Lecture Capture Goes Campus-Wide at Creighton University, Part 1

This is the first in a series of 4 posts featuring Creighton University’s BlueCast lecture capture system, powered by Panopto.  These posts will cover Creighton’s implementation from trial to campus-wide capture as follows:

1.     Competition and Selection
2.     Introducing Bluecast
3.     Expanding Adoption
4.     Spotlight: Creighton live streams “Match Day” ceremony with Panopto

The case for lecture capture

In late 2009, Brian Young, VP and CIO of Creighton University, and Anthony Hendrickson, Dean of the College of Business, began discussing the possibility of bringing lecture capture to Creighton. Two things were animating their conversations: a study both had read showing improved student performance and retention rates from lecture capture at Penn State, and the H1N1 virus scare of 2009.

In early 2010, Young directed Instructional Designer Rick Murch-Shafer of the Creighton Division of Information Technology (DoIT) to investigate potential lecture capture solutions.

Murch-Shafer and fellow Instructional Designer, Tobias Nownes, were given three basic guidelines at the outset: the solution must be easy to scale campus-wide, it must capture video, and faculty must be able to record outside the classroom. The later was largely inspired by the very real threat of campus closures brought on by the H1N1 virus scare. At the time, universities across the country were busy creating contingency plans. “Flexibility was a big deal to us from the beginning,” recalls Murch-Shafer. “We needed a solution that allowed us to continue offering classes in the event of an outbreak. Enabling instructors to record content from their own homes was an ideal solution.”

Competition

Like many colleges and universities without a campus-wide lecture capture program, various groups at Creighton had, over the years, had sporadic, small scale experience with different lecture capture vendors. An appliance-based solution was already being used in one school on campus, and the DoIT team was familiar with a few other hardware vendors. But the need to enable off-campus, flexible recording eliminated these appliance-based solutions from the start.

Brian Young’s directive to find an easy-to-scale solution also ended up disqualifying the appliance option. Creighton’s vision of a “campus-wide solution” is comprehensive. It means a recording capability in every classroom. Buying and maintaining hundreds of fixed, hardware-based appliances proved unworkable and unaffordable at that scale.

The DoIT team then trained its sights on software-based solutions. They were already familiar with one popular screencasting solution, but its video capability simply didn’t measure up to the other solutions in the field. So DoIT commenced side-by-side pilots of Panopto and another leading SaaS lecture capture platform.

Selection

The pilots were small—5 classes in the Spring of 2010—and the DoIT team found the two systems to be fairly comparable In terms of basic front-end features. But three differences soon emerged that made Panopto their eventual choice for deployment.

“Price was one factor,” Murch-Shafer admits. “Panopto was definitely less expensive which allowed us to invest more money in hardware and outfit our classrooms faster.” The second factor was the back-end of each solution. Murch-Shafer found the Panopto administration interface to be much more intuitive and Panopto’s remote recorders more streamlined and easier to deploy.

For Tobias Nownes, the deciding factor was the classroom experience. With the other solution, instructors were running into difficulty recording sessions back to back. It kept sessions on the local recording machine until all recording was concluded, and only then initiated a long upload and encoding process. “Professors were getting confused when they had to record lectures back-to-back with the previous sessions still on the machine,” recalls Nownes. Panopto, on the other hand, uploaded sessions instantly—even when another session was being recorded. “No matter how long the lecture,” Murch-Shafer remembers, “Panopto sessions were off faculty computers and onto the server in less than a minute.”

In the end, Panopto’s ease-of-use won out. “I also love that the Panopto license allows professors to download recorders at will to their own computers, and the process is intuitive enough to do it on their own without much training or oversight from us,” Nownes concludes. “I was never really convinced that this would be the case with the other solutions we evaluated.”

Up next: Introducing BlueCast

Published: April 24, 2012