“With PanaCast, we’ve significantly enhanced student engagement. The camera system helps us stay true to one of our core teaching values: having remote students face-to-face with us.”

– Dr. H. Daniel Zacharias, Director of Distance Learning

Most institutions of higher learning have a core set of values that complements their mission and the best institutions have primarily student-centric values. Acadia Divinity College (ADC) has demonstrated a dedication to their students in their values, two of which are “Respect for Creativity and Innovation” and “Respect for [A Student’s] Time”. These values represent the College’s unique perspective and underscore how PanaCast became their solution of choice.

Acadia Divinity College was founded in 1968 with a bold mission: to equip Christian leaders for full-time and volunteer ministry in Canada and the world. Located in idyllic Nova Scotia, the College offers Bachelor of Theology, Master of Divinity, Master of Arts (Theology) and Doctor of Ministry degree programs. The College serves as the seminary for the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada, a ministry partnership of more than 450 churches in the Atlantic provinces. Currently, over 80% of the Baptist pastors in Atlantic Canada have been trained at the seminary and, through the years, Acadia Divinity College has sought to further expand its reach.

Despite the high number of pastors who’ve graduated from its programs, Acadia Divinity College faced challenges in expanding their reach. The College also recognized that students could not always relocate their entire lives to Nova Scotia to attend in-person classes. “There is an increasing number of students who are either doing our programs part-time or are not even located in Nova Scotia. We’ve always been leading edge and had to find a way to be flexible to meet their needs,” said Dr. Zacharias. Over the last several years, the College began adjusting its course offerings to accommodate remote students. The College also wanted to offer remote students a level of flexibility and faced a decision: offer purely online classes with minimal classroom interaction for remote students or pioneer new initiatives that would enhance classroom engagement.

To guide his decision, Dr. Zacharias reflected on the seminary’s values. In his words: “One of Acadia Divinity College’s core pedagogical values is the importance of face-to-face interaction in classes.” The College did not want to promote purely online courses where students would not feel truly part of the classroom. ADC also felt online courses would not present as many opportunities for remote students to interact with their peers or the instructor. Dr. Zacharias then began to focus on two new initiatives that would amplify remote student engagement. The first was a Virtual Seat program that allowed students to join classes remotely via video conferencing. The second initiative – known as “ADC o” – introduced hybrid courses that mixed online learning with weekly face-to-face interaction via video conferencing.

Dr. Zacharias wanted the two initiatives to be as effective as possible but was limited by Acadia Divinity College’s technology setup at the time. He began searching for a camera system with a “wide angle view”. He wanted a solution that could handle a close-up view and, given the small classroom size, could be easily positioned close to the students. He also wanted a camera system that would give a more immersive picture for remote students so that they would feel like they were actually in the classroom. He came across PanaCast via a quick internet search and was immediately intrigued by the wide-angle field of view, panoramic image and camera size. After researching more options, he selected PanaCast as his best choice.

PanaCast’s value was immediately evident to Dr. Zacharias. “The video’s clarity was noticeable right away for both faculty and students,” he commented. “Students who dial in immediately notice that they have a very wide, very clear field of view that they did not have before.”  Students’ eyes light up when they realized that, for the first time, they could see everyone in the classroom and better gauge the room dynamic. “Before we used PanaCast, there was no way for me to focus the camera on anyone but the instructor. I would struggle to angle the camera as best as I could and would usually be able to include 2 – 3 students maximum,” admits Dr. Zacharias. With PanaCast, everyone in the 20+ student class is visible and students, whether in-person or remote, are better able to collaborate. “Now, we can see when a student has joined in via video and the student can see all of his or her classmates as if he or she was there. Students in the classroom can also see whether or not they are in the field of view,” says Zacharias. “It has increased the presence of the students in the class.” Dr. Zacharias also loved the ease of set up. “PanaCast truly is ‘plug-and-play’!”, he exclaims. “I plugged it in and the device was immediately recognized.”

ADC is strategically leveraging distance learning technology to expand their reach. In utilizing PanaCast, Acadia Divinity College significantly enhanced the Virtual Seat Program, allowing them to reach a broader constituency, to bring more people into the programs they offer and to further their mission of equipping Christian leaders globally. “With PanaCast, we’ve significantly enhanced student engagement,” explains Zacharias. “The camera system helps us stay true to one of our core teaching values: having remote students face-to-face with us.”