• Education

How 3 Universities Leverage Classroom Technology for Learning Success

From automated classroom recordings to hardware setups for HyFlex classrooms, educators and institutions are constantly discovering new ways to enhance their teaching experience. At our 2022 EMEA User Conference, three universities shared how they are enabling seamless hybrid learning with different types of hardware setups.

Ad-hoc vs Automated Systems

When it comes to ad-hoc vs automated setups, what’s the consensus? It depends on the learning environment. 

At the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the focus is on having automated recordings in the classrooms for the teachers. “Some of the teachers just want it as simple as humanly possible, so we have an integration in our LMS where each teacher can just book their recordings. It’s automated and everything is just pushed through Panopto,” says Magnus Lian, Senior Engineer – Section for Teaching and Learning Support.That is working really well.”

Often automated setups are necessary, due to the size of the institution and the number of videos being recorded. This was the case at Loughborough University, where a new digital strategy for teaching and learning was adopted in 2017. “We had to opt-out [shifted to the system of recording where everything is recorded unless the user manually opts-out] because of the sheer scale we were going to operate at. Capturing thousands of sessions and thousands of hours,” says Richard Goodman, Learning Technology Team Manager. “When we went with the new policy of capturing as much as possible it had to be automated. We had to go through the Panopto API.”

At the Otto-Beisheim School of Management in Vallendar, Germany, automation was the focus of the “One Button Studio,” a project that was started just before the pandemic. “One push of the button would record and upload to the personal Panopto folder,” says Vincent Meertens, Associate Director Digital & Learning Innovation.

So, when are ad-hoc setups required? In more dynamic learning spaces where it’s not necessary to record everything. “For ad-hoc, it’s in the studios and also for active learning spaces where there is more of a need to start and stop when groups are discussing, because you don’t want to record the students,” says Lian.

HyFlex Classroom Technology Setups

HyFlex classrooms have become increasingly important in the current education landscape, as they offer a scalable, adaptable, and student-centric approach to education that benefits both learners and educators. How do universities fulfill the needs of both faculty and students – whether in person, live streaming online, or learning asynchronously?

Meertens says it’s important to consider the experience from all user perspectives. From the instructor’s point of view, equal access to in-person and asynchronous students is vital. “When I step into the lecture hall I need to have two screens: one where I have the presentation, the other with the Zoom meeting.” 

When it comes to in-class participants learning in a HyFlex environment, they want to feel as though they are part of an engaging community of students. “What do they want to see? Directly behind the instructor they want to see the presentation. To the left and right they want to see the online participants.”

Let’s not forget about the online participants’ position – what do they want to see? “They would like to see the instructor, but they would also like to see the lively discussion that takes place in the lecture halls. So we have microphones on the ceiling that are covering different zones, and cameras that are moving depending on the discussion rather than the lecture hall,” says Meertens.  

Do Schools Still Use Chalkboards?

Are the days of screeching chalk on the chalkboard gone? Surprisingly, not for everyone. The Otto-Beisheim School focuses on diversity and valuing what each faculty member wants. “Some really want to keep on using blackboards even though we push them in a different direction and have cameras that specifically capture the blackboard well,” says Meertens.

During the pandemic, other faculty began using tablets. The school now has a huge pool of tablets that can be connected to lecture tool equipment and used as a blackboard replacement.

Physics and mathematics teachers at NTNU still need chalk on the board for their lectures. “The first thing they look at when the room is refurbished is ‘Is the blackboard still there?’ And then they can breathe. So we can’t take that away,” says Lian. 

Implementing tracking cameras is an important part of a classroom setup for the university, which is currently in the pilot stage. “The next problem is the students want to have a full overview of the blackboard, so we’re experimenting in some rooms, putting two cameras – one for tracking, the other for a broader view,” says Lian. 

At Loughborough University, more modern tools have replaced the use of blackboards.“Our board use is dwindling, we do have some rooms with boards in them,” says Goodman, “More use is being made of the WolfVision projector.”

Building with Panopto’s Features and Integrations

Using a range of technology tools can be complicated. That’s why having one tool that offers a number of integrations can be helpful for faculty and guests who may not be tech savvy. 

At NTNU, multi-camera production is something that not many faculty are comfortable with – an issue that can be solved through Panopto’s integration with Zoom. “We are creating live webinars where we are pulling in guests from Zoom, blending them with local guests, and streaming it out of Panopto,” says Lian.

Panopto’s integration with Zoom has also been crucial in scaling lecture recording at the university to hundreds of students in the form of “Zoomroom” webinar booths. “Everything is driven by Zoom, but since we have the integration with Panopto we can also automatically publish it to Panopto,” says Lian. “I’ve seen up to 500 students [participate in lectures] from this room. It works really well because the lecturer gets to have eye contact with the camera.” 

At the Otto-Beisheim School, studios are being set up to maximize Panopto’s functionality. “One way you can use the Panopto recorder is to record your own materials, and another way would be building our hybrid teaching setup in the same studio,” says Meertens. Feedback from faculty has been great. “[Faculty] present differently doing it in such a room, and they are more secure about the technical set up.”

Sometimes starting out small can have the greatest impact. Loughborough University initially started with just one Panopto recorder in one room on campus, but noticed some interesting use cases pop up in the first few weeks. “One of the chief lecturers was coming in on a Wednesday afternoon and pre-recording sessions in a kind-of flipped classroom model,”  says Goodman. “They could then use the timetable time to do more interesting seminars.”


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