The Pedagogical Panopticon? Pivot Parables, Praxis & Paradigms

Definition of panoptic. being or presenting a comprehensive or panoramic a panoptic view of the city

Merriam-Webster, n.d.

The Panopto User conference took place in November 2021 at the Royal Society of Medicine in London. In its most basic form, Panopto is a tool to “…record and share videos” (Panopto, 2021). However, it is much more than this. At the RAU, one way we use Panopto is to create pre-recorded lectures, particularly throughout the pivot to online learning as a result of the global pandemic.

Panopto User Conference at the Royal Society of Medicine

What is the Panopticon?

It is possible to understand the panopticon in two ways. Firstly, from an architectural perspective, the structure provides an opportunity for observation. Secondly, from a metaphorical point of view, the panopticon could be seen as a form of surveillance. The panopticon has been explored by both Bentham and Foucault. (McMullan, 2015).

(McMullan, 2015)

“The basic setup of Bentham’s panopticon is this: there is a central tower surrounded by cells. In the central tower is the watchman. In the cells are prisoners – or workers, or children, depending on the use of the building. The tower shines bright light so that the watchman is able to see everyone in the cells. The people in the cells, however, aren’t able to see the watchman, and therefore have to assume that they are always under observation”

(McMullan, 2015)

(The Audiopedia, 2016)

Perhaps reimagining the panopticon through the lens of the Panopto tool could provide an opportunity reflect on the ability to access a range of recordings and pedagogical content in an both an inclusive and accessible way. Analytics provide insights to help us improve what we do as educators. To revisit the idea of Panopto as a metaphor, we could view Panopto as a bit like a tardis, it has more capability than we realise.

After a truly inspiring key note presentation by Claire Lomas MBE (@claire80lomas) where she presented her journey after being paralysed in 2007 and what she has achieved since that time, including the Great North Run in a robotic suit, there was a panel discussion exploring hybrid learning followed by a road map presentation from the CEO, Eric Burns.

Some of the key ideas and questions were:

  1. As we move back into delivering in a face-to-face and hybrid capacity, we have an opportunity to ask what we want to keep from the pandemic practice?

2. It is important to ask ourselves, “Am I doing right be both hybrid and local audiences?”. Lets raise the parity.

3. It is important to play to the strengths of both hybrid and face-to face mediums

4. We need to use the right tool for the right task

5. What about content “living on”, the content in the sky?

6. What is equitable viewing?

7. Do we have to record everything? What is recording normativity?

Future developments include:

  1. Non linear and non sequential experiences
  2. Content tagging
  3. Re-using content in a VLE
  4. Creating deep copies
  5. Use of remote recorders
  6. Video shortcuts
  7. what could a “beautiful library” be?


Panopto (2021) Panopto (Online) Available at: [Accessed: 10 November 2021]

McMullan, T (2015) What does the panopticon mean in the age of digital surveillance? The Guardian [online] (Last updated Thu 23 Jul 2015 08.00) (Online) Available at: BST [Accessed: 10 November 2021]

Merriam-Webster (n.d.) (Online) Available at: Panoptic [Accessed: 10 November 2021]

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