How to Use ManyCam for Teaching (ESL) Online

Are you looking for ways to create highly engaging and enjoyable online English language lessons for your online students? Then you want to check out ManyCam. ManyCam is a virtual webcam and video effects app that allows you to manipulate your webcam by adding various effects into your video frame. You can use ManyCam’s virtual webcam as a video source within other apps (such as your online teaching platform), or you can live stream directly from ManyCam.

This can be a great addition to your online teaching experience, helping you increase student interaction and engagement, as well as save you money and time by replacing some of your physical props with special effects that come with ManyCam.

We’re going to show you how to use ManyCam for your online classes, so you can up your online teaching game.

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Why Use ManyCam for Online Teaching?

One of the keys to creating a rich online learning experience is to ensure a high level of student engagement. And one way you can build engagement into your lesson delivery is by improving the visual and auditory experience through video, imagery, music, and social media. 

With ManyCam, you can accomplish this through its broad range of features:

  • Live stream or record using multiple video sources
  • Select video source from multiple webcams, including your mobile device’s camera
  • Set up audio playlists and share audio during a live stream or recording
  • Add picture in picture video or images into your video framein
  • Draw and add text
  • Display a clock, timer, or stopwatch
  • Replace your background with an image or video (with or without a green screen)
  • Insert lower third titles to distinctly display your name and other text
  • Add effects like images, borders, emojis
  • Change how you look on camera with virtual face masks
  • Add custom watermarks to your videos (Windows)

That’s a pretty impressive list of things you can do. Before we go deeper into how to use ManyCam for your online classes, let’s take a moment to understand the significance of this feature set and how online English teachers use them to create higher student interaction.

Many online teachers use a myriad of physical props during their lessons. But, how many props can you reasonably have readily available in your teaching workspace? Even if you did have the space, how much would it cost to buy all of it?

ManyCam unlocks the real potential of your lesson delivery by offering you countless ways to introduce imagery, text, and other effects without taking up any physical space. All of these features are at the tip of your fingers, right within the app itself.

With over 10,000 digital effects and assets included in ManyCam, there’s no need to fuss around looking for play food, soft toys, flashcards, or other teaching aids. Of course, you can use these alongside ManyCam, too.

ManyCam lets you conveniently display any image, video, text, or effect to your screen on the fly. What this means to you, the online teacher, is that you are able to teach, discuss, or review any topic using any type of visual or audible media (that you are permitted to use) and create a fun learning experience for your students.

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How Good is ManyCam?

ManyCam is in a class of its own. Most of ManyCam’s competitors have concentrated on live video streaming and recording functionality. But ManyCam includes a wide array of features that make this webcam software particularly useful to online English teachers and the higher level of interaction they can gain by using it.

Certainly, ManyCam isn’t without its drawbacks. For one, it could improve on its usability and design (which  has gradually gotten significantly better). As well, ManyCam is heavy on your computer’s processor due to how it manipulates video from your webcam and other video sources.

However, if you have a modern computer that meets the system requirements, and a little patience to learn how to use ManyCam, there’s little not to like about it. It also helps to have an external HD webcam which will typically give you higher resolution video streaming and recording, more control over your webcam’s position, and workspace lighting than a built-in webcam.

ManyCam is an online teacher favorite, and many online English teachers have made it an integral part of their online teaching to build trust with students. Some online ESL companies even encourage their teachers to use ManyCam.

While ManyCam has a long list of features, we are going to take a closer look at the key features that are useful for most online teaching situations.

Feature: Virtual Backgrounds

One of ManyCam’s most useful features is its ability to replace your background with an image or video.

This feature is not unique to ManyCam, as virtual backgrounds have recently gained popularity in videoconferencing apps like Zoom. One key distinction with ManyCam is that you can use its virtual background feature in other apps via ManyCam’s virtual webcam. The virtual webcam makes it possible for online teachers to use ManyCam’s virtual webcam as the video source within Skype or the virtual classroom platform(s) they use to teach.

This is an excellent way to engage your students, as you can use an image or video that is relevant to the lesson theme for your background, and improve interaction with your students.

The Virtual Background feature has three modes:

  • Blur
  • Replace
  • Chroma Key

Blur: Selecting Blur will digitally blur your background, so your students will only see you in focus. This may be useful when teaching online while traveling and staying in a hotel, particularly if the hotel room is dimly lit.

Replace: Selecting Replace will replace your background with any image or video you select. ManyCam comes with several preset backgrounds you can use, or you can use your own image or video. A green screen is not needed to use the Replace feature. To make good use of the Replace feature, you should have a well-lit workspace and good lighting. Certainly, this makes it possible for online teachers to work from anywhere and replace their background without having to lug around a green screen.

Chroma Key: Similar to Replace mode, selecting Chroma Key will replace your background with any image or video. However, to use the Chroma Key mode, you will need to have a green screen as well as excellent lighting. Chroma Key will produce a better virtual background than Replace, if you have set up your workspace for it.

I recommend using a green screen to get the best use out of ManyCam’s Chroma Key feature. If you’re new to green screening, you’ll notice there are several screen colors available. For most uses cases, including online teaching, green is the optimal screen color. You can learn more about how to use ManyCan with a green screen in our green screen set up tutorial.

To get going with the Chroma Key feature in ManyCam, navigate to the Virtual Backgrounds section of ManyCam from the right side of your ManyCam menu. Next, enable the Virtual Background using the toggle as shown in the image above. Then select the Chroma Key option to allow ManyCam to detect your green screen.

You can use the Color Picker tool to calibrate ManyCam to your green screen, or you can use the Auto feature, which will attempt to detect and calibrate ManyCam to your green screen on its own. I recommend using the Color Picker option, because it allows you to calibrate the Chroma Key to your green screen shade.

Here are some tips to ensure your experience with ManyCam’s Chroma Key feature goes as smoothly as possible:

  • Avoid shadows and shades appearing in your green screen. Make sure your green screen fabric doesn’t have any creases or folds (see our guide for setting up a green screen)
  • Use the color picker tool to calibrate the shade of your green screen more granularly. The auto-detect feature can sometimes be a hit or miss due to variations in lighting, webcam resolution, and computer processing power.
  • Keep your area well-lit to ensure all the green screen material is detected by ManyCam.
  • Use LED lights instead of incandescent soft white bulbs to illuminate your workspace more brightly and evenly. LED lights are also more energy-efficient and cost-effective over the long term.

Using ManyCam’s Chroma Key feature in your online classes can make the atmosphere fun and exciting for your students in many ways. Here are some ways you can engage your students using ChromaKey:

  • Take students to on virtual field trips such as a farm, a grocery store, or a park
  • Use relevant photos for your virtual background for vocabulary building and reinforcement activities. You can teach and practice talking about rooms in the home, areas at a school and in the classroom, restaurants, names of continents, countries, cities, oceans, and famous landmarks. You can also talk about transportation and various types of vehicles.
  • Practice telling the time using a clock as your virtual background
  • Talk about food and drink, and describe flavors and tastes
  • Practice math and spelling activities using letters, numbers and mathematical symbols

The learning and engagement opportunities ManyCam’s ChromaKey feature adds to your online teaching and learning experience are endless.

Feature: Borders and Stickers

You can add borders to your video to liven up your screen. To apply different effects to your video frame, click on the Effects button in the ManyCam feature panel. The available effects can be chosen from a list of available effects sorted into folders.

Click on the borders folder where you can download various border effects to use in your video frame. Here are some ways you can use borders in your online classroom:

  • Use a birthday border to help celebrate a students’ birthday
  • Use borders to highlight holidays and seasons
  • Change up borders based for different student age groups

Similarly, you can find a large variety of stickers categorized in folders in the Effects menu. You can insert them into your video frame and position them where you want. Stickers can be used in a few ways:

  • Display shapes such as stars as a reward for a job well done in class
  • Use stickers as a replacement for physical props; this is a good option if you’re traveling and don’t want to carry physical props with you

Feature: Drawing and Text

ManyCam’s Draw feature lets you draw, write, and type and display these over your webcam in real-time.

You can find the drawing and text tools within the ManyCam Draw panel. To use the drawing function, switch the toggle button to “on”, select the pen and start drawing anywhere inside your video frame.

Here are some options of activities that can help your students stay engaged during lessons:

  • Play a game of drawing and guessing; you can draw a picture and elicit responses from students to guess what the drawing is. This is an excellent activity for both vocabulary building and retention, as well as for adding some fun and competition.
  • Play Hangman; you can easily draw a stick figure for this fun game to build vocabulary and spelling skills.

Feature: Virtual Face Masks

Face Mask effects are one of ManyCam’s coolest features because with it, you can wear a mask – or more than one mask – without having to buy costumes at the store. The Face Mask feature can be found in the Effects panel together with stickers and borders. Click on the face mask icon and choose the mask you want. ManyCam has a decent variety of face masks you can download from its media library.

The greatest benefit of this feature is it gets your students laughing and gazing at you in amazement that you have transformed yourself into a cat, witch, or princess.

Here are some suggested activities to improve student engagement using ManyCam’s face masks:

  • A game of charades: put on a cat mask or other various animal masks and ask students to guess the animal
  • Dress the part! Pick a mask that’s relevant to vocabulary being studied; apply a nurse mask or a construction hat, virtually!
  • Wear a costume for festivals or holidays, to get your students into the festive spirit

The face mask feature is a game-changer, but don’t overuse it to avoid the novelty from wearing off!

Feature: Picture in Picture Media

ManyCam is capable of displaying visual media from multiple sources like YouTube, PowerPoint, or even your mobile device. This is a mighty and useful feature because it allows you to quickly share visual content within your video frame.

You can set preset sources and switch between presets, or you can add content on-the-fly – whichever suits your situation. You can then add layers to your frame to display media using the ManyCam picture in picture mode, or quickly swap between video sources.

This is a great option for online teachers who want to share videos, images, presentations or other media that is relevant to the lesson. It’s also an excellent way to improve interaction in your online classroom, as you can blend in a range of media to increase engagement and facilitate learning.

Other Features

ManyCam has a whole host of features, many of which we haven’t discussed in this post. Indeed, we’ve only scratched the surface regarding features. Some other things you can do with ManyCam include:

  • Stream to Facebook or YouTube live
  • Use ManyCam in videoconferencing and social apps using its virtual webcam feature
  • Set up a video playlist with customizable durations

System Requirements to Use ManyCam

The awesomeness that ManyCam brings to your online lessons means you need to have a computer that can handle its processing demands, and a webcam that is capable of recording at 720p. While you can use a built-in webcam on a laptop computer, I recommend using an external webcam for better video capture. I also recommend using a headset with a microphone.

ManyCam is available for both Windows and macOS operating systems, but you will need to have a modern CPU, adequate RAM, and a graphics processor. See the full system requirements for ManyCam here.

Here’s our comprehensive list of online teaching equipment.

Pricing

ManyCam does have a free version, as well as a paid Standard license, but to get all of the features we have covered in this post, you need either a ManyCam Studio or ManyCam Premium license. Additionally, the free version has a blatantly obvious watermark, and records and streams video at a lower resolution.

Here’s a breakdown of the current plans and pricing:

  • ManyCam Standard: $49 per year (1 device, 4 video sources, Full HD resolution, limited features)
  • ManyCam Studio: $79 per year (2 devices, 50 video sources, 4k resolution, all features)
  • ManyCam Premium: $99 per year (3 devices, 200 video sources, 4k resolution, all features, priority support)

Wrapping It Up

If you incorporate ManyCam into your online teaching approaches effectively, you’ll have few challenges improving student interaction. It’s not a perfect software, and like any software, it does require some upfront effort, has a bit of a learning curve, and does have some of its own quirks.

But online ESL teachers from all walks of life use it and sing its praises, not to mention notable ManyCam clients like Apple, Google, Intel, and Apple. I use ManyCam regularly in my online classroom, and using it has greatly improved how my students engage with me during lessons.

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