A positive portrayal of Lecture Capture from History of Art

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Fourteen students, one lecturer, an audio recorder and a microphone: Lecture Capture proved a straightforward installation and an instant success in the History of Art Department

Before Panopto was introduced, daily lectures were typically captured by using an audio recorder, with the track and slides uploaded one week later to WebLearn. However, this was not felt to be satisfactory: the Department sought an integrated system as students struggled to follow along with the PowerPoint with no guidance from the lecturer. ‘Special lectures’ (delivered by guest speakers or produced for outreach) were captured on an ad hoc basis by the Podcast team.

The course recorded by Panopto as part of this trial was ‘Antiquity after Antiquity’, a core paper for first year students.

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One worry that lecturers often have is that Lecture Capture will render the live session obsolete and redundant. Yet History of Art has proved this isn’t the case. Students clearly stated in their feedback  that the traditional Oxford University teaching methods of lectures/classes/tutorials are felt to be most effective, and they would not elect to miss the face-to-face sessions.

History of Art plans to roll out the technology through all study years. Material covered in second year is not examined until the end of the third: lecturers find in the run-up to the exam many students return to the course. Lecture Capture could prove a key revision tool in this scenario.

The Department will be using Panopto for two papers:

  • ‘Approaches to the History of Art’ for Masters students and FHS students
  • ‘Introduction to the History of Art’ for Prelims students (core course)

The latter of these will be delivered by lecturers coming from a variety of faculties, including English, Classics and Oriental Studies. This could be the beginnings of ripples that will see Lecture Capture begin to make waves across the university…

All photos copyright Rebecca Henderson

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Lecture Capture impetus

Before she left Oxford for greener (and wetter!) pastures, Melissa Highton, the former Director of Academic IT (Teaching and Learning) wrote two blog posts about lecture capture to give the newly launched project some impetus.

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Photo attribution: Deutsche Fotothek, Wikimedia Commons

You can read Melissa’s blog posts here:

Lecture capture will set you free” – posted on 23 March 2014
What does lecture capture entail?” – posted on 24 April 2014.

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Panopto pulls through at Egrove Park

Panopto’s capabilities for recording conferences were not just tested by Digital Humanities. Egrove Park, an annex of the Saïd Business School, ran a half-day workshop that was recorded by Panopto.

The workshop was structured around flash talks lasting 3-4 minutes followed by group work developing posters, then more flash talks to see if presentation skills had improved.

There were no serious problems at Egrove Park that raised major concerns about Panopto’s suitability.

The biggest issue was that the recording was one second out sync, meaning it needed to be manually edited. This was a result of hardware and a bug in the OSX version of the software – the team have since switched from a Blackmagic Mini Recorder to a Magewell XI100DUSB-HDMI device, which has reduced the delay to an acceptable two or three frame. The second matter that arose was access to the files for the users who did not have Single Sign On.  To solve this, external participants were given access to the recording by a WebLearn site, which auto-generated e-mail to each. Initially this caused further confusion, until an explanation was communicated.

Overall, the event organiser was pleased with the quality of the output and has received only positive feedback on the experience of using Panopto as a whole, even with the small issue of permission that arose.

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Experiment pays off: successful use of Lecture Capture in Physics



‘Condensed Particle Matter’ is a 3rd year physics option. Highly challenging and highly conceptual, its abstruse subject matter makes it a topic that requires much dedicated revision. Lecture Capture introduced a new method of revisiting the course material: the whole 23 hour long series online, displaying the PowerPoint alongside the blackboard, with a search function allowing students to hone in on particularly difficult points.

Being the earliest trial while also requiring multiple media streams and being a large theatre, there were numerous teething troubles. The camera could not be installed into the fixed PC which was in a fixed AV room at the back of the hall; the lectures ended up needing to be edited and uploaded manually, often resulting in a delay between live delivery and online content being put up. It was also realised that better co-ordination between the WebLearn Team, local It Department, It Services and the local Av Team was needed.

However, the perception of Lecture Capture was positive. Professor Steve Simon, the lecturer, said he felt that the trial “went well.” At time of writing, the Student Feedback Survey revealed Lecture Capture working well alongside the live delivery:

  • 92% of respondents used the recordings for clarification after the lecture
  • 67% for revision
  • 67% for reviewing the topic when completing problem sheets
  • 72% felt it allowed them to focus on understanding rather than frantically writing notes

This a good indication that as familiarity with the technology grows, Lecture Capture will have many pedagogical benefits.

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Recording 9 ’til 5…

IMG_2002Five days a week, two cameras and around eight hours of footage generated per session: the CDT of Oxford University is a pioneer when it comes to the use of Lecture Capture. An interdisciplinary department, the CDT’s need for Lecture Capture arose after receiving funding with the condition attached that material had to be made available to the public.

 This lead to an initial ad hoc system created very quickly. The data produced by this, however, filled a server in just a term: a new solution was needed. And fast. This was when the CDT Team joined Lecture Capture. Panopto’s cloud hosting was the perfect solution to the lack of storage, and the files were significantly smaller, as well as requiring less editing and so, almost overnight, the need for intensive manpower was reduced.

The CDT Team moved from just capturing the lecture sessions to also recording seminars, and then to ‘Deep Dive’ sessions – from anywhere, at any time, anyone can discover what keeps Sophos IT Security awake at night. Lecture Capture also proved itself as an invaluable asset in the case of Disabilty as the ability to re-watch lectures greatly enhanced understanding, allowing for improved engagement.

Lecture Capture completely revolutionized the teaching of one module on Presentation Skills. Part of the bespoke program, this module aimed to improve student’s confidence in talking about their work. Each student’s speech was recorded, then used as a starting point for discussion when feedback was given. The success of this new method of teaching lead to Cyber Security CDT Team being awarded an OXTalent award in Use of WebLearn to Support a Course or Programme of Study

The CDT Department plans to continue recording lectures into the future and may look into exploring Panopto’s archiving options.

Find out more at about OXTalent at:


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Opening a door across the globe on conferences

2013-07-09_21.06.27Digital Humanities is a progressive program discussing the creation, management, analysis, modelling, visualization, or publication of digital data for the humanities. Each event held by the group attracts high profile guests, and 2014 was no exception, with speaker coming from across the globe and elite organisations (including the editor of openDemoncracy). In July, a three-day conference aimed primarily at early career researchers and doctoral students took place – and such a forward thinking movement was clearly the perfect place to put Panopto through its paces. The first event captured was the project launch, followed by two full days of workshops, taking place in the Radcliffe Humanities Quarter (Oxford) and the British Library (London).

“I think the technology itself is really wonderful” 

– EMMA GOODWIN, Conference Organiser

“It’s got a lot of potential” 



The feedback was overwhelming positive. Given that the conference also appealed to anyone working in museums and cultural heritage, those unable to attend were delighted to find a video displaying sides and speakers online.  The quality of the recordings also offers the potential for the videos to be used to showcase the high standard of events Oxford University organises. That said, there were many technical difficulties on the day. From missing cables to a fire alarm test to audio being recorded only for the left speaker, from a technical perspective the day ran far from smoothly. Despite extensive planning, the difficulties of finding Internet connection and the inability to run a technical test in London made the events on the day quite challenging for the IT Team.

Although Panopto is unlikely to be continued to be trialled for use in this direction, the Digital Humanities showed that it could be very successful in these ventures.

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What does Lecture Capture offer?

screenshot1 Following investigations in 2013, the technology currently being trialled is Panopto. Panopoto is one of various ‘lecture capture’ software programmes that enables a lecturer to easily record their lecture, either during a live session, or from his or her desk. In the Oxford trial, the recorded lectures are made available to students via WebLearn, the institutional VLE. Panopto gives the presenter the ability to create a video combining various media streams, including audio, slideshows and visual recordings. There is the potential to upload existing recordings, thus creating a resource rich archive that is easily accessible and usable.

Lecture capture lends itself to a range of subject areas. The ability to show other webpages and videos is ideal for lectures needing to demonstrate experiments that can only be carried out safely in a lab; the option to record. There is even the option to upload PDFs – ideal for hand-outs. Furthermore, the option to watch in high-resolution means students can choose what to focus on, whether this is the image of a manuscript on a slideshow or a blackboard of differentiation during a physics lecture. Furthermore, the ‘Notes’ function allows students to privately annotate; ‘Comment’ displays thoughts for public discussion and debate.

Who is doing it within Oxford?

  • Department of Physics
  • Saïd Business School
  • English Faculty
  • History of Art


There are two main search functions within Panopto. The first allows the user to search through the text from uploaded slides. The second is based upon Panopto’s automated speech-to-text translation, allowing the user to find particular phrases. Recent studies as part of other projects within the IT Service revealed that this option is accurate 70% of the time, and as it is an area constantly under development, it could prove a particularly powerful aid for revision, students with disabilities or whose first language is not English by allowing the option to re-listen to specific sections for comprehension and clarification.

The end goal is to have most of the lectures recorded automatically using off-site controls, with camera and microphone set up permanently, managed by each departments IT and AV staff.  There is a real potential to expand the successful team collaboration that has worked well on past projects such as the podcasting service.

A formal pilot project will be launched during 2015, to explore the limitations and benefits of the technology by recruiting a range of departments that have differing needs.

The major benefit of Panopto is speed and ease of use. What takes a full camera crew most of a day to do can be achieved in less than an hour. Minimum training is required for the lecturer; and the ability to edit recorded lectures offers a chance to learn new skills and ensure that any possibly contentious parts of the recording can be deleted before it is released.

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Lecture Capture: A brief summary of the project

This educational media innovation project is identifying options for departments and colleges within the collegiate University wishing to record lectures at scale. In order to meet existing demand from departments and schools that have requested such a service, the project is carrying out a number of live trials in Physics, English, Computer Science, the Said Business School and History of Art. It will make recommendations as to possible ways forward for a scaled and widespread use of this technology, if appropriate.

Automated lecture capture is a new and evolving technology that allows learners to review a lecture online within hours, and provides an archive of lecture recordings for exam preparation and revision. Oxford students have frequently requested this facility and departments are starting to request advice in this area. We are testing software to record lectures easily and automatically have them viewable in a private course area of WebLearn for students to access. Project outputs will document authentic Oxford scenarios and lessons learned. The project is being delivered by the Educational Media Services andWebLearn teams in IT Services, working closely with a small number of departments and units in response to their articulated needs.

Lecture capture aims to be a supplement, not a replacement

Lecture capture aims to be a supplement, not a replacement for the traditional lecture theatre

As a result of this technical trial, the relevant teams will be better able to respond, advise and support departments who wish to record their lectures and offer a more efficient service to support conferences and events. The project aims to produce recommendations for a possible future centrally supported lecture recording service. Please contact Jill Fresen for further information.

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