Notre Dame’s ‘Classroom as an Ecosystem’ Enhances Teaching and Learning Opportunities

The University of Notre Dame integrated Zoom & Panopto into its classrooms to support remote instruction and collaboration.

University of Notre Dame

Founded: 1842

Location: South Bend, Indiana, United States

Industry: Higher education

Challenges: Differences in classroom technology contributed to inconsistent experiences for faculty and students, pandemic restrictions threatened in-person learning opportunities and necessitated the need for virtual connection.

Solutions: Zoom Meetings, Zoom + Panopto integration

Educational benefits: Supported equitable experiences for faculty and students; enabled unique learning opportunities, guest speaker engagement, and virtual programming; positioned the University for future resilience and flexibility.

So many students have reported how valuable [it is to have] the ability to just go back and review the content at their leisure, to make sure they understood a point in the lecture.

Charles Barbour

Educational technologist and Panopto administrator

University of Notre Dame

Founded: 1842

Location: South Bend, Indiana, United States

Industry: Higher education

Challenges: Differences in classroom technology contributed to inconsistent experiences for faculty and students, pandemic restrictions threatened in-person learning opportunities and necessitated the need for virtual connection.

Solutions: Zoom Meetings, Zoom + Panopto integration

Educational benefits: Supported equitable experiences for faculty and students; enabled unique learning opportunities, guest speaker engagement, and virtual programming; positioned the University for future resilience and flexibility.

So many students have reported how valuable [it is to have] the ability to just go back and review the content at their leisure, to make sure they understood a point in the lecture.

Charles Barbour

Educational technologist and Panopto administrator

After pivoting to virtual instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Notre Dame was eager to welcome students back on campus in the fall of 2020 for socially distanced learning. 

In preparation for the Fall 2020 semester, which was taught in a hybrid model called “dual mode,” the ND Studios Teaching & Learning Technologies (TLT) team outfitted and upgraded up to 150 classrooms across campus as connected learning spaces with cameras, microphones, and audio equipment. Within this “classroom as an ecosystem,” professors were able to easily start Zoom sessions, record their lectures, and leverage Zoom’s integration with the video management platform Panopto to automatically upload and store recordings. The recordings could then be accessed from the University’s learning management system (LMS) for playback, storage, search, and discovery.

“It was about enabling that ecosystem environment for faculty and students and taking a human-centered approach—keeping our students and faculty front of mind,” said Tom Marentette, IT solutions architect and streaming program manager, Notre Dame. 

Equitable faculty & student experiences

Integrating with Panopto created a more seamless, automated process for lecture capture that all faculty could adopt, regardless of their competency or comfort level with the technology.

“We wanted everybody to have the same experience for recording, the same expectations for the control system, and the same playback experience,” said Charles Barbour, educational technologist and Panopto administrator, Notre Dame. “Even the most technophobic instructors were able to get to the point where they were sharing all their recorded sessions with their students without many issues.” 

The University found that lecture recordings were helpful to students catching up on a missed class, or who wanted to review content after a session. Revisiting lecture recordings is particularly useful for students for whom English is not a primary language.

“So many students have reported how valuable [it is to have] the ability to just go back and review the content at their leisure, to make sure they understood a point in the lecture,” Barbour said.

Guest speakers & unique performances

Meghan Sullivan, professor of philosophy and director of the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, says she and her students experimented with using Zoom in different ways during the pandemic. “There was a spirit of ‘Let’s figure out ways of adapting conversations and activities that we normally do in person to the software,’ and it felt creative and exciting,” she said. 

Sullivan collaborated with a colleague from the Notre Dame Law School on an opportunity to do a special class with science fiction author Ted Chiang. When the pandemic happened, they decided to do the class virtually, with Chiang joining by Zoom every week from his home in Seattle. 

“Ted was originally just going to come to campus a couple of times, but because of Zoom, he came to every single class,” she said. “The course was about science fiction and technology, so trying it out on technology fit with the culture of the class.”

Sullivan also recalled how Reginald Dwayne Betts, an artist-in-residence at Notre Dame, used Zoom to present a virtual performance of his one-man show about incarceration for the campus community.

I think that creative scholars are developing content with this medium in mind as an asset or a tool, an essential part of the message, rather than a workaround.

Meghan Sullivan

Professor of philosophy and director of the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study

Tutoring & mentorship programs

During the pandemic, Notre Dame faculty and administrators developed a program called TutorND to help provide virtual tutoring services to children of University employees, as well as students in the local South Bend community. The program recruited Notre Dame students and recent graduates to serve as tutors. 

“We were able to rapidly ramp that up and provide a robust solution that met their needs for reliability, ease of use, and providing a level of security for the children,” Barbour said.

TutorND also inspired a new program launched by a faculty member in the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame. This initiative uses the same framework enabled by Zoom and Panopto to provide virtual mentorship sessions with young women entrepreneurs in Uganda. Other academic programs at Notre Dame also use Zoom for virtual tutoring.

Positioned to pivot

While classes at Notre Dame have returned to in-person instruction, Marentette believes the University will continue to benefit from Zoom and Panopto as part of the classroom ecosystem.

It’s all about being positioned so in the event we do need to pivot — that infrastructure, technology, and those applications are all in place.

Tom Marentette

IT solutions architect and streaming program manager, Notre Dame 

Case in point: a storm sweeping through the Midwest in the spring of 2022 made it difficult for faculty to get to campus. Notre Dame sophomore Kevin Wang shared how his professor switched to teaching a class over Zoom last-minute due to the inclement weather. “The flexibility of having that option is incredibly important,” Wang said. 

For an in-depth look at Notre Dame’s use of Panopto and Zoom, as well as the University’s plans to continue using video into the future, check out the case study on the University.

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