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Lecture 2.0: Suffolk University Implements Panopto to Enrich Both the Traditional and Virtual Classroom Experience

Praneeth Machettira knows the classroom experience is about more than just the notes on the blackboard.

Suffolk University Logo - Panopto Case StudyAt Suffolk University Sawyer Business School in Boston, Machettira has spent more than eight years creating an information technology infrastructure that helps students master new concepts, research critical ideas and access vital course material, all without ever leaving their desks.

His perceptive understanding of the link between technology and learning has led him to introduce many new technologies ahead of the curve, making the Sawyer Business School, one of the top drivers for technology adoption throughout the Suffolk University network.

So when the Sawyer Business School planned to expand its online MBA program to include undergraduate programs, as director of technology, Machettira knew he needed an innovative technology solution that would support Suffolk’s growing virtual student body, enrich the experience of on-campus students and integrate seamlessly with the university’s existing technology infrastructure.

Exploring the Lecture Capture Prerequisites

With a new roster of online courses scheduled for the fall semester, Machettira began evaluating new lecture capture solutions to ensure the IT team was ready to meet the evolving needs of faculty and students. One of his main goals was to find a lecture capture solution that would not only benefit online students, but also would cater to Suffolk’s increasingly web-savvy campus.

The university’s adoption of BlackBoard had already had opened the doors to an increased reliance on online services by the Suffolk community. Professors now used BlackBoard regularly to post lecture PowerPoint slides, provide links to supplementary materials and create forums to spark classroom discussion. A new university green initiative also was fueling this web migration, as professors opted to post more materials online to avoid wasting paper on handouts.

Yet, professors still were struggling with how to share recorded lectures with their students. According to Machettira, the university had various multimedia recording solutions available, and while these solutions did meet basic functionality requirements, they also limited professors’ control over the recording process.

Existing solutions required faculty members to make appointments at a university recording studio and record lectures months in advance to ensure there was adequate time for the IT staff to record the session, digitally code the file and upload it to BlackBoard. These solutions also lacked advanced editing tools, meaning professors had to recreate videos each time they updated a lecture’s content.

Being part of a leading, globally focused education program with a dynamic curriculum, professors found these restrictions to be problematic as material quickly became outdated and new information could not be added to previously taped lectures. They also noted that studio-recorded lectures lacked question and answer sessions and other student comments that were part of the interactive lecture experience.

According to Machettira, “We got complaints from faculty that the process of recording multimedia was not easy, was there not a better way to do this, and that it was taking too long. These were all correct perspectives.”

Acknowledging these limitations, Machettira’s team set out to find a complementary solution that would empower professors to manage the whole recording process, while also integrating easily with existing technologies such as BlackBoard.

Finding a solution that fit the university’s IT budget, however, proved difficult as many lecture capture programs required costly hardware implementations and licenses for each recording site. Knowing that Suffolk could not afford to purchase the hundreds of licenses and hardware implementations necessary to outfit its entire faculty, Machettira quickly realized he needed another option.

A Potential Solution in a Video Platform

After searching for alternative solutions, Machettira came across Panopto, a web-based video platform that could digitally record audio, video and PowerPoint slides outside of a recording studio – freeing professors from their dependence on the IT department.

With Panopto, professors could bring lecture capture technology into the classroom by using hard-wired classroom cameras and simple webcams to create virtual sessions. Professors would be able to create videos in their offices at their convenience, without having to film them months in advance.

“The software resides on a computer, either in the classroom, office, or at home. You are the one that initiates the recording and you are the one that stops the recording,” said Machettira. “The opportunity to allow people to record anytime, anywhere with standardized technology in higher education, is a big one.”

Panopto also delivered completed files in an MP3/ MP4 format that could be embedded and shared in any website, blog, or forum instantly. This allowed professors to post content they recorded on the same day they created it, instead of waiting weeks for the IT staff to code and upload the files. Panopto directly integrated to BlackBoard, enabling professors to include videos with their other course documents with just the click of a few buttons.

And since Panopto is a client-server software solution, there was very little hardware necessary for a campus-wide deployment. Panopto already recognized existing classroom video cameras, and the software’s use of webcams was a cost-effective option for out of the classroom recording.

“Cost is a big factor for many organizations. I cannot afford to give out high quality video cameras to every faculty member to carry around. But now, we have the ability to provide fairly inexpensive webcams to faculty members. And that’s what we are doing. We’re rolling out web cams to every desktop on campus.”

Panopto also hit high marks with the university’s green initiative, as it could be installed on Suffolk’s virtual servers, which the Business School implemented in 2005 to help reduce power consumption and consolidate machinery.

Taking Lecture Video to the Head of the Class

Right away Machettira began beta testing Panopto with a core group of interested Sawyer Business School faculty members and staff. He also introduced Panopto to colleagues from the other Suffolk University schools to increase the university’s overall buy-in.

Initial feedback to Panopto was extremely positive as users appreciated the flexibility to record video sessions instantly, without visiting a recording studio or relying on assistance from the IT department – one of Machettira’s main goals.

“Apart from support, what I love about this solution is that there is very little IT involvement during the recording & publishing process. We are giving the end-user the power to manage it all. Relevancy of content depends on how quickly it can be made available. Panopto provides that ability,” he noted.

Machettira also added that beta testers liked the easy-to-use web interface for recording, editing and viewing video clips, as Panopto empowered non-technical faculty users to create content without having to rely on technologists assisting them all the time.

As the university prepares for now it’s 7th year using Panopto for on-campus video, Suffolk continues its plan to make the solution available to all Business School faculty, staff and students, both on and off campus, and to all users across the Suffolk University network of schools.

Machettira is confident that Panopto will continue to enrich Suffolk University’s lecture capture process – blurring the line between the on-campus and online classroom, and helping all students gain access to a richer and more fulfilling learning experience.

Find out more!
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