Matt Softly, IT Manager at the University of Essex, was contacted by members of the School of Health and Human Science and presented with a challenge.
Student nurses at the University of Essex complete a pre-registration nursing degree programme using a Nursing Skills Lab – an interactive educational environment in which simulations of both medical emergencies and routine procedures can be played out in a safe, measured, and controlled manner. These simulations need to be recorded so that the nursing students can watch their reactions back and receive feedback on ways to improve from their instructors.
However, demand for these student recordings had started to outstrip the School’s ability to deliver them effectively. The team had already reached capacity with their existing camera recording system, and with the new addition of an upgraded seven bed Skills Lab and the creation of three more consultation rooms, they needed a solution that could cope with all of the extra recordings that they wanted to make in these new spaces.
The recording system they had been using up until this point operated in a similar way to CCTV — recording in one continuous stream. This required administrative staff to watch the video back to create clips for specific students to review. Staff at the School had initially looked into simply expanding the existing system, but the costs were prohibitive. The School was looking to the IT team to find a credible alternative that would deliver everything they wanted in a more cost-effective way.
Right away, the IT team at Essex suggested the Nursing Skills Lab look into the University’s lecture capture platform, Panopto. Early conversations established that the recording solution would have to capture both video and audio from the simulation bays, integrate with various other systems and allow for the live streaming of a tutorial. It was also important that, as far as possible, any recording or broadcasting issues that arose could be addressed without disturbing the class.
Those discussions confirmed that Panopto could be a natural fit for the needs of the project. As the University’s lecture capture system, a tens of thousands of recordings were already being successfully created and shared around campus with Panopto.
“Choosing Panopto to deliver this innovative solution for our nursing staff and students both saved money and increased the functionality we could offer compared to our previous system,” said Softly.
The first step towards using Panopto in the Nursing Skills Lab was for Softly to create a detailed project specification, in close collaboration with staff from the School of Health and Human Science and his own technical team. This process clarified their four key requirements:
Using these requirements to inform development, Mike Rosevear, Learning Environments Development Team Leader, established a test-rig using two IP based cameras, a microphone and Panopto, recording the two camera streams whilst synchronising the audio. The test recording was presented to academics involved in the project, who agreed that it met all of their needs.
The team then scaled the solution up to cover all 10 recording positions, designing a technical set-up that enabled them to fine tune the audio and visual inputs away from the Lab — minimising disruption to the class. Hardware was chosen that could be managed and reset remotely, wherever possible.
“With Panopto, we are able to deliver individual recordings of each student’s Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) directly to them,” notes Natasha Morrison, Lecturer at Essex. “This encourages both self- and peer-review, and allows teaching staff to effectively give both formative and summative feedback on every student’s performance, improving the overall learning experience.”
Panopto has enabled the University to deliver a multi-camera recording solution for the Skills Lab with enhanced control over both the recording of sessions and user rights management – all at a reduced cost compared to its original set-up. Crucially, the new approach can also be scaled-up in a similarly low-cost way, meaning that it will continue to be fit for purpose even as demand grows.
The new facility — including its leading-edge approach to recording simulations — has created new educational opportunities for staff and students alike at Essex, and has even attracted considerable attention within the wider nursing community, including a feature in the Nursing Times.
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