Prezenting Instruction

As one of two new members to join the Duke Libraries Instruction and Outreach field experience team this semester, I have truly enjoyed my first four weeks: getting to know Diane Harvey and Emily Daly and many other staff members at Duke, participating in weekly Instruction meetings, and getting a sense of the inner workings and culture of the Duke Libraries.  These first four weeks have honestly just flown by–most likely due to the many projects I’ve been working on!

Something that has been on my mind of late—both as a result of the projects I’ve been working on, and because of a more intense focus on my own instructional practices (it’s job application season!)—is the use of online software to enhance instruction.  Nicole Kendrot and I have been investigating several programs and brainstorming their potential utility for instruction, as well as foreseeable training requirements for staff should they be adopted by the Libraries.  Today I’ll review two of these programs, as well as their broader applicability to the Libraries.

The first program that we’ve been examining, is Panopto—a lecture capture program that incorporates audio, video, and digital slides into one tidy little window.  Panopto was chosen for use at Duke as part of the DukeCapture program, and as of September had already been used for for 75 courses and events across 13 schools/departments in 8 campus venues, accounting for 668 recordings that had been accessed 3,221 times!  You can find examples of Panopto in use at Duke here.  Panopto is compatible with both PowerPoint and Mac’s Keynote, and previously prepared slideshows can be imported alongside video and audio recordings of lectures into Panopto for viewing online at a later time.  Perhaps the most attractive features of Panopto are the ability to take notes within the interface, as well as the ability for instructors to edit video and create dynamically-linked tables of contents within the browser interface.  Not only is Panopto visually appealing, but—as this report notes—its use within courses may improve student learning and performance.

Panopto logo

Within the library, Panopto could be used to record exemplary portions of library instruction sessions (e.g., a Lit20 course introduction to library research), and these recordings could be posted on the Library’s website (provided they are brief … we’ve all sat through enough webinars to know why) for the benefit of other students and faculty at Duke and other institutions, or posted by instructors to their course pages (on Blackboard, Sakai, etc.) so that students would be able to view the material at their convenience.  This would also provide an opportunity to better serve certain student populations, such as distance learners.  Additionally, Panopto software offers Blackboard integration, making it easy for instructors to import Panopto presentations into Blackboard sites.  Finally, Panopto might provide a really excellent way to deliver library staff training (e.g., a recording of the upcoming LibGuides session or Instruction Retreat), especially for those staff who are unable to attend sessions due to schedule conflicts.  Overall, we believe Panopto would be an excellent and low-cost way to enhance library instruction, with little additional effort required on the part of the individual instructor.

Another program we’ve been exploring is Prezi.  While Prezi isn’t exactly a spring chicken in the world of instructional technology (it was officially launched in April of 2009), its utility for library instruction is just beginning to be tapped.  For the uninitiated, Prezi is a presentation program that markets itself as a more stylish and engaging alternative to Microsoft PowerPoint.  While Prezis (when done well—for example, this presentation on Cyberinfrastructure at Academic Libraries) may certainly provide a breath of fresh air to the presentation lineup.

Prezi logo

As with Panopto, it is not our recommendation to use Prezi throughout or as a stand-in for instruction.  Instead, Prezi can be a really dynamic delivery platform with which to illustrate discrete concepts, such as narrowing a research topic, and generating keywords or distinguishing between popular and scholarly sources (two Prezis we currently have in the works).  I should also point out that Prezi at one time had an education exchange forum ( educators could share Prezis by subject area.  While the forum is no longer open, there are many excellent Prezis archived on this site, and this example illustrates the potential for sharing across institutions or libraries more generally, since Prezi is browser-based.  Nicole and I imagine that with a small amount of training, Librarians at Duke could create and incorporate Prezis into their library instruction sessions or embed them in the Research Tutorials page of the Duke Libraries site, allowing for asynchronous and more dynamic instruction.  As noted in responses to this Chronicle of Higher Education article, the ‘wow factor’ of Prezi could contribute to deeper “immersion and and engagement,” and ultimately a more memorable library research experience for students.


While exploring these and other instruction tools, one issue that seemed to surface again and again was the importance of maintaining balance between engagement and entertainment.  That is to say, when do learning tools become mere distractions; when does a presentation program become the focus in and of itself?  When choosing any tool to enhance instruction, it’s important that the learning tool serve the objectives of the instructor, instead of simply consuming more valuable time.  Instruction tools should further engage students and provide increased support for learning.  And if they’re also fun to play with and fun to watch, so much the better.  Panopto and Prezi are two tools that seem to have a lot of possibility in this regard, and it will be exciting to see if and how librarians choose to incorporate them into their instruction.