It’s not just office workers adjusting to working from home, or traditional school classroom teachers trying to quickly enable distance learning.  We recently had the opportunity speak with a different kind of remote educator –  Susan Tipton, a Sensei who manages the Family First Mixed Martial Arts School in Spring Hill, TN, to discuss how she’s adapted her dojo for distance learning.

Susan, how have local Safer-At-Home measures impacted you?

We have 200+ students at my location in Spring Hill, and another 250+ at our sister school in Franklin, Tennessee.  Covid-19 and the ensuing Safer-At-Home orders have been a devastating blow to all gyms and especially children’s athletics.

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Our students pay month-to-month tuition, without contracts, which made our schools especially vulnerable.  When we first realized we would have to close to live students we knew our business would not survive should we totally shut down our services.  The very first week we were closed we began holding classes on Zoom using a mish-mash of laptops and a separate USB microphone.

It worked, but the picture and sound quality left a lot to be desired.  What was particularly difficult was achieving a wide enough angle using the laptop’s camera to follow dynamic, quick movements without the picture blurring.

Those sound like they might be key to learning mixed martial arts.

Absolutely!  During the Safer-At-Home orders our goal is not just to save our schools, or even just keep our employees working, but to continue serving our students and provide them with a bit of normalcy and an outlet for their pent-up energy.

What happened next?

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About ten days into remote teaching, I received my Poly Studio.  I was a bit worried about the technical aspect since my tech abilities leave a lot to be desired.  I was blown away by the fact that I was able to unpack the Studio, plug it in without any difficulty and have it up and running in well under 30 minutes.  I especially appreciated that the Poly Studio was standardized enough that I was able to use it with a camera stand I already owned.

You often hear companies claim these cameras are ‘Plug-in and go,’ but in my experience, that’s rarely been the case.  The Poly Studio really works that way!

How did it work?

After the first class with the Poly Studio (I did not let parents know we were using new tech) a parent commented on our school’s Facebook page that our online classes were great and that “…it was so nice to be able to actually see Sensei Susan’s facial features again.”  This is to say, the clarity is great.  The camera quality is so far superior that it’s almost comical when comparing it to our lessons without it.  While we were still allowed to run classes from the dojo, the wide camera angle made it possible to have three instructors on camera at once.

The Poly Studio microphone also turned out to be perfect for what I do.  I had to position my previous stand-alone mic in such a way that it picked up a lot of noise from the mat.  And, when I came closer to the computer, I had to reposition the mic each time — I was constantly afraid that either I or another instructor would kick It!  Because the Poly Studio is an all-in-one unit with the microphone built in, I don’t have those issues anymore.

I also love the remote.  I can go to the ground to demonstrate a technique without worrying that the framing looks awkward.

And now?

Now I’m teaching from home instead of the dojo — still striving for some normalcy.  What I didn’t foresee was the amazing gains our students would achieve in technique and fitness during this time.  I attribute a lot of their gains to the ability to have instruction with focused high-quality sound and picture right in their living rooms.

This has been an amazing experience and even after we reopen classes at our schools, we have already made the commitment to continue teaching online.

Thanks so much for such a great product!