightboard capabilities; provide best practice examples in use at McIntire; highlight the benefits of this video production type; as well as provide considerations and lessons learned from our implementation process.

What is a Lightboard?

A Lightobard is a pane of tempered (or not, if you are brave) glass illuminated by strips of LED lighting at the top and bottom of the frame. Faculty use florescent dry-erase markers to write content, which is corrected by a mirror, horizontally flipping the content within a camera with those capabilities or using video editing software to flip the image. Additional content can be inserted (i.e. slide; diagram etc.) in post-production.

How can a Lightboard be used in online instruction?

  1. Conducting a lecture that can incorporate equations and diagrams created by the instructor while facing the camera as the lecture progresses.
  2. Working problem examples for students outside of class time; students can review this material before class, as they complete homework or prepare for an exam.
  3. Conducting an interactive activity with students with prompts to reinforce a course concept (e.g hype cycle, SWOT analysis etc). Students complete the exercise by following along with the faculty member as information is provided.
  4. Highlighting content within a presentation for emphasis. As Peshkin describes, “you become a character inside your own PowerPoint slides.”
  5. Updating/adding additional supplemental content for students to review topics that they found confusing.

What are the pedagogical benefits of Lightboard produced videos?

  1. Production time is significantly compressed; students can have almost immediate access to the content and the production team can successfully manage a higher volume of instructional content creation.
  2.  Students can review video segment(s) as often as needed and at a time convenient for them.
  3. ALL students have access to the instructional resource and it can be recycled from semester to semester.
  4. The conversational informal style of the Lightboard video environment facilitates a natural instructor presence which more successfully emulates the face to face learning environment.
  5. The medium promotes the effective use of interactive; iterative visual examples to reinforce course concepts.

What are considerations and possible challenges of Lightboard implementation?

  1. While the plans to design the Lightboard are open source and free, initial infrastructure investment (equipment and space) is still required; more realistic for a school or university to implement than at the individual instructor level.
  2. Research the best vendor to create the Lightboard.
  3. Additional lighting may require equipment and expertise.
  4. Some faculty may still wish to script; this can be done but requires additional set up expertise.
  5. Finding the right glass cleaning solution can be more challenging than anticipated.