Tohoku University, a national university located in the Tōhoku Region of Japan, is internationally recognized for its outstanding standards in education and research. The Times Higher Education Japan University Rankings ranked Tohoku University as Japan’s top university in both 2020 and 2021, showing that the university’s educational prowess is highly regarded both within Japan and overseas.
Tohoku University was an early adopter of online classes and has spent around 20 years trialing various systems. While the university initially used an on-site server to stream video, this presented many challenges, including the inability to recover immediately after system outages, the time and effort required to maintain the system, and high running costs. This made the university decide to switch to a progressive download approach in which video files are stored in a web server and downloaded over HTTP as they are played. While this approach solved the cost and maintenance issues, it created new problems such as choppy video due to the overloading of the web server and difficulty of use for students.
When an earthquake and tsunami put the university’s IT systems out of action for an extended period, it made the university realize first-hand the risks associated with maintaining servers on site. Then in 2020, COVID-19 broke out, and the establishment of an environment that allowed students to watch online lectures without hassle became a matter of urgency.
The university realized that its IT systems needed to be expandable if they were to overcome all of these challenges, and decided to switch from its on-site lecture capture setup to a cloud-based one.
The university established an expandable lecture streaming system using Panopto as the cloud-based video management platform that supports learning tools interoperability, meaning it allows seamless integration with the existing learning management system, and existing web-conferencing tools.
“Panopto is one of only a few cloud-based video broadcasting platforms that supports learning tools interoperability, and as such satisfies our requirements,” says Associate Professor Mitsuishi Takashi, who teaches data science and is involved in researching and implementing the university’s information systems.
“The first time I saw Panopto I instinctively knew it would be user friendly: that was also a major consideration. Panopto offers a comprehensive range of education-oriented functions, making it easy for students to use, and also easy for lecturers to check viewing histories to see what parts of their videos are being watched the most. I felt that in the course of using the system we would experience additional, future-oriented benefits,” Takashi says.
In addition to integrations, Panopto was also chosen based on flexibility of usage and on-demand video viewing options.
“I believe that many lecturers will go back to face-to-face instruction once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. However, I believe a significant proportion will keep their lessons available online, as well. There is very high demand from students for on-demand content. Even before COVID-19, around half of the students in the classes I teach review face-to-face lectures they attended at a later date. A survey of students found that they like how Panopto allows them to watch content on demand, whenever they please, and to repeatedly re-watch lessons. I believe on-demand streaming is going to be an indispensable part of education in the future,” Takashi shares.
“Panopto offers a comprehensive range of education-oriented functions, making it easy for students to use and also easy for lecturers to check viewing histories to see what parts of their videos are being watched the most. I felt that in the course of using the system we would experience additional, future-oriented benefits.”Mitsuishi Takashi, Associate Professor, Tohoku University
Continued use of Panopto will further enhance the university’s educational capabilities.
“Tohoku University has declared that it is going to leverage educational and learning data as it further embraces digital innovation,” Takashi says. “Panopto has many education-oriented features that make it easy for even lecturers without administrative privileges to see viewing histories and find out what parts of videos are being watched the most. Lecturers uploading videos are able to analyze data themselves and embark on evidence-based improvements to the lesson. The system can also be used for quizzes, and I believe it will also become possible to use it for one-on-one instruction based on the level of understanding of the individual student. I believe Panopto will form the basis of the digital education innovation that Tohoku University is aiming for.”
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