Analysis: Panopto crash marks a bumpy start to online learning

Students across Europe were affected by the crash in the lecture-streaming service

The software provider Panopto, which enables Trinity and many other universities to deliver lectures online, has malfunctioned multiple times over the past week impacting students across Europe. 

Panopto is a software company with over 5 million users world-wide that allows users to record video contents and presentations using their computers, phones, and other filming devices. As Panopto is a cloud video platform, it stores the recorded content on their public cloud, which streams more than 700 years’ worth of video every month. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant universities across the world need to be capable of providing distance learning. Numerous institutions have been reliant on Panopto’s service to deliver lectures live as well as record lectures and upload them for students to view later. The majority of the recorded lectures in Trinity have been shared with students through this platform since the beginning of the Covid-19 emergency. 

On Thursday, October 10, there was a Europe-wide crash of the Panopto cloud. The company was implementing an expensive update which caused servers to fall behind just as universities were returning to lecturing. For more than an hour, all European users were unable to access their Panopto content as the entirety of the EU-Cloud crashed. 

On Monday 5, just as the first week of online lectures and tutorials began for Freshers in Trinity, Panopto malfunctioned again due to further issues with the European cloud making it almost impossible to access videos throughout the day as reoccurrences took place. Blackboard, another online learning platform upon which Trinity is highly dependent, also experienced issues which were caused by the integration of platform Panopto in Blackboard. 

College is highly dependent on online learning platforms during the Covid-19 pandemic, with universities across the country instructed to provide online learning instead of face-to-face teaching where possible. Many lecturers needed to completely revise their teaching style to suit platforms like Panopto, and students are dependent on them especially during a time when libraries are difficult to access. Unfortunately, Panopto’s servers appeared to struggle under the sheer number of users it had to support just as universities across Europe were returning to teaching.

With continuing uncertainty about further Covid-19 restrictions as winter approaches, having a dependable platform to enable distance learning is more important than ever for universities. These malfunctions have resulted in a bumpy start to a strange year for lecturers and students alike.