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Reflections from the Gregynog Colloquium 2014

Gregynog Colloquium 2014Last week, the Panopto team headed to the picturesque setting of Gregynog Hall for a colloquium organised by the Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum (WHELF) and the Higher Education Wales Information Technology (HEWIT) group. Every year these two organisations bring together IT and Library staff at all levels to collaborate and share best practice on how to enhance student satisfaction.

This year, the theme of the event was ‘Rethinking the Future: Satisfying staff and students in times of diminishing resources and rising expectations’. As part of the event programme, we hosted a session on innovative uses of video in higher education. Our presentation focused on how institutions could move beyond straightforward lecture capture to embed a whole range of video-based practices in their day-to-day teaching and learning activities. From flipped classroom examples at the University of Birmingham, to Aberystwyth University’s use of video to offer virtual open days to prospective students, our aim was to showcase how video could help universities provide students with a more engaging overall experience. The use cases we chose highlighted the role video can play in connecting universities with students at all stages of their journey – from prospect to student to graduate.

With around 40 delegates in the room for our presentation, there was much discussion around the positive impact video technology and on-demand lecture recording could have on student satisfaction and attainment. There was also a great deal of focus on the knock-on effect such technologies could have on retention. As the title of the colloquium suggests, universities are facing an increasingly demanding, and digitally-savvy, student intake. The need for universities to forge strong connections with their students in order to maximise learner satisfaction and boost completion rates was highlighted by a number of delegates. Technology was widely seen as playing an important role in supporting teacher-student engagement, and therefore in aiding student retention.

This echoes sentiments in a report by the Higher Education Academy about student retention in Wales, published a couple of years ago. This report cited research from the ‘What works? Student retention and success programme’ which suggests that ‘student engagement lies at the heart of retention’. The research also stressed the importance of ‘collaborative, student-centred learning and teaching strategies’ which ‘facilitate staff and student interaction, enabling students to develop academically and staff to have a better understanding of their students.’

When we were talking with delegates at the Gregynog Colloquium about some of the innovations with video taking place within our user community, it brought into focus the various ways in which technology can drive universities towards this collaborative, student-centred teaching and learning approach. While it might seem counter-intuitive to suggest that technology can bring academics and students closer together, in his recent guest blog post, Dr Jeremy Pritchard at the University of Birmingham stated that the ability to record a lecture series for students to watch on-demand has subsequently freed up his time to do a range of more engaging face-to-face activities. Some of these have been supported by short flipped classroom video clips sent out pre-session. He is also using audio recording and screen capture to give much more in-depth feedback to his students on their essays, assignments and presentations. As feedback on academic work is consistently cited by students as an area in which universities need to improve, multimedia recorded marking of student work is just one way technology can make a difference to student engagement.

At some of the other universities we mentioned during the presentation, video is being used to record student assessments, offer induction tutorials on key skills such as how to use the library and live broadcast guest speakers visiting an institution. All of this is contributing to a rich student experience that can only enhance engagement and help ensure that student completion rates are as high as possible.

Ultimately, the Gregynog Colloquium offered us a great opportunity to share these customer use cases more widely and talk about some of the best practices we are seeing from our university users. With such a range of uses for video and multimedia recordings starting to emerge, it is exciting to think about the positive impact of technologies like ours on student satisfaction, both in terms of what is already happening and what is yet to come.

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