Introducing Lecture Capture at the University of Bath

Nitin Parmar and his colleague, Sacha Goodwin, recently spoke about Panopto to members of UKOLN in a staff development session. It was a very interesting talk and the University of Bath are doing some outstanding work in the area of lecture capture. I managed to persuade Nitin to write a guest blog post on his experiences. Further details of the talk he gave, including a presentation recording, can be found on the Classroom Technologies blog.

Nitin Parmar is a Learning Technologist in the e-Learning team, Learning & Teaching Enhancement Office at the University of Bath. Nitin can be followed on Twitter at nrparmar.

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It was sometime in 2007 that I first became aware of the concept of lecture capture, and some of the possibilities that associated, task specific software could enable. During my undergraduate studies at the University of Bath in the early-2000s, my personal lecture capture ‘system’ consisted of a tape-based dictaphone which allowed me to record, and later reflect on, Professor James Davenport’s rather comprehensive (but excellent!) Advanced Networking lectures.

But, it was only some years later when I returned to the university as a member of staff, did I really begin to understand and appreciate the wider context, and the possibilities that lecture capture could provide for both lecturers and students.

At the University of Bath, we have just gone live with an institutional lecture capture service that is quickly becoming the most talked about classroom technology amongst staff and students, both on- and off-campus.

What is Lecture Capture?

Lecture capture refers to a set of technologies that allow recordings of presentations to be performed with minimal effort from the users’ perspective, and relay those recordings to a given audience, either live or post event. In the past, recording lectures at the university has involved filming both the screen and the presenter with a camcorder, later transferring the recording onto a delivery format such as VHS or DVD. Or more recently, streaming servers or content respositories. With post-production on such recordings incredibly time consuming, and following the inability to capture writing on chalkboards, it was clear that a different, more efficient, solution would be required at the university in the longer term.

Lecture capture technology has allowed both administrators of the process, as well as those using the software as end-users, to make giant strides forward in a number of areas. Indeed, the technology allows the simultaneous capture of audio, video – and any application used on screen, including Microsoft PowerPoint, which is still the most popular lecture delivery method.

In fact, the software can also capture interactions, with or on, any device plugged into the PC including sympodiums, visualisers and Blu ray players. The content can then be distributed automatically to the web, to mobile devices including iPods as well as a range of other playback devices.

Panopto Lecture Capture output

Why is it significant?

EDUCAUSE (2010) [1] suggest that “lecture capture enhances and extends existing instructional activities, with in face-to-face, fully online, or blended learning environments”. Indeed, it has been suggested that students benefit from repeated viewing of content, particularly in those areas where the issue or concept being discussed is complex and possible difficult to grasp first time around.

A number of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are already capturing lectures, and making them available to students – either immediately, or for a time limited period during revision for examinations. Essentially, a number of experiments are taking place currently on how best to supplement face-to-face lecture material, for increasingly demanding students. As Zhu (2010) [2] puts forward, lecturers are beginning to rethink their use of contact time with students “to free up class time for active learning experiences”.

Students on distance learning programmes might also be in the position to benefit, whereby some course content that was previously available in a static-textual format, might be delivered using lecture capture software, viewable within a given period of time perhaps. This could then be followed by a lecturer-student discussion, hosted by desktop conferencing software such as Elluminate.

Further possibilities also exist in the area of Open Educational Resources (OER) where rich learning material, produced by members of staff at HEIs, could be made accessible to the general public covering both socially responsible and marketing agendas.

Importantly, with the phasing out of chalkboards at the University of Bath as part of a wider programme to refurbish lecture theatres, lecture capture is likely to play a central role in encouraging lecturers to engage with new technologies. After all, any graph annotations made using a visualiser or diagrams drawn on paper which is then projected by a visualiser, can be captured by the software.

Why Panopto?

Panopto is a flexible and easy-to-use presentation capture platform which allows users to capture, edit, archive and share recordings [3]. Founded in 2007, Panopto Inc. is a spin out company from Carnegie Mellon University in the US and first came to the attention to colleagues in the Audio Visual Unit (AV) at the University of Bath in mid-2008, after a rather lengthy exploration period.

The key factors in piloting the Panopto initially was that it was relatively inexpensive to get started, and that it was seen to be scalable longer term. The solution allowed for ‘off the shelf’ components to be used for recording purposes, utilising standard-build lecture room PCs.

Panopto itself allows for lectures to be captured to be captured in two different ways:

  1. On request, recordings can be scheduled by AV to happen ‘in the background’ during a particular lecture. This capture not only captures the audio source (from a desk mounted USB microphone) and the range of devices listed above, but also, the talking head, provided that the ceiling mounted cameras which have been installed in some lecture theatres have been switched on. Importantly, the recording of the lecture happens automatically and unobtrusively to the presenter.
  2. Alternatively, colleagues are able to download the Panopto recording application onto their own (or departmental) PCs and record presentations incorporating input sources such as, off the shelf microphones or webcams. The user can control what is recorded, can pause or resume recordings and manage how and how it is distributed.

In both of the cases listed above, recordings can either be made available via a URL, that can be access restricted in a number of ways. However, it was the integration with Moodle that has proven to be most popular, with recordings of lectures often available from a block within the Moodle courses for units within minutes of the lecture ending.

It was in September 2008 that Sacha Goodwin, AV Recorded Media Production Manager, engaged in the Socrates Project, which gave a cut down version of the software free to academic institutions and allowed the university to trial Panopto as a proof of concept, and gather feedback from lecturers and students [4]. Initially as a small group trial, the project scope was expanded gradually over the following months.

With a full service rolled out in September 2010, the University of Bath now pay for a supported Panopto service, though with servers hosted in house. Over one hundred lecture theatres have been enabled for scheduling recordings, with a cost per room less than £100. At time of writing, it is estimated that around 350 recordings will be completed during semester 1 (October – January) of the 2010/11 academic year.

The recordings made are available from http://coursecast.bath.ac.uk. Some are publicly available, for others you will need to log in with a University of Bath account.

How is the service supported?

Three teams in the university have been central to the success of implementation and continued enhancement of use of the lecture capture service.

AV lead and support the service, dealing with the range of technical issues that have come to the fore during and since Panopto’s deployment across the institution. Furthermore, the AV booking staff coordinate the increased number of scheduled recordings that members of staff (both academic and non-academic) are now requesting.

For the e-Learning team, implementation of such a service has formed part of a wider initiative to operationalise and support the use of Classroom Technologies within learning and teaching at the University of Bath [5]. Through the Classroom Technologies blog, the e-Learning team disseminate a range of practitioner-written case studies of Panopto use, as well as, identifying synergies between such technologies and encouraging lecturers to take advantage of this. Some of these findings have been subsequently disseminated at both regional fora and national conferences.

Additionally, the Learning Technologies FAQs provide answers to a variety of questions often asked by users. It is through the continued development (and evaluation) of such a resource, that the focus for this team can encouraging lecturers to enhance their pedagogical practice. Indeed, both the blog and FAQs contribute to a range of staff development workshops, including the flagship ‘Using Technologies for face to face teaching’.

With hosting Panopto in house, it is inevitable that colleagues in Computing Services have been called upon to for server installation and maintenance, as well as scheduling software deployment. Their contribution to making Panopto work as well as it does across campus is invaluable.

Where next?

Concerns have been expressed by some lecturers on the numbers of students attending lecturers, when the recording of it is available online soon after the face-to-face lecture. EDUCASE (2010) begin to question whether or not “any pedagogical benefit emerges from replaying a lecture and covering the same ground twice”. Further issues relating to type and length of access, along with how long recordings should be stored, have yet to be address across the HE sector.

Additionally, HEIs are yet to establish robust copyright-related policies for captured lectures, arrangement of releases as well as ensuring Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is no longer a grey area that is confused or exploited. That said, some work has been undertaken in this area by the JISC [6].

And as an educationalist where part of my role is on encouraging lecturers to enhance their pedagogical practice, I would be keen to evaluate the development of existing models of teaching related to this area.

References

[1] 7 Things You Should Know About Lecture Capture | EDUCAUSE, http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7044.pdf

[2] Tomorrow’s Professor Msg. #1042 Lecture Capture: A Guide To Effective Use, http://cgi.stanford.edu/~dept-ctl/tomprof/posting.php

[3] Panopto – What is Panopto Focus?, http://www.panopto.com/site/Products/technology.aspx

[4] ESTICT@Bath Short Presenation: Using Panopto to support Student Learning, Sacha Goodwin, http://drgn.in/hxkfZE

[5] 7 steps to Operationalising & Supporting Classroom Technologies, http://drgn.in/hjsdQX

[6] Recording Lectures: Legal Considerations (28/07/2010), http://drgn.in/icXROx

all accessed on 7 December 2010

Nitin’s presentation to UKOLN staff is available from Slideshare and embedded below.

It is also available as a Panopto lecture.

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