Re-using ReCap: Using short videos as an extra resource

Dr Chris Graham, Dr David Swailes and Dr John Appleby

School of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics and the School of Engineering

Science, Agriculture and Engineering

What did you do?

Edited existing ReCap recordings to produce short videos to capture single exercises or ideas. These videos were then offered as an additional resource to the 2018/19 cohort and subsequently to the 2019/20 cohort.

Example ReCap recording

Who is involved?

Undergraduate students studying ENG1001.

Dr Chris Graham, Dr David Swailes and Dr John Appleby, School of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics.

An  undergraduate student employed to assist with the production of the videos.

How did you do it?

I met with David Swailes and John Appleby to discuss several possible formats for short videos. David had heard of the work of Professor Chris Howls at the University of Southampton who had successfully used short personal capture videos to enhance a calculus course.

We talked about doing something on the lines of what Chris had done, but the nature of the ENG1001 module lent itself to a slightly different and straightforward approach: to re-use a previous year’s ReCap collection. This is because almost precisely the same module content has been delivered (very successfully) over a number of years; last year’s ReCap videos would be almost identical to this year’s.

The idea was to take the full lecture recordings and to split them up into short videos to capture single exercises or ideas, which might typically last 5-15 minutes in the lectures and then to offer these videos, grouped by topic, as an additional resource to this year’s cohort.

Last summer we employed the help of an undergraduate student to assist with the cataloguing of content and to create some of these short videos. 12 videos were created in total, covering two main sections of the lecture course. Nothing special was done in editing the videos, except to add a title screen which displayed the topic and exercise covered by the video.

The videos were grouped by section and presented along with a link to the relevant Numbas practice test for that section. Engagement with the formative Numbas material is very poor in this module, and it was hoped that the slightly tighter integration of the different resources might help with that engagement.

Process for creating videos

Here are some tips if you would like to do something similar…

Copying recordings

All of the ReCap videos that you have access to can be found in the Panopto/ReCap portal at If you are re-purposing an existing video then it is a good idea to make a copy. You should have a folder called “My Folder” that is ideal as a place for messing around with stuff. This was my sample video (hence the introduction) from a ReCap workshop earlier in the Spring, which demonstrates the procedure:

Embedding recordings

At the time we were using Blackboard but embedding videos in Canvas is very straightforward. You can find step-by-step guidance in the Canvas Orientation Course.

The final thing we did was to add title slides to the videos. This gives an overview of what is in the video, rather than the preview being a random frame. To do this we created images containing the information and then added them within Panopto by editing the “Preview image”.

Why did you do it?

I have been interested for some time in the use of lecture capture. I originally wasn’t a fan, mainly citing a hatred of hearing my own voice!  I have managed to get over that though, and spend a lot of time in computer clusters, where I see first-hand the benefits of ReCap for students. I am particularly fond of telling the story of asking a student which ‘psych-up’ music he was listening to on his headphones before a big class test… he was listening to me giving a lecture!

So I read with interest the results of the 2017 NUSU survey “How Students use ReCap”, and in particular these two results:

Graph showing that more students surveyed use ReCap as a revision tool than as an alternative to attending lectures.

How Students use ReCap 2017 Report

Whilst the opportunity to catch up on lectures is clearly very beneficial – in particular, as the associated report mentions, for students with disabilities and those competing in elite sport (and I’ll also throw in those with families or caring responsibilities) – it does not appear to be the primary use of ReCap. This aligns completely with what I see in our computer clusters, which is predominantly students using the resource to prepare for class tests and exams.

Let me reiterate that I’m a big fan of the ReCap provision, before going on to make the following two observations:

1) Our current set up of teaching resources is often very siloed within the VLE. Typically a module might have a separate folder for each of lecture notes, additional resources, formative assessments, whatever else… and certainly the default is a separate folder of ReCap videos. But if students are revising a topic for an exam, putting practicalities aside, it seems to make sense for the video content on a topic to sit side-by-side with the other course material.

This was just one of the motivations for our course material tool “Coursebuilder” to have a stronger integration between different course resources. And it is surprisingly easy (after discovering the method as part of this project) to embed videos next to your lecture notes. See the Process for creating videos section above.

2) Slightly more pertinent to this post, our ReCap videos are presented to students as a separate video for each teaching session. Again from a practicality perspective, this seems like the only sensible thing to do, but from the student perspective, is this box-set of lectures the best way for the “series” to be divided, if it is being used for revision? Often topics are split over multiple lectures, or multiple topics are covered in one lecture. In maths, the subject of this project, lectures often contain distinct sections of theory and application/exercises. The student might only be interested in one of those when they come to revise.

A note on the indexing of ReCap videos for mathematics… You may have noticed that ReCap videos containing PowerPoint automatically generate a list of contents. Panopto basically identifies section headings in the presentation. In mathematics, it is rare to see a PowerPoint presentation, they are usually delivered using the visualiser or whiteboard, or as a LaTeX document. Content information  can be added, but only manually after the fact.

Does it work?


The videos were released at around the time that the topics were covered, and initially there was a slow uptake, in terms of video views. We looked at the statistics again at the end of the semester 1 exam period and were pleasantly surprised that students appeared to make very good use of them for exam revision. This was a feature too in the second semester exam period.

Overall the videos have had over 1600 views, with around 6000 minutes of viewing time in total. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the small scale of the project, the full length ReCap recordings remained more popular: these typically have 300-500 views in comparison to 100-200 for the short videos. For context, the module has upward of 600 students.

The actual number of students accessing recordings is not quite clear, and this was a lesson learned in the set up of the videos. The permissions that we had set on the videos meant that they could be viewed without the student identifying themselves to Panopto, and so many were recorded as an anonymous user. This was a shame, as the information would have been useful, particularly to find out whether the videos had an impact on engagement with the formative assessments.

Despite this, the uptake and positive informal feedback from some students encouraged us to consult directly with more students and to consider the expansion of the project…

Students attending ENG1001 tutorials were asked about the short videos in the Spring. 170 students were in attendance, of which 112 (66%) indicated that they had used the videos. Those who had were asked to indicate how useful the videos were…

When asked if they found the mini lectures useful the majority of students respondents answered with either 'agree' or 'strongly agree.'

Clearly this is very positive, but not entirely unsurprising. What will be of interest as we extend the pilot is the finer grain detail of how the short videos fit in to students’ learning and revision plans.


In 2019/20, there were 6,500 video views in semester one (mainly during the exam period) and 10,000 in semester two, accounting for over 60,000 minutes of viewing time.
Of particular interest, the short videos really came into their own in lockdown, accounting for 52% of the total time spent by students viewing ENG1001 videos in April, and 57% in May.

Graph showing a peak in the number of video minutes delivered in January 2020 followed by a decline and then a further increase in May 2020. The ReCap folder videos had more minutes viewed than the project videos in ENG1001

Contact details

Chris Graham


Dr Chris Graham, Directory of e-learning, School of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics




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