I have been using Panopto to enhance teaching and learning in my MA performance classes for some time now. In some respects, my integration of this kind of technology into music teaching is atypical – a recent survey from UCISA suggested that staff within Art, Music and Drama departments use Technology Enhanced Learning tools less than the institutional norm. So why did I start using video in my classes? Well, to begin with, I started using Panopto solely for lecture capture and initially I had a very specific use case. I was teaching a student who had a recurring health condition and spent every other week in hospital, meaning they missed a number of face-to-face sessions. By using Panopto to review recordings of my lectures, the student was able to keep up with the class and still feel a part of the experience. Video became a key way of supporting this student’s needs and ensured that they were able to graduate in spite of the challenges they faced.
As I started using Panopto more, however, I realised that rather than just providing a study aid for one particular student, all of my students could benefit from using video to enhance their learning. That particular course had a strong workshop element, with peer collaboration at the heart of the learning experience, so to preserve the content of these sessions, students began recording the class using Panopto’s iPad app. The ability to review this course content on-demand was incredibly useful to the group. Sometimes in the live environment information can be overwhelming and the knowledge that they can go back afterwards to consolidate their understanding of a topic is really important for students. Having access to the video, then, allows the learner to reflect and go back to make sure they absorbed what went on in the session. Nobody has a perfect memory, and having to capture it all yourself through notes can make it challenging for students to fully participate or engage with discussion in class. So, from using Panopto to ‘fill in the gaps’ for a specific student unable to come to the live lecture, the system then became a great supplement to the face-to-face session for everybody.
Having seen the potential of video to improve the student experience through these activities, I then began to consider how Panopto could be used for student self- and peer-reflection. I decided to start regularly recording students who were preparing for their recitals, or for presentations that included live musical examples. We recorded their performances in front of their classmates and also worked within different environments, either changing the venue or the time of day. This provided insights into how different spaces affected the students’ performance style.
The students agreed to it right away. Performers are quite aware that they will ultimately be watched by audience members, so it makes sense that they should be able to watch their practice performances back to make improvements before more formal concerts. Most of the time, students were completely unaware of the subtle ways their stage presence altered depending on the setting or time of performance – it’s knowledge that you can only really gain by watching yourself back and seeing your performance as the audience would. We watched the initial recordings as a group, to reflect on different aspects of each student’s performance, considering why certain performance styles were chosen and how they could be improved. The reaction was positive and soon students came to expect to have their video performance uploaded for them to review after each session.
The Panopto recordings were also useful to capture various aspects of musical technique. A singer, for instance, may not be aware in the flow of a performance that they are not breathing correctly to achieve the best vocal effect. To help hone these technical elements, I would record them in close-up using the iPad app, so they could see for themselves afterwards what they needed to work on.
As well as the practical advantages offered by video in terms of being able to improve technique or performance style, there are a range of wider pedagogical benefits gained by using video in this way. It encourages self-directed learning, higher thinking skills, and helps ground student perceptions of their progress through self and group evaluation of the recordings. All in all, I have found it to be a very useful tool for teaching.
So, would I encourage other academics in performance-based subjects like music or drama to use lecture capture and student recordings? Most definitely. However, I know there can be barriers to adoption. People can be wary of trying new things – and this may be for a specific reason, but often it is because the technology is unknown. Until people have an initial experience with something there is often an element of doubt. It can also be challenging for some academics to think that they will be ‘seen’ on a video in the case of lecture capture. What I would say to them is that the students see them in the lecture anyway and being watched on a recording isn’t particularly different. Plus, as Panopto is so simple to use, there isn’t a steep learning curve to master which means that academics can start integrating video into their teaching practice quickly and easily.
I’m excited to contemplate the next stages of my journey with video. My upcoming project is to start using Panopto in a more interactive way. I want to use the system not just for recording classroom sessions and student performances, but also to deliver video feedback and to annotate student presentations and performances within Panopto. These are hugely attractive use cases for me and I think they will enhance the experience I can offer my students even further!