Panopto and learning capture are two words firmly in the Carroll University lexicon. Panopto is actually a derivative of two Greek words: “pan” which means all, and “opto” which means see. Put together, you have: “All can see.”
And, during the pandemic, being able to see and communicate with one another from a distance became extremely important. Panopto, part of Carroll’s new learning capture system, allowed students and faculty to get on with the business of learning, reassured that if remote learning became the only option, they would be prepared.
Through high-definition cameras and high-fidelity microphones installed in 150 classrooms, Carroll students now have three options: attend class in person, livestream class in real time from another location or watch a recording of a class.
Boyang “Romeo” Wang
is one of the people responsible for bringing this technology to campus. By the end of May, Chief Technology Officer Mohammad Samarah started the discussion about remote learning and tasked Wang with making it happen by the time classes began Aug. 24.
Wang chose three vendors and asked deans, department chairs and other users for their opinions on functionality, integration with current Canvas learning management system video streaming and more. “At the end, everyone selected Panopto,” Wang said. “It checked all the boxes; it allows everyone to record and stream simultaneously using just the class podium computer.”
But that didn’t mean getting equipment for a complete learning capture system would be easy. Panopto is a software, but there are many pieces of hardware as well such as cameras, microphones, mixers to enable recording—that were in extremely high demand.
“Imagine every school in the U.S. trying to do this,” Wang said. “Just locating them was a struggle. This led me to find sources overseas because there was just nothing in the U.S. that we could buy. Every store had a delay of six to eight weeks—it would have been mid-September before we’d get hardware.”
Luckily, Wang was able to find manufacturers in China who also had online stores. Because he speaks Chinese, ordering was faster and easier. The first camera came in July, and more in mid-August. But the implementation team wasn’t sitting around waiting; they installed everything available in the U.S. so when those new cameras arrived, they could immediately be put up.
Cameras were installed by the end of Aug. 17, and the Office of Information Technology started to push the Panopto software onto classroom computers and began training faculty on it over Microsoft Teams. With a camera and ceiling microphone in each class, in addition to the document camera, faculty are in charge of recording. They have the power to move the camera via a remote and also can display their computer desktop.
Many people across campus worked long hours to make the Aug. 24 deadline, equip all classrooms and train faculty, Wang said, who added: “This is what we do for students. For classes and students, we’re willing to make it happen.” From OIT to the business office, which helped with financial transfers, everyone pulled together.
Samarah said, “We compressed a project that would have taken six months into six weeks.” By Aug. 24, the team had completed a Herculean task: outfitting 150 classrooms, 21 buildings and five locations.