Attending a lecture

The Challenge

Like most institutions, the University of Arizona came to uncover the potential value of adding lecture capture to the learning experience by small-scale experimentation, with the university’s departments leading the way. 

Always on the lookout for new tools to help students learn, many of UA’s schools and departments had independently made the decision to invest in lecture capture technology. In just a few short years, select lecture halls around campus found themselves awash in an array of lecture capture hardware – each featuring different appliances, different capabilities, different vendors, and different support requirements, depending on what technology any given department had invested in. 

While managing each system had its own challenges, on the whole the technology was garnering interest. Lecture capture allowed faculty to record their largest class sessions and make them available to students using Apple’s Podcasting platform. Students, in turn, found the recorded presentations to be essential study aids, making it easier to actively participate in classroom discussions instead of worrying about writing down every possible note. 

As interest grew, faculty began looking beyond just their largest lectures and began expressing interest in capturing discussion sessions, lab demonstrations, blended-learning techniques, and virtually every other lesson format. Yet as faculty sought out new opportunities to leverage the new video tools their departments had put into place, the same three challenges began appearing over and over. 

The first stumbling block was one common to academic video – the hardware itself. Many of the university’s first lecture capture installations were hardware-based solutions, built around specialized, expensive recording appliances that resided permanently in lecture halls. This lack of mobility limited the usefulness of those first solutions – they offered faculty no means to record video from their offices or capture examples remotely in the field or the lab. 

The second issue was that, for students who took classes across multiple departments, having multiple lecture capture solutions meant an inconsistent experience. Students had to independently remember how to locate and play each video from each class. Video quality was highly variable as well – some of the systems included support for high-definition video and multiple video sources, while others provided only a single, fixed camera in the back of the room. 

Third, and perhaps most challenging of all, were the demands for support the departmental approach has placed on all of the university teams involved. Supporting the myriad tools, to say nothing of managing all the various software updates and recognizing and addressing technical issues with each as they popped up, was an enormous task. 

Taking all it had learned and applying a proactive approach, Arizona’s CIO team sought to find a single solution that could not only solve the challenges the previous systems had experienced, but affordably and reliably scale up to meet the growing video needs of nearly 50,000 faculty, staff, and student users all across campus.

A professor records material

The Solution

In Panopto, UA found exactly the video platform it had been looking for – versatile, easy-to-use software that made it possible to record, share, and stream video using the hardware the university already had. Panopto was easy to deploy across campus – the Panopto recorder could be quickly installed on virtually any computer, and Panopto’s web-based video library could be accessed in any web browser. Faculty members were thrilled to find Panopto integrated seamlessly with the university’s existing learning management system, Brightspace (formerly Desire2Learn).  

“One of the best things about Panopto has been their level of support,” says Mark Felix, Director, Instructional Support at the University of Arizona Office of Instruction and Assessment. “Panopto’s been a nice fit on the product side, and an excellent partnership on the support side.” 

Along with assisting in the campus-wide implementation, Panopto has worked closely with the OIA and EIS teams to help the university continue to make the most of its video infrastructure and investment. When the UA team sought to optimize bandwidth utilization by splitting its video storage – in the cloud for lower priority files, and on local servers for more frequently accessed materials – the team really began to see what makes Panopto different. 

“We’d expected the usual vendor response –‘we’ll make a feature request and talk about it for the next six months,’” says Felix. “But with Panopto, everything was doable. That same day they opened a ticket, jumped in our systems, and helped us line up our cloud accounts. It was so much more than we expected.”

And when it comes to technical collaborations, Panopto’s support team continues to be there for Arizona. “Every time we’ve provided feedback or feature requests or asked for Panopto to find a way to partner with the other companies and technologies with use here on campus, Panopto has always been willing to come to the table,” Felix says. “In fact, not long ago one of our directors had a call with Panopto and another vendor together. I think it was one of the happiest calls she had that year – she was smiling for weeks.” 

With the right video platform in place, the UA team could then turn its attention to the most important step of all – helping the university’s faculty, staff, and students make the most of the new opportunity. To make sure it was, UA created two initiatives to support faculty: 

First, it established a bi-weekly training session open to anyone on campus. This provided faculty and department facilitators an open door for learning how to use Panopto and get any of their questions answered. Compared to the one-off support each department required previously, offering a single, regular session to support one centralized video platform was a much more efficient use of the team’s time. 

Secondly, for faculty looking to use video to help flip their classrooms or offer other blended learning experiences with video, OIA staff created a module in an existing mini-course to both increase faculty’s technical understanding of video and help them craft compelling content. Several workshops were also developed for both the faculty and staff that support the product. In addition, the university quickly ramped up the number of support staff that knew how to use the tool so that support was never far away. Lastly, it made prodigious use of Panopto’s online support documentation and wrote little materials of its own. 

The University of Arizona Library system is one of the largest adopters of the new video platform. Taking note of the ability to easily upload and securely deliver multimedia to students no matter their location, the library migrated from its previous multimedia streaming solution to Panopto. The software’s adaptive bitrate streaming ensured that all students, whether on the campus network or at the coffee shop down the street, could smoothly view their class videos.

“Panopto’s been a nice fit on the product side, and an excellent partnership on the support side.”

Mark Felix, Director of Instructional Support – University of Arizona Office of Instruction and Assessment
Speaking with customer support

The Impact

With a student population of more than 40,000 and lecture capture in wide use across campus, the University of Arizona has embraced academic video with full force and has some impressive engagement numbers to show for it.

Each week, Arizona’s faculty produces more than two terabytes of data. Over the course of the last year, their lecture capture totaled nearly 30 thousand hours of recorded content. Just as impressive is how students engage with all that material. In the last year, students at Arizona have viewed nearly 270,000 hours of video – studying for tests, catching up on classes, and owning their learning experience. 

For the University of Arizona, the experience has been everything it had hoped – not only in making good on the school’s commitment to make academic video available anywhere on campus, but also in building an excited community of students and instructors that now rely on video as a key part of the university experience. 

With Panopto providing a solid foundation in lecture capture and video content management, today the University of Arizona is out at the forefront. With new opportunities to better engage students, the university is raising its profile as a leader in blended and online learning.

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Virtual Campus Rhineland-Palatinate uses Panopto to increase engagement in teaching and learning.

Post-Pandemic Classroom Experience with Panopto

Thanks to the implementation of Panopto prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty at the University of Arizona were quick to shift to online learning while social distancing precautions were put in place. The majority of faculty were already using Panopto, and the UA technology team offered training sessions for those who had not yet used the VMS to share how to incorporate video into the classroom experience. 

As students returned to in-person instruction, though, faculty continued to see the value of Panopto. In a post-pandemic world, technologies at the University of Arizona have given rise to new forms of learning that blend in-person and online instruction, as well as synchronous and asynchronous learning. Some faculty have begun to shift what they’re reviewing in the classroom versus what can be done at home. For example, some faculty are flipping the classroom, recording a lecture prior to meeting and using the in-person time to actively host discussions or solve problems as a group. 

The technology team also saw a rise in questions regarding video analytics and how this can impact learning outcomes. Faculty are reviewing analytics to see how often students are accessing the videos to help inform the learning experience, whether that is adding an additional learning video or dedicating in-person class time to review a particularly challenging subject. 

While Panopto may have been a part of the University of Arizona campus for years, faculty are continuing to find new uses for learning videos in their classroom experience.