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Reflections from UCISA 2014

Frances Andrews - Panopto EMEALast week I was at the UCISA 2014 conference in Brighton, talking to IT professionals at universities from all over the UK about a whole array of issues and opportunities facing them. As I spoke to delegates, a recurring theme in conversation was the scalability of lecture capture solutions – specifically, the different facets and considerations of effectively scaling lecture capture campus-wide.

The trend to expand lecture capture solutions from pilot projects to university-wide deployments is definitely something we’ve seen with our clients across the UK. Some, like the University of Essex, are now creating tens of thousands of hours’ worth of recorded content with Panopto each term. In their UCISA poster session, representatives from Essex discussed how their Information Systems Services Team went from recording 4,000 lectures a year on cassette tapes for student support purposes to creating a “digital production line,” recording 70,000 hours of lectures and flipped classroom recordings each year for all students.

In scaling their lecture recording infrastructure, Essex experienced something we’ve heard from other Panopto customers in the UK – that software-based solutions are critical to massive-scale, campus-wide deployments. Southampton University’s Graham Robinson wrote about this in a 2012 guest blog post:

Having no dedicated capture hardware in our lecture theatres meant that we were able to switch on lecture capture to all 160 centrally bookable lecture spaces and make it available on every member of staff’s PC (thousands). No staff visits, no complicated permissions, just the ability to capture everywhere overnight.

Yet, as software like Panopto has made it easier for universities to scale their lecture recording infrastructure, a new potential challenge emerges around video management and accessibility. Specifically, as institutions capture more and more video, it can become increasingly difficult for students to easily find specific content within their universities’ massive video libraries.

For example, a student revising for an upcoming exam may need to review a particular topic that was covered in a lecture 3 weeks ago. There is the task of first finding the right lecture, and then finding the specific segment within the 60-minute lecture that covers the topic.

This led to discussions with delegates on Panopto’s new Smart Search technology, which for the first time truly unlocks the content of all recorded material, making it instantly accessible by learners. With Smart Search, students can find any word spoken by a lecturer and any word captured on a screen. So even if the university’s video library contains hundreds of thousands of hours of recorded lectures, students are able to navigate to whatever they want to revise in a matter of seconds.

For me, UCISA 2014 provided a good reminder that universities need to consider multiple facets of lecture capture scalability – from the recording infrastructure to the management and accessibility of those recordings.

If you want to discuss Panopto’s lecture capture and video management platform in more detail, Frances can be reached by emailing [email protected].