Wharton lecture capture

The Challenge

When The Wharton School opened Jon M. Huntsman Hall on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in the summer of 2002, it unveiled a building that had been designed to deliver a truly modern learning experience. Among the many new learning technologies the school would support was state-of-the-art lecture capture, with video-enabled lecture halls that could record and share the classes taught by Wharton’s world-class faculty.

Along a back wall in each of the new building’s lecture halls, Wharton had installed a fixed camera that would record each class session from the students’ viewpoint. It wasn’t an uncommon setup – but it had a number of drawbacks. The single-source video recording could only capture video in low-fidelity, meaning any time the presenter wrote on the whiteboard or had a white background on their PowerPoint slide, the whole image was illegibly bright. Nor was the system flexible – the fixed stationary cameras could only provide a back-row view of the classroom and added little more to the learning experience.

Still, students valued the lecture recordings and The Wharton School was keen to improve upon what had clearly been a worthwhile first step. After several years of working with their first lecture capture solution, Wharton’s Classroom Technology staff made the move to another hardware-based lecture recording system that promised greater flexibility. 

Wharton’s new solution quickly enabled faculty to produce higher quality recordings and add rich-media elements to their videos, a real enhancement for lecturers and students alike. But for Wharton’s Classroom Technology team, the new system still had its limitations. 

First among the challenges was simple availability. The specialized hardware and servers required increased costs, which in turn meant Wharton could only deploy the new technology in a limited number of rooms. Many faculty members, excited to use the new system, instead found that their classrooms wouldn’t have the new service available. 

And while at first faculty in the newly-equipped classrooms were pleased with the system’s improved flexibility, many soon discovered the new recording solution didn’t quite support all the ways they wanted to use video in the classroom.

Throughout the school’s early experiences in supporting lecture capture, The Wharton School’s Public Technology team took a proactive role, working closely with the school’s lecture capture vendors to share constructive criticism, bug reports, and feature requests. As they did, the team came to find that while the technology itself was important when it came to lecture capture, it was the level of support provided for that technology that was most valuable.  

In order to innovate at the pace they wanted, the school needed a partner they could trust; one that would work with them side-by-side to deliver a high-quality experience. And according to Jimmy Lieu, Director of Information Technology at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the school discovered the partner it needed in Panopto.

Teaching through video

The Solution

Initially, Wharton was attracted to Panopto for its flexible, software-based video platform. With Panopto, the school would be able to produce and manage its lecture recordings from any desktop PC, using the video recorders of their choice – a welcome change from the specialized servers and media equipment required by past solutions. 

Relying on standard PCs, Wharton’s IT staff could have Panopto installed in every classroom they chose and could add a classroom at any point whether for a day or the rest of the semester. That meant that no professor who wanted lecture capture would be left out. 

Better still, scheduled remote recording – all managed centrally in the Panopto platform by the school’s Public Technology department – meant that professors needed only to walk into the lecture hall at their regularly scheduled time, open their slide presentation, and give their lecture as usual. Panopto automatically took care of producing and uploading the video and the professor didn’t need to do anything to make sure the lecture was captured flawlessly. Even if the professor did not schedule a remote recording, they still had the ability to start a recording from the touch panel in the classroom.

Soon after implementation, the school found that Panopto’s support is what sets the video platform apart from others. Early in the rollout of the school’s custom high-end video capture cards, the Public Technology team was disappointed to find the cards were experiencing buffering issues that led to a noticeable decrease in playback quality. The Panopto team worked hand-in-hand with Wharton to identify the source of the issue and develop custom code that Wharton could apply to make sure the issue was resolved. Panopto later rolled the fix out into production. 

Panopto’s support team continues to work closely with the Wharton team. “There are so many products out there that promise great capture,” Lieu says. “But no other solution delivers support and management like Panopto.”  

When Wharton’s Courseware team made the switch from its old learning management system (LMS) to Instructure Canvas, the Wharton team was happy to find that the move also created a preferred method of delivering Panopto videos. Panopto integrates seamlessly with Canvas, meaning that Wharton could add lecture recordings to class websites alongside other course materials. And with single sign-on integration (SSO), access to the right videos for any given student was handled programmatically, eliminating the need for course administrators to independently manage content permissions and the hassle for students to remember passwords to two different portals.

“There are so many products out there that promise great capture, but no other solution delivers support and management like Panopto.

Jimmy Lieu, Director of Information Technology – Wharton
Watching a Wharton lecture

The Impact

With Panopto taking the legwork out of capturing and delivering a high-quality recorded lecture experience, faculty and staff at Wharton were freed up to look for new ways to provide students with innovative classroom learning experiences. 

Though Panopto had been deployed in the classroom in a way that minimized the need for professors to engage in the capture of their lectures, it also offered Wharton’s faculty and support staff an unprecedented flexibility to experiment with video as a newer medium for delivering education. 

Professors in marketing and operations management, wanting to foster better engagement in the classroom, started leveraging Panopto to “flip” their classrooms. Using the Panopto desktop recorder on the computers in their offices and homes, a handful of Wharton professors began recording short pre-lecture videos for their students. By sending these videos to their students before the scheduled class time, instructors were able to deliver traditional lecture content in an easy-to-consume form. 

In this way, students could watch and engage with the content at their own pace, prepare questions, and have a foundational understanding of the day’s subject matter before even walking in the door. In turn, Wharton’s professors could use the in-class time for interactive learning, active discussion and debate, and taking a deeper dive into complex material.

In service to a leading business school, the Public Technology team at The Wharton School is always two steps ahead. Knowing that faculty and students’ needs will continue to evolve, Wharton chose a lecture capture vendor that would go above and beyond in both innovation and support and become a true partner in advancing education.

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