At Newcastle University, we’ve been using Panopto as our lecture capture system for several years now, scaling the system campus-wide so that we can deliver on-demand lecture recordings to students across the institution (a process detailed by one of my colleagues in this blog post). As we’ve embedded use of the system into existing pedagogical practice, various members of university staff – including myself – have been keen to explore other innovative ways in which video can be used to enhance the student experience. This ties in with my wider interest in how e-learning projects can impact on student outcomes.
Because my role involves embedding enterprise into the curriculum and improving the student experience through enterprise-related activities, I was looking at ways to bridge some of the gaps that can develop between students’ academic knowledge and their ability to communicate this knowledge effectively and transfer theoretical learning into the kinds of practical terms valued by employers. As I am typically an early adopter of technology, I started to realise that by using Panopto to record student presentations I could do just that – firstly by allowing students to watch themselves back to reflect on their own presentation content and style, and secondly by providing an opportunity to gather peer feedback to gain different perspectives. I was hoping both to improve my students’ communication skills and to help them see that the way they presented their knowledge would be important from an employability standpoint.
Of course, the idea was not without its challenges. From my experience, people generally fear public speaking and, with the added pressure of being assessed and presenting as part of a group, it seemed like a very daunting task at first. Students often don’t realise how well they actually present and in instances where they are weaker (whether in content or in style), in an assessed presentation scenario any feedback given on the presentation is usually too late for them to improve their marks. In fact, very few of the students had ever had a chance to ‘replay’ their own presentations and learn from them – not even at a formative level. I felt that this was a missed opportunity. I wanted to help them appreciate how the lessons learned from watching back their presentations could allow them to approach employability-related issues with fresh insights. By enabling them to review their performance and content in conjunction with constructive peer feedback, the students felt more confident about their presentation and abilities.
So how did I go about initiating the project? Well, first of all I had to involve the right people, so I worked with the ReCap Educational Steering Group which oversees the use of Panopto (which we call ReCap) within the university, and decided to trial the idea with two different module classes of bioscience students. These two modules both involved group work, as this type of assessment requires more reflection on actual contribution rather than perceived, so it was important to incorporate peer feedback as part of this project.
We used Panopto to record practice presentations with a peer-only audience to begin with, prior to a live assessment. Confidence levels in presenting were measured before and after both the practice session and the live assessment. Following the practice presentation, other students provided brief feedback on the best thing about the presentation and suggesting one thing to improve. This feedback was written down immediately after the presentation had taken place and I then collected this, collated it and distributed it to the students. Each participant then had viewing access to their own presentation for a week prior to the live assessment to reflect on ways to improve, particularly following the peer feedback. Students valued the quick peer feedback the most, as they felt that it directly helped them improve their content, which, in turn, had a knock-on impact on improving their grades. In the end, we even had a control group as one set of students chose not to take part in the activity (and did not perform as well as other groups).
With any new kind of teaching and learning activity, you can never be sure whether it will be perceived as beneficial. However, the feedback on our Panopto-based student presentation project was unanimously positive. While students initially felt uncomfortable watching and hearing themselves back, they found it very useful to consider the pace of their delivery, their audience interaction and the quality of their content. The added pressure of having a peer audience and being recorded made them prepare well in advance and they valued the opportunity to have a week to reflect on the recording and adjust their slides and content in advance of the final live assessment, with two thirds of the group actively using the recordings for self-review purposes. One student reported that the recording allowed him to reflect more effectively on his narrative approach and subsequently change his oral behaviour at interview (in fact, he secured a job at the next interview he took). Assessors also noted how professional and well-prepared students were during the final assessed presentation.
We were able to do all of this using the existing Panopto system, meaning that we didn’t have to invest in new equipment or lose time as we familiarised ourselves with a new piece of software.
So, would I do this again with future cohorts of students? Definitely – partly as the system has even more functionality now which would streamline the process further and partly, of course, because the students improved their employability skills as a result. In fact, the assessors for one module – who are external bioscience business professionals – all commented that the final assessments they saw from those who had participated in the recording and peer-review process were the best set of presentations I had ever invited them to.
Following the positive feedback from both students and assessors, I’m keen to explore the possibilities offered by Panopto even further and will be looking into how the technology could be used to support distance learning and remote collaboration.