I’ve written previously about the lecture-capture system Panopto as a tool for supporting student learning. Anyway, our Teaching Development folks asked me to write a short piece about it for our in-house teaching support publication & very kindly said that I could post it here as well :-)
Panopto’s a tool for capturing classroom teaching and making it available on-line for students to access whenever they please. I first became aware of it when the University was gearing up for its i-TunesU presence, and decided that the technology had a lot to offer me and my students as a tool to enhance teaching and learning practices. (I am definitely not a fan of technology for technology’s sake – it needs to have a pedagogical benefit.) And I’ve been using ever since – for lectures, for podcasts, for catching up when I’ve had to cancel a lecture due to illness.
Panopto isn’t perfect. In a lecture theatre it picks up what the lecturer’s saying, but misses most or all of the other goings-on – the questions (remember to repeat them) & the discussion around various points. It also loses ‘sight’ of the speaker if they move too far to the left or right, although that shouldn’t stop you moving around, to speak to a group maybe, or to get closer to someone who’s speaking very quietly. But students viewing a recording can see the speaker (provided there’s a camera in the room; otherwise they’ll just get the voice-over), see the powerpoint slides (& any notes or diagrams added to these in class), and watch any videos or animations that were shown in class. They can stop the recording, replay it, view tricky points again and again. To me, this was a key reason for using panopto, because I could see how it gave students the chance to revise and review difficult concepts in their own time and at their own pace.
This was borne out by an informal survey I did with my first-year class last year. The most common reason they gave for using Panopto – and not everyone used it – was as a means of reviewing material that they hadn’t understood in class. ‘Used it to revise for exams’ was also a common response, & indeed, you could tell that anyway by looking at the usage statistics within the Panopto system. But it also turned out to be really useful for students with lecture clashes – and given that we emphasize the ‘flexible learning’ opportunities available at Waikato, that’s got to be a good thing. Students liked knowing that if they were sick they wouldn’t be missing out on too much from my classes. And someone said, ‘you could use it as an excuse to miss classes – but then you’d be missing out on a lot of the ‘extra’ stuff that goes on in the lecture room’. In other words, the students were using Panopto as an additional means of supporting and enhancing their learning.
It’s also an excellent tool for reflecting on my own teaching practices. I often watch a lecture later, looking to see whether something that seemed to go well at the time, really did. It’s actually quite hard to do this to start with, because you’re seeing and hearing yourself as the students do, & that may or may not fit with your own image of how you look and sound in the classroom! It can form the basis of discussion with a friend or mentor: ‘I did this particular thing because I hoped that it would… – do you think it would have had that effect?’ I know TDU have used a recording of mine as the basis of discussion with other lecturers on delivering constructive criticism of a colleague’s class – and the feedback I received from that was extremely useful (thanks, guys!).
So, if you’re toying with the idea of trying out Panopto in your classroom, I’d say, go for it. It’ll seem strange, the first time or two, but after that (as long as you remember to press ‘record’ & turn on the microphone! been there, done that) you really don’t notice it. I was told that the students just wouldn’t come to class but I can’t say I’ve noticed that – if they’re going to wag, they’ll wag, & this is just another excuse. But more seriously – your students will see your use of Panopto as just another sign that you’re interested in & keen to support their learning, & both you and they will gain from the experience.