With eight locations throughout Mecklenburg County in Charlotte, North Carolina, nearly 300 for-credit programs of study, and more than 55 professional pathways, Central Piedmont Community College provides students with a real-world, affordable, hands-on education that will change their lives and impact their community.
Central Piedmont’s initial need involved two driving factors: standardization and supportability. The Information Technology Services (ITS) team was looking for a single platform that could standardize the community college’s video content. Standardization would make video recording, sharing, and viewing easier for instructors and students. It would also make it manageable for the ITS team to provide support across the entire college.
“We support all of our instructional divisions, from welding to nursing to surgical tech to truck driver training,” says Kris Motto, Director of Instructional Technology & Digital Media Services. “Our team of five supports the entire college across eight campuses.”
The team needed to see a return on investment, both financially and academically. “From our perspective, we wanted to use what we had,” says Motto. “We were trying to make the best of our finances and get the most out of what we already had on site, so Panopto was a good draw, knowing that we could run it on the computers that we already had in every classroom.”
When initially rolled out, the Information Technology Services (ITS) team had to reassure professors that Panopto wasn’t going to replace them. It didn’t take long for instructors to see the power of video and start incorporating it into their courses for everything from lecture capture and skills-based learning to student evaluations and video assignments.
The ITS team decided to start by giving Panopto to a few instructors who wanted to do more online. “I started in 2012 or 2013 by just creating video lectures for my classes. Since then, I have found it can be used in other ways,” says Dr. William G. Kennedy, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice. These key instructors ultimately became advocates, sharing their experience using Panopto with others in their department, which in turn grew the user base and video library organically.
Panopto is empowering instructors to get creative with recording, taking GoPro cameras into the construction field or capturing segmented topics in a web design lecture. The communications department has used Panopto for recording and evaluating student speeches, while the nursing department uses iPads to record exams to be evaluated by the instructor later.
Departments also use Panopto to create an organized library of video content. The forensics department moved all previously recorded materials from other platforms to Panopto because they see the value in having one platform house all the content it distributes to students, and the library archives supervisor uses Panopto for archiving video content from VHS tapes and DVDs.
Scalability and security have also been important factors. Several years ago, Central Piedmont moved Panopto from an on-premise server to a hosted cloud-based server solution. When the pandemic hit and classes had to shift to 100% online, that move ended up being crucial as usage quickly tripled.
The college also had an unfortunate ransomware attack that affected many critical systems. Because Panopto was on a hosted server, the team simply re-authenticated with Panopto and administrators, instructors and students did not lose any content or services.
Panopto’s audio-transcription features have been hugely important in light of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design. Instructors have been impressed with the ability to easily add captions. “I’ve gotten feedback from a lot of faculty about how good the transcription is,” said Media Systems Project Manager Jeff Jarvis. “Most of the instructors feel comfortable enough to do it on their own.”
“I’ve gotten feedback from a lot of faculty about how good the transcription is. Most of the instructors feel comfortable enough to do it on their own.”Jeff Jarvis, Media Systems Project Manager – Central Piedmont Community College
Using Panopto sets Central Piedmont apart from community colleges that rely solely on WebEx, Zoom or Teams. “What I see at our college is the feature-rich capabilities of a single tool in being able to upload non-standard media and make it accessible, to meet captioning needs, to have all these workflows and automatic processes happen,” says Motto. “I think that that’s what other institutions are missing.”
Over the past 12 years, Panopto has supported the transformation of how Central Piedmont’s instructors teach and deliver information, as well as how they interact and engage with students. “Once we come completely out of the COVID-19 environment, there’s still going to be that need – and desire – to teach in a split format,” says Jarvis. “That’s where Panopto is a good tool for instructors in that type of teaching environment, while other platforms may not work quite as well.”
Even as the college moves to hybrid or 100% in-person learning, the benefits of Panopto prove that video content is here to stay. With Panopto in place, Central Piedmont Community College is well-positioned and ready for the future.