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From Scattered to Scale: How the University of Arizona Overcame 3 Common Lecture Capture Challenges

Strategies to manage a growing video library
University Business, November 2017

Like most institutions, the University of Arizona began utilizing lecture capture technology through small-scale experimentation, starting at the departmental level. And those experiments would bear fruit—in just a few years lecture capture had taken hold at UA, with faculty producing more than 2TB of video every week, and students viewing more than 30,000 hours of classroom recordings each year. 

All that activity, however, would expose serious new challenges to the department-driven adoption of lecture capture systems. Costs were a significant concern, as the wide variety of lecture capture systems in place at UA required unique hardware and appliance investments as well as solution-specific support. Consistency, too, was an issue, as students found that the quality of classroom recordings, as well as where those recordings would be shared and how reliably those videos could be played back, varied widely across each department’s chosen system. There had to be a better way.

This web seminar highlighted how UA’s technology leaders implemented a new unified lecture capture strategy across campus and overcame three common lecture capture challenges in the process. Presenters discussed how UA leaders identified stakeholders and technical requirements, outlined how they designed a pilot program and faculty training initiatives, and offered advice for balancing costs and efficiency while managing a growing video library at any institution.

Sean Wilson

Head of Technical Evangelism

Panopto

Video in higher education isn’t what it used to be. Less than a decade ago, the only real requirement for a lecture capture system was for it to be able to record video. Fast-forward just a few years, and today’s freshmen are likely to experience video as a routine component of the learning experience in the majority of their next four years of classes. 

Today, the most important story about video on campus is all about growth: 

• growth in the number of applications for video in the learning environment (e.g., flipped classrooms, student presentations)

• growth in the number of instructors using video (one study found that fewer than 1 in 5 instructors still rely exclusively on face-to-face teaching, with blended learning now used in more than 75 percent of classrooms)

• growth in the number of scalable, reliable options for campus video available in higher education

Of course, lecture capture remains by far the most prevalent use of video on campus. Somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of institutions support some form of lecture recording. But increasingly, this is just the starting point for how video contributes to the learning experience. In the past few years, we’ve seen the flipped classroom pedagogy embrace video, with instructors frequently using recorded “micro-lectures” as a starting point for weekly lessons. We’re also seeing video growing as part of student assignments, presentations, role play and other active learning methodologies. And increasingly, we’re seeing lecture capture tools play a valuable role in live-streaming campus events, including commencements, guest lectures and performances.

As the number of academic applications for video continues to rise, universities have understandably begun expecting more from their lecture capture solutions. Recording is now table stakes. Reliability and scalability are the new principal considerations.

In addressing those needs, today we’re seeing universities moving away from the first generation of hardware-centric, custom-installed systems for video, and toward more flexible solutions—specifically, to the new generation of software-based video platforms that install virtually anywhere instantly and can automatically handle everything from simple recording to video management, search indexing, LMS integration, and optimizing playback for students regardless of the device they may use for viewing. These newer systems enable schools to circumvent the traditional restrictions that limited lecture capture to only the largest auditoriums, and instead make video easy and available in most any room on campus. 

Today, as video use in the classroom continues to evolve, the challenge for universities isn’t simply to identify systems that best support instructors’ use of video. Rather, it’s for institutions to look forward to the next five to 10 years in order to assess how video can continue to influence and evolve with students’ learning experiences.

Already, institutions such as the University of Arizona have made that calculation. And as their experience will show, thinking long-term about video can help position a university to better serve the needs of its students—both in the future as well as today. 

Mark Felix

Director of Instructional Support

Office of Instruction and Assessment

University of Arizona

In the past, the University of Arizona had several lecture capture systems in place. And while early on we had been able to make them work, supporting all those tools became more complex, expensive and time-consuming with the start of every new quarter. 

We wanted to make it possible to actually count our video assets. We knew the number was going to be considerable. We needed something that could function with a wide variety of recording hardware—not only hardware in the classroom, but also hardware in faculty members’ offices or at remote sites. Our faculty leave campus every summer and do primary research out in the world. We wanted a technology platform that allowed them to capture video and then upload it when they return to an internet connection.

As we sought to standardize around one system, we defined three personas with interests in video: faculty, students and administrators. Of course, each had their own needs.

Faculty needed to be able to have all their lectures captured. Ideally, the technology needed to be able to provide for scheduled recordings of events, including recurring events—if a class met three times per week, the professor would want that automatically captured three times per week. Faculty also wanted a way to improve the personalization of their courses. We found that using video can be one means to accomplish that. And any video solution would have to be always on and available, and ideally integrated into our LMS.

Students, meanwhile, wanted access 24/7/365—without having to memorize yet another username and password. That made LMS integration important again. Likewise, students wanted to know they could find the video in the same spot for all their classes, without having to hunt for the right link. And of course, any video solution would need to be mobile-ready.

Finally, the administrators wanted to be sure we wouldn’t become a bottleneck in the workflow. We wanted faculty to be able to log in the moment they were assigned responsibility for teaching. We wanted to empower them to immediately gain access over their sections in the student information system. We try pretty hard to push that workflow into all of our integrations—we don’t do things such as named hosts or software licensing, where only 20 people can download the application. When we adopt on a campuswide level, we want those barriers removed. We also wanted to find a platform with some flexibility, which we would be able to use to live-stream events such as graduations, town halls and other activities on campus. 

Today we’ve standardized campus video with Panopto’s platform. Doing so has helped us see and understand how our faculty and students really use video—we can see, for example, that instructors have uploaded some 30,000 hours of recorded content, and UA students now view about 270,000 hours of classroom video annually.

Treating Panopto as a component of our learning ecosystem helps us leverage the most we can get out of all of our tools together. We made sure we could successfully support all of our stakeholders. And when we fulfilled all of those requirements, we ended up with a useful and effective video capture system for our faculty, students and support staff on campus. 

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