Talking Teaching

September 9, 2010

panopto – good for more than just recording lectures

I’ve just been reading a thought-provoking essay by Laura Guertin – it’s certainly given me some ideas on ways to expand my use of panopto in my teaching :)

As you’ll have gathered from previous posts, I began using panopto with my first-year biology class in the A semester this year. And I’m very enthusiastic about it. I use it to review my classroom performance, & our Teaching Development Unit staff used on recording for a staff-development workshop on peer review – the thinking here was that participants might be more willing to give strong constructive criticism if the focus of that criticism wasn’t actually present. (I got the feedback in written form & found it very helpful.)

But that wasn’t the reason I decided to go with panopto. I was more interested in its potential to support student learning, hoping that it would be valuable for students who’d missed a lecture or wanted to view part of one again. We included a question on student attitudes to the technology in the course appraisals for the paper: comments were universally positive & included statements that they were downloading the lectures as podcasts to watch when travelling, & valued the opportunity to go over content that they’d missed or not fully understood the first time round.

There has to be more to this technology, though, so it was good to read Guertin’s essay & find that she identifies a number of other possibilities for podcasts. Several of them really appeal to me & I’ll look at ways of including them in my own practice. The first is in reducing pre-class anxiety. I know from time spent advising students about their programs of study that some can be really worried about their papers – they’re not sure if they’ll be able to succeed, anxious about their ability to understand the content (especially if they haven’t studied that subject for a while or it wasn’t their strong suit at school), and often have misconceptions & preconceptions about what they’re likely to cover during the semester. Guertin suggests that providing podcasts before the paper or on course assessment.

This one got me thinking, as traditionally quite a bit of the first lecture is taken up with ‘house-keeping’ – information on when labs & tuts begin, how the course is assessed, where to find people & buy printed handouts, & so on. It’s a heap of information & – judging by the number of times we get asked for that same information later on – many students simply don’t take it in. Quite probably they just can’t take it in; they’re being hit with this sort of thing in all their lectures & it’s a real informaton overload. But, if I were to make the information available as a podcast ahead of time (& use the ‘participants’ list on Moodle to e-mail them all that the podast was available & where to find it), maybe they’d listen to it in advance & they’d have the podcast to refer to when they needed to. So that’s on my list of things to do before 2011A begins.

Another suggestion is to use them to provide answers to frequently-asked questions – things that repeatedly crop up when you’re meeting with students individually. (Now that I think about it, the same sort of thing would be really good in addressing common enrolment-related questions – we could put something together to go on the Faculty website for new &/or returning students to access! I must remember to talk with our registrar about that one.) If several students come along with the same or similar questions it’s probably a fair bet that there are others out there who are also puzzled by the conundrum-du-jour, & a podcast on the current week’s hot topic(s) would reach those students as well & also be an effective use of my time.

And I’ve written ‘interesting!’ in the margin by Guertin’s paragraph on making lecture summaries available as podcasts. This is based on a piece of research (author cited in Guertin’s paper) which found that most of the researcher’s students weren’t actually listening to the full lecture podcasts he was making available. (Now, this isn’t necessarily a problem if the students are getting all they need from the lectures & any associated reading, but anyway…) The students said they’d prefer much shorter reviews – so their lecturer turned this around by getting the students to do the work, making 6-10 minute podcasts about something they’d found interesting during class, & then uploading these to the server for their peers to view. This strikes me as an interesting exercise & I can see how it could be useful in our A semester paper where we already get the students to give brief presentations; many of them might well seize on the option of doing a podcast. Although for that, we’d have to ask the IT folks about making the software available to the students.

Although I have to say – when I read the heading for that paragraph, my first thought was that this would be an interesting discipline for the teacher. I suspect that it could actually prove to be quite a challenge to distill a 50-minute lecture down to its key ideas – but a valuable one, as it would surely focus the mind on just what the key ideas are that one wanted to get across :) And that has to be good for all concerned.

L.Guertin (2010) Creating and using podcasts across the disciplines. Currents in Teaching & Learning 2(2): 4-12


  1. […] classes, but the discussions afterwards can be really rewarding. (In that regard, something like panopto is an excellent tool to aid reflection on your own teaching, if you’d rather someone else […]

    Pingback by changing the culture of science education at research universities | BioBlog — January 25, 2011 @ 9:24 am

  2. […] written previously about the lecture-capture system Panopto as a tool for supporting student learning. Anyway, our Teaching Development folks asked me to write […]

    Pingback by teaching with panopto « Talking Teaching — May 24, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

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