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Panopto to the Rescue

At the beginning of its 2012 fall semester, the American University in Cairo faced a major crisis. Its student body objected to a decision made by university administration, which elicited a strike that rocked the campus for three weeks. Instructors were faced with the suspension of all classes during this time.

Despite this major challenge, many professors decided to continue their classes by using Panopto to record and deliver lectures to an entirely virtual audience. This allowed AUC’s faculty to safely continue teaching without interrupting the learning process, ensuring that students would receive material regardless of the turmoil that surrounded them.

Just a few years prior to this, employing Panopto meant the difference between falling behind and staying on schedule when the H1N1 virus spurred a campus-wide quarantine at AUC. Students across the university were able to remotely attend classes while maintaining their own health and safety.

On an individual level, Panopto provides an avenue for professors to teach remotely when illness or a professional commitment prevents them from physically attending lectures.

Dr. Nathaniel Bowditch, Associate Dean of AUC’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, appreciates that his classes can stay on schedule despite his absence. “We all get sick, we all attend conferences, we all have emergencies that often make teaching every single class of every single semester impossible,” Bowditch said. “Panopto to the rescue.”

After a few semesters of using Panopto for ‘make-up’ lectures, Bowditch began experimenting with using the technology to supplement in-class learning. His students repeatedly told him how much they enjoyed the ‘mini’ lectures that could be paused and reviewed multiple times, allowing them to take better notes.

So Bowditch began posting brief recaps of lectures that he knew were especially demanding, conceptually complex, or simply too much to grasp in one sitting. He says that posting lectures online has not resulted in a decrease in lecture attendance or participation – in fact, it’s actually improved in recent semesters. Meanwhile, his students greatly appreciate the online study aid.

“Panopto is a fantastic technology that, when used well, can only support and enhance what we do in the classroom,” Bowditch said. “As far as I can tell, Panopto has only made me a better teacher.”