Panopto lecture capture

I’ve recently been experimenting with using lecture capture – in this case, Panopto which the University of Birmingham has a licence to.  It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for ages, but haven’t quite managed to make the time for.  I’ve been kicked into action this term following two events:

  1. The launch of FindIt@Bham, our new resource discovery service
  2. A library induction session where the lectern PC wouldn’t boot up.

In the case of the former, a group of NewT members are taking the lead on creating a whole new suite of short training materials to promote FindIt@Bham.  These will include things like:

  • What are journal articles and how do I find them?
  • How do I reserve a Store item?
  • How do I find databases in my subject area?
  • How do I search for a book?

These are all short videos, no more than 3 minutes long.  They’re designed pretty much as FAQs and should help with short subject enquiries and be a useful resource for both our Subject Teams and Library Customer Support.

In the second case, the students I saw for the induction were very new to the University and were mostly coming back to education after a long period in the working world.  Without a PC in the induction, I was only able to talk them through the real basics of Library Services (loan periods and so on) and couldn’t demonstrate key systems like FindIt@Bham, our student portal and the VLE.  Without live demos, I would have had to either reschedule the session, which is challenging with distance and/or part-time learners or seen many of the students individually, which is definitely not desirable with a group of 40+!

By using Panopto, I was able to record all the demos I would have used in the induction session and circulated the resulting lecture capture to students; I also embedded it in the relevant area of the VLE for them to refer back to. The administrative and teaching staff were really positive about it.

What I like about it

Panopto is incredibly easy to use.  Once you’ve got yourself signed up as a Panopto creator and downloaded the software, you’re ready to go.

It records Powerpoint, live screen demos, voiceover and even a talking head should you want it.  I haven’t used this as I don’t think there’s a need for students to associate me with the content, in these instances anyway.  I’ve also had it suggested to me that if you do use a webcam to record yourself, it tends to take longer to produce whilst you adjust to seeing yourself on screen.

What I’ve learnt

One thing I have learnt is that you need to change the frame rate to the maximum frames per second, otherwise you end up with screencast that doesn’t quite capture everything you’re doing on screen.  I’ve encountered similar issues with other screen capture software such as CamStudio.

Short learning objects work best.  For my induction students, I did a 10 minute demo of everything I would have shown them in the lecture.  For the FindIt lecture captures, we’re sticking to around 3 minutes.  I’ve also heard it advised (by Phil Ackroyd at the JISC Innovating eLearning Conference in 2011) that you should always tell students how long a lecture capture is so they know the time commitment they’re making.

We’ve had some interesting discussions round the issue of copyright too and this is something we need to take forward as an institution.  Namely, if we’re showing provider content (e.g. journal homepages) and making the video publicly available on our website, then should we be asking providers for permission to do so?  As it’s all publicity, one would imagine that publishers will be perfectly happy with this situation.  In fact, all the publishers approached so far have granted their approval, and some are particularly excited by new means of promoting their material.  However, under the strict terms of copyright law, we’re currently treading quite carefully.

What am I going to do next?

Well, one of my thoughts is to start doing ‘flipped’ learning.  Lots of my sessions with students are fairly short and l might only see them once.  I like the thought of releasing a lecture capture prior to my session and then using the face-to-face time to test them using Turning Point quizzes/group work/sample literature searches and so on.  It’s definitely something I’ll be considering for next year.

Finally, here’s a link to a sample Panopto lecture capture demonstrating our new resource discovery system, FindIt@Bham:

Post by: Sarah Pittaway

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iPad project – Library Services & Medical and Dental Sciences

Over recent years, there has been plenty of discussion about the use of iPads and other mobile technologies in supporting students and the learning experience.  I think it’s fair to say that in some quarters, there’s a sense that if students are given the technology, the learning experience is automatically enhanced.

But is this really the case?

To investigate the impact of iPads on student learning, Library Services are currently running a project with the College of Medical and Dental Sciences where 6 undergraduate students have been loaned iPads for a year.  The idea is to investigate a range of issues including: how learners will adapt to using tablets; which applications are more suited to note-taking and revising; what the impact will be on lectures, wireless networks, paper use and learning spaces; and purchasing models for app versions of library books and resources.

All students who have been loaned iPads have also committed to being part of an online community.  We have a Ning message board and monthly ‘surgeries’ where students come and share their ideas and experiences.  Other existing tablet users have been invited to join the community and the surgeries.  So far, what’s emerged is a mixed picture as students get to grips with the technology.

On the whole, students are enjoying using iPads and are keento work with them to see how they can enhance their studies, although one first year student handed back her iPad within the first fortnight as she couldn’t see herself using it.

The first challenge was the spending model issue; Apple are not currently set up to support the institutional purchase of apps, so we’ve had to order iTunes vouchers for students to purchase apps with themselves.  We’re hoping that the availability of vouchers will encourage students to think for themselves what they should be purchasing.

WiFi has also proved more of a challenge than anticipated, as it quickly emerged that there is currently no WiFi access in most halls of residence, although I understand this is something that will be upgraded soon.  This has posed challenges for our first year students who have had to find other ways to use their iPads in halls.

Students from clinical years have faced rather different issues, with patients not understanding that the trainee doctor in front of them is using their mobile device to take notes, consult reference texts, and so on, assuming that they must be on Facebook or playing games.  This fundamental misunderstanding has also been reported by students in lectures.

Despite a few teething troubles, our group of students are enthused by the project and are interested in working on solutions to these issues.  It’s early days yet, but we hope to be able to derive some ‘best practice’ guidelines on using tablets in a learning environment, suggest some good quality apps to students, and work out how best to provide app versions of library resources.

Post by: Sarah Pittaway

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Apps I couldn’t live without

I’ve come to the smartphone arena pretty late, getting my first one earlier this year.  However, I have to say it’s revolutionised my life.  So here’s my list of apps that I just couldn’t live without:

Evernote – kind of an online portfolio.  I have it synced across my phone and home and work PCs.  What I like is that it’s basically a dumping ground for any thoughts I may have about anything related to work or play.  You can tag items for ease of finding, add files, pictures, web clippings, and so on.  Really useful.

Astrid – my task list of choice.  Again, syncs across all my devices with a cloud version too.  I particularly like the encouraging little messages it gives you as reminders.

Dropbox – access to all my secure documents on my phone.

KeePass – an amazing piece of kit.  I’ve had it on my PC for ages but I now have the app too which stores all your passwords securely behind some fairly serious encryption algorithms.  No more being locked out of anything for me!

And here’s one that’s not an essential but is just rather lovely: Historypin.  This uses your GPS to locate where you are and gives you historical pictures in the vicinity.

Post by: Sarah Pittaway

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Twitter security settings

An alarming new default on Twitter – anyone can reset your password WITHOUT any authentication, so long as they can access your email address.  To change this, go to Settings and tick the box next to ‘Require personal information to reset my password’.

Post by: Sarah Pittaway

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New book – Mastering Prezi for business presentations

Although ostensibly for the business world, new book Mastering Prezi for business presentations sounds like it could easily be used by anyone looking to develop their Prezi skills.

Post by: Sarah Pittaway


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Xerte on the iPad

A useful link on accessing Xerte modules on the iPad –

For those not in the know, Xerte is a great open access interactive elearning tool produced by the University of Nottingham ( which Library Services staff have recently been experimenting with to enhance the teaching of information literacy.

Catherine Robertson and I presented on this today at Birmingham’s 9th Teaching and Learning Conference and were really pleased to hear positive feedback from colleagues on the different ways in which Xerte might be used in a variety of subject areas including clinical skills refresher modules and patient information.

Post by: Sarah Pittaway

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Have QR codes had their day?

I read this interesting article on QR codes in the Metro yesterday:, it suggested that although QR codes can be really useful, their use by marketing folks is often badly thought out and difficult to use, which long term may put people off using QR codes.  Examples given were of QR codes:

  • On the London Underground where there’s no internet signal
  • On billboards: too small or far away to be scanned or by the side of a motorway!
  • Not linking to mobile friendly webpages

It’s a short article and well worth a read.  One of the interesting things was the assertion that QR codes were likely to be replaced by mobile visual search (MVS) tools such as Google Goggles and Blippar which actually read the environment rather than a piece of code.  However, as one of the comments to the article notes, QR code generation is free whilst MVS currently isn’t.

QR codes may be subject to a great deal of misuse, but I think they’re here to stay.

Post by: Sarah Pittaway

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Learning in a Digital Age – the new effective practice guide from JISC

An interesting new book from JISC:

Learning in a Digital Age – the new effective practice guide from JISC

Pre-order your copy now.

The latest guide in the well-received JISC Effective Practice series, Learning in a Digital Age: Extending higher education opportunities for lifelong learning, will be available from 15th June following its launch on 13/14th June at the Blended Learning Conference, at the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield.,

An increasing number of students are benefiting from education later in life, bringing rich life experiences to their learning and adding value to employers and to society. Learning in a Digital Age demonstrates, through a range of case studies, how institutions are already using technology to:

  • attract and retain diverse groups of learners
  • offer professional development opportunities for their staff
  • enhance engagement and collaboration with employers and other organisations with a stake in effective lifelong learning,

The publication signposts some of the effective higher education practice taking place in the UK and addresses the benefits and challenges that arise in a digital age. It is aimed at individuals in further and higher education who have an interest in lifelong learning:

  • academic staff,
  • lecturers
  • tutors
  • learning support staff
  • learning technologists,
  • and information, advice and guidance professionals.

The guide will be available online in PDF, accessible Word and e-Pub/MOBI formats for use on e-readers, together with video case studies, expert podcasts and extended versions of the case studies. These can be read online or downloaded from   from the 15th June 2012.

A limited number of printed copies will be available. To pre-order a copy please register your details at

Post by: Sarah Pittaway

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Wireless Charging

There was a very interesting section on the BBC Click programme on wireless charging this week: The section on wireless charging is about 14 minutes in.  Of course the charging isn’t really wireless as you still need your original source of electricity to plug into but it can mean that far fewer wires are needed and for our library users it could really mean that they can be wireless. It seems as if developers of gadgets e.g. mobile phones, laptops etc are starting to install the receiving device into the gadget when it is built.  This means that if in the library we had desks that had the chargers installed into them the student could charge their devices without having to remember to bring in/carry their chargers and they could charge several devices at the same time. 

This You Tube video also has some nice footage of how wireless chargers are being used (so if the device doesn’t have a receiver already installed you can buy a cover for your device that has a receiver within it):

This video also gives some useful information about the history of this technology with an example of how it could be used to power a television (useful for those who hang TVs on the wall):

Post by : Lisa Anderson

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Kindle Touch vs. Kindle Fire

The phenomenon that is the Kindle continues apace with the release of the US of the Kindle Touch and the Kindle Fire. I bought a Kindle Touch on a recent trip and I like it very much. It’s a touch screen whereby the pages are turned by brushing or tapping the screen, font size is changed by ‘pinching’ and there is one physical button at the bottom to return you to your list of books. There is a wifi version or a more expensive wifi+3G, and I suspect the latter will prove very popular. The screen uses eInk and is still black and white but it is a nice step on from Kindle Keyboard.

The Kindle Fire is a slightly different beast. It seems to be marketed in the US as an eBook reader with apps for reason, but it is a tablet. It has an eReader but also music and video options, as well as games and other apps. It is slightly smaller than a standard Kindle and is very smooth to use. Crucially the price is very competitive, and by coming in a mere $199 it is setting itself up as an inexpensive competitor to the iPad. However, for my needs it wasn’t the right choice. I simply wanted an eBook reader with a long battery life. The Kindle Touch battery lasts at least a month with wifi off, while the Fire has a diminutive life of 8 hours due to its glossy colour screen and high resolution – this is why I say it’s a tablet rather an eBook reader. Another downside for me is that the Fire is backlit, making it harder to read in direct sunlight. Some people will argue that I can’t read my Touch in darkness, but I must confess that I have never needed to so I can’t see it being a problem.

So those are the two new offerings from Amazon which will (hopefully) be winging their way to the UK at some point. It is hard to compare the Kindle family with each other as Amazon have done a good job of giving each Kindle a different strength, so a new buyer just needs to think about what it is they need to do in order to identify the most appropriate product (eg do you want to mostly read books? Go for the Kindle basic or Touch. Do you want to mostly read newspapers or children’s books? Go for the Fire, etc). There is a nice little comparison here too – – for anyone who is still undecided about which Kindle they would go for given the chance.

Catherine Robertson

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