Our Journey with Panopto So Far: The View from University College Cork, Ireland
In my capacity as Chief Technical Officer for the Audio Visual Media Services team at University College Cork, I recently gave a talk at the HEAnet conference, outlining our experiences of using video to enhance teaching and learning.
The lecture capture project at University College Cork has been in train for over six years now and during this time we’ve encountered – and overcome – many challenges. Thinking back to the earliest days of the video initiative, the original drive was to implement the technical capacity to allow us to deliver online programmes remotely. A lot has happened since and the scope of the project definitely increased as time went on!
In the first instance, the Audio Visual Media Services team was charged with delivering a flexible video solution that would support the University’s needs. We were also expected to help drive uptake of the chosen system amongst academics. With this in mind we started to look at the options available to us. We initially looked at hardware-based video capture solutions, but these were prohibitively expensive, especially when we thought about how we might want to scale-up across campus. We then started to look at a software-based approach and having undertaken further research, we chose Panopto as our lecture recording platform. There were many things we liked about the system, some of which included:
- The fact that it worked on Windows, Mac and other platforms
- Its integration with Blackboard enabling automated content delivery through the familiar VLE
- Its HD streaming and recording functionality
- The ability to schedule recordings remotely
- The system’s automatic ingestion of metadata from slides and more, making recordings searchable
Throughout its implementation the team had to develop and adapt their skills, build and expand the system and engage with academics and user groups to ensure that the project was a success.
We started out with a very small implementation in just two rooms. However, we quickly realised that we’d never get the most out of video without having a plan to kit out more rooms. As Panopto is software-based, it gave us the flexibility to choose the right hardware for specific types of room set-up. Using USB cameras for recording gave us a cheap and simple way to get people up and running quickly. Of course, it wasn’t all plain sailing and we had to get out there on the ground making sure that the capture PCs were up to scratch and that the cameras were available at the right times. We also had to liaise with our buildings management team after realising that many of our lecture spaces were too dark to get a reasonable quality of video image!
Having learned a lot from the early days of lecture capture, we’re now in a position where the use of recorded lectures is really starting to take off at the institution. Additionally, we’re seeing a whole host of emerging uses for video as academics start to see the benefits it can offer their students. These range from using Panopto to flip the classroom, to arranging virtual open days through the system. Lecture capture, including live streaming, is now available as standard in all of our teaching rooms – which covers around 280 classrooms and collaborative areas. The ability to record what are sometimes referred to as ‘personal captures’ is also available to all staff on their own computers. The use of video lecture recording is now so widespread that some University modules are dependent on the system. For instance, Ocean Energy is a new online MSc course we are offering students which uses Panopto to help deliver course materials. Already, 12,000 minutes of recorded video content have been viewed as part of this course.
Looking at video usage patterns more widely across the University, we have recorded over 4000 sessions and we have had in the region of 61000 viewings of recorded content and counting. 380 recorders are in use across the institution – covering both capture in formal teaching spaces and lecturers using the system on their own devices. We saw a particularly big spike in usage after the summer, following a push to increase the number of users by training up more members of staff on the system. Increasing usage was part of our strategic plan, and in light of this direction of travel, we actually moved the lecture capture system to Panopto’s cloud-hosted platform earlier this year to improve availability, reliability and expandability, which are key to the success of the project.
As we continue with our use of lecture capture and video, we are sure to see new challenges arise. But we know we’ll also see huge opportunities for video to transform teaching and learning at the University and we are excited to make the most of those opportunities!