Best Practice

Managing conflicting responsibilities

Academia involves the often difficult task of balancing teaching, research, community engagement, and administration.

After I started lecturing in 2014, I often forewent relevant conferences during teaching term. I have, and always will, prioritise my responsibility to my students, but as I come to the end of my PhD, I have been actively seeking out relevant conferences. Unfortunately, many of these conferences fall during the teaching term.

Earlier this semester, I sought to identify a more practical solution to managing the difficulties related to research dissemination during the teaching term. Panopto – a video creation and streaming service – offered one simple solution. Until recently, Panopto is a tool that I had limited practical experience using. I have always been quick to agree for my lectures to be recorded through the system, but this is managed across campus and I don’t see the recording from one end of the year to the next.

Through a conversation with Sarah Thelen from Instructional Design, I identified different approaches to presenting lecture material through video.  I decide to employ a four-step approach, as follows:

Step 1. Video

Step 2. Required reading/s

Step 3. Supplemental Media (eg. Podcast; Video; Newspaper article; Blog post etc.)

Step 4. Discussion board.

This approach seemed particularly suitable to students studying Social Policy, which is typically oriented toward critical, discursive, and inquiry-based learning techniques.

Preparation for Video Presentations

Once I had decided upon this approach, I redesigned the lectures to be delivered via video. This process involved reflecting on the content and visuals, but wasn’t as arduous as I had expected. Firstly, I organised the material with an eye to providing clear and concise content without saturating the slides. Secondly, I explicitly engaged with debates emerging from the required readings using summative and inquiry-based techniques. Finally, I focused on the visuals to encourage the students to draw parallels between the texts.

Creating a Video

Getting started with Panopto was not at all difficult. I visited https://ucc.cloud.panopto.eu, logged in with my Blackboard credentials, and downloaded the software. Once the software was downloaded, recording the videos was very intuitive. At the top of the page, there is a ‘Create’ button, which is also a dropdown menu. It is here that you will begin the process.

I chose ‘Record a new session’, which led me to a dialogue box to activate Panopto on my laptop. Thereafter, the interface changed to allow me to choose my recording preferences. I didn’t think it was necessary to include video so I opted to record voice over PowerPoint Slides.

There were a couple of false starts at this point. At least twice, I hit the record button, opened the PowerPoint, spoke and then became unnerved that I was presenting to an empty room. Finally, I found the tone and proceeded with the recording, after which I saved the video, which was uploaded to UCC’s Panopto site.

Some simple tips to keep in mind when you are recording using Panopto.

  1. The software automatically indexes the video based on the slide headings. To take full advantage of this system, make sure to use a slide template with a dedicated title.*  When recording, pause for a couple of seconds at the end of each slide before moving forward. This will allow your students to navigate through the slide index and access all the relevant aural content as they do so.
  2. Keep the videos short (around 10 minutes in length). This was quite alien to me, as most of my lectures are two hours in length. Engaging with video requires you to expand your concept of teachable units from its traditional association with classroom hours.
  3. Refer to the required readings in the video. It will help you to manage the video’s length and it will help your students to navigate the readings and identify their relevance.

Evaluation

I used this model twice this semester and invited students to evaluate afterward. By and large, the response from students was quite positive. While they were quick to mention that the learning experience was different, due to their inability to engage me in real-time questions (which is contrary to my in-class instructional style), this was not entirely negative.  Pairing the video with readings and a discussion board, led the students to feel more accountable in some ways, as they felt obliged to engage with the reading. A by-product of this, according to some students, was that the learning was more labour-intensive and self-directed, but enjoyable.

From my experience, the platform was a simple and easy-to-use way to overcome conflicting responsibilities inherent in academic work. My nerves quickly subsided after a couple of practice attempts and, while I missed the in-class exchange, the discussion board was a dynamic and responsive way to see the students’ thoughts in action. I would highly recommend it as a model to staff who occasionally need to travel during the semester.  My biggest piece of advice is to get in touch with the Instructional Design team, who make the process very easy to manage and alleviate very real anxieties with encouragement and straightforward guidance.

 

* The default PowerPoint slide format will include this feature — it’s usually a box at the top of the slide and says “Click to add title” (see image below).  Please note that simply putting a text box at the top of the slide will not register as a title in Panopto’s system so the indexing won’t be as useful to the students.