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Panopto and Me — An Academic’s View

I first became aware of Panopto when our information services team introduced it as our lecture capture system here at Aberystwyth. I was a new lecturer at the time and immediately thought it could be a useful technology. As any new lecturer will tell you, we’re pretty bombarded with different bits of software when we start, so what stood out about Panopto for me to begin with? Well I was keen to make it as easy as possible for my students to access learning materials so that they could save their energies for engaging with the actual content. So I really liked the fact that as well as being able to watch the Panopto lecture recordings online, they could also download lecture captures and watch them back without an internet connection. This is particularly useful at Aberystwyth, where students tell me their long train journeys to and from our campus at the beginning and end of term time gives them a great opportunity to review anything they might have missed!

What did I learn about lecture capture during my early experiments with the system? Well, firstly I realised that making the lecture recordings available didn’t have any noticeable impact on student attendance. Lots of academics worry that they’ll be delivering lectures to empty halls, but I haven’t found this to be the case at all. The students who want to do well will still come to the live lecture, but use the recording as a supplement so they can consolidate their learning.

There are also certain groups of students who find it particularly helpful. For instance, I have some students with dyslexia who find it hard to listen and take notes at the same time and who get very anxious about this. Video has allowed them to focus on efficient note-taking, rather than on trying to do two things at once. Obviously this is also helpful for students without dyslexia too. Another group that this technology is particularly beneficial for is students who have health issues that prevent them from physically attending sessions. An example that springs to mind is a student who had glandular fever who wouldn’t have been able to complete his course without access to the Panopto recordings of his lectures.

From initially using Panopto just for lecture capture, I’ve been exploring a range of other uses for the system. For instance, I’ve been creating more bite-sized ‘how-to’ video clips to be shared after class and I’m also going to start using it to flip the classroom from next January. My plan is to record mini-lectures which students will watch in advance so we can use the face-to-face time for a deeper dive into the topic. I will then record the students doing their own presentations on the subjects we’ve covered, using Panopto, of course.

As well as using the system to connect more effectively with my students, I’ve also been using Panopto to communicate with other academics. The most interesting example was when I used Panopto to remotely present at an academic conference. I had been asked to speak at an event at St Hilda’s College, Oxford University and had fully intended to go in person to deliver my talk. However, the day before the event there were major floods which led to all the main roads out of Aberystwyth becoming impassable. Thinking on my feet, I realised that I could use Panopto to either live broadcast my session, or record the presentation in advance and send to the conference organisers to play. Opting to go down the pre-recorded route and using just my desktop computer, an HD webcam and a desktop microphone, I recorded my entire presentation and shared with the conference organisers. They offered delegates the option to watch it during what would’ve been my presentation slot and also emailed it to participants after the event to watch back. This proved to be a great solution to the problem and you can watch the video that they saw here.

So, when I think about my journey with Panopto so far, I have to conclude that I’ve found it to be an incredibly useful tool to engage with my students and I’ve also learnt that it has so many applications, both within the classroom and more generally! Next on my list is to organise a series of international remote brown bag lunches with colleagues using Panopto. We’ll likely start with continental Europe, but assuming it takes off, next stop – the world!

Dr Gareth Hall is a Lecturer in Psychology at Aberystwyth University in Wales. You can watch the remote conference recording from Dr Hall here. If you’re interested in using Panopto to enhance the teaching and learning process, contact Frances Andrews by emailing [email protected]. You can also request a demo or sign up for a free trial.