“The vision for the class actually stemmed from a curriculum review,” recounted Cameron Morrell, an instructor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. “We heard from the industry that our students are incredibly intelligent – but they needed to learn how to be better presenters.”
To meet that challenge, Morrell knew, the university couldn’t merely assign students a few extra presentations. To build those skills, the school needed to create a brand new course – one that would be devoted entirely to improving the way students communicate, particularly during that seminal challenge for any executive: the business presentation.
Concept in hand, Morrell came to the Sauder School of Business’s Learning Services team, partnering with Director Rob Peregoodoff and Faculty Liaison Jamie Stockdale, to find a way to bring the vision to life.
The class the Sauder team envisioned wouldn’t just be a way for the students to learn about giving presentations – it would be a total presentation laboratory, a place to experiment, self-review, and, finally, learn how to succeed as presenters. The team’s goal was to provide every student in the class with the following:
The class would come to be called Business Communications, and today it is a required course for all incoming students. But before it could begin, the team had to first answer the question of whether it could actually be done. To find out, Morrell visited a number of other universities to get ideas for how the course could be designed.
“The key problem was, how to create a course whose key grading component was oral,” Morrell says. “Students needed to be graded on a series of presentations, but we couldn’t devote all that class time to students presenting.”
“Initially we used a 2005 solution, recording the presentations with a camcorder then copying them on to DVDs,” Peregoodoff says. “The test was for 40 students. It took two weeks of class time and a lot of faculty hours as well.”
When the test was complete, the team quickly realized that such a system simply would not be feasible for all 400 students.
Then the team discovered Panopto.
In the spring of 2013, the university ran its first test with Panopto. Each class was divided into groups of six or seven students, and each group was assigned to use one of the school’s small meeting rooms as a recording location. Setup was simple: Each group used one of the university’s existing laptops and a small HD camera to record themselves wherever they were most comfortable in each room.
“We created our own ‘Media Lab’ without spending any money,” says Morrell. “We took normal student meeting rooms with no built-in audio-visual equipment, set up a laptop with Panopto inside, and hit record. With six rooms running simultaneously, we could record 40 presentations in less than 90 minutes.”
The first class session having proven successful, nine more followed over the next two days. In 48 hours, 400 student presentations were recorded, uploaded, and made available to the students and the instructors via the existing Learning Management System (LMS).
“Other options we looked at are lecture capture solutions, but Panopto is a room capture system – meaning we can record student presentations anywhere we want, not just in rooms with built-in hardware,” Morrell says. “Keep in mind that the rooms we used are not designed for recordings – they’re just normal student breakout rooms. For that reason, we simply could not do this course if we did not have the software.”
Not only was Panopto easy to use, it was easy to operate, too. Just two technical support staff were on hand for all six pilot test classes, and by mid-semester students were quite adept at using the systems independently.
Within a few hours of class time, the students and professors alike are able to access the newly created videos in the LMS – on demand, from any device they choose.
“Other options we looked at are lecture capture solutions, but Panopto is a room capture system – meaning we can record student presentations anywhere we want, not just in rooms with built-in hardware.”Cameron Morrell, Instructor – Sauder School of Business
The success of the test class – and all of the classes that followed – made believers out of everyone.
“At first the students were a little concerned about being filmed,” Morrell says. “But since there’s just a small camera, it’s not intimidating. And they love the ability to do self-reviews.”
Along with giving students a new tool to help themselves practice and learn, Panopto is a benefit to the school’s instructors.
Recording the presentations makes it possible to review each student’s performance at a later time, after class is over. Video also frees up the instructor to work with individual groups while other presentations are being delivered elsewhere. And since presentations are recorded individually, professors can objectively review each student’s work in full and provide more in-depth comments and feedback.
A third major benefit of the system is its cost. With no expensive A/V team or special equipment required, and with the ability to record the students in six different meeting rooms simultaneously, Panopto isn’t just the most cost-effective solution Sauder found – it’s one of the only ones that makes what it’s doing even possible.
Three semesters and more than 1,000 successful class participants after the initial pilot, the Learning Services unit is just starting to explore all of the possibilities of the Panopto video platform. Now, in addition to using Panopto for creating and sharing webinars and capturing remote events, other instructors have taken notice of the system and begun to request it for their class presentations as well.
“For our Management Information Systems class and other classes, we’ve probably handed back two weeks of class time to the students and instructors,” notes Peregoodoff, who says that more and more instructors are making the switch from traditional approaches to presentation giving and grading.
Panopto is even helping instructors at Sauder experiment with new pedagogical approaches to further student learning, including blended learning and the flipped classroom approach. These modern spins on traditional teaching use video to share all or part of the lecture with students before class, freeing up classroom time for discussion, group activity, and interactive exercises based on what the students will have already learned. At Sauder, 30- 40% of classes make use of these models – with Panopto making it easy to record and share the video lectures that make them possible.