GoPros: Educational powerhouses? Part 1

If you’ve not heard of a GoPro, I’d be very surprised. The GoPro, along with other sports action cameras, has taken over the market for small, affordable cameras that provide excellent quality video whilst being fairly easy to use. GoPros have been used on everything from holiday videos to blockbusters like Need For Speed (For a more technical post on this, check out Shane Hurlbut’s excellent blog post.)

So, GoPros are established. They’re reliable. They’re almost indestructible. Surely there must be a way to use them in an educational setting? Well, that is exactly what we’re going to explore in this three-part blog post.

The use of GoPros at Harper Adams University is a fairly recent endeavour, stemming from an Aspire Research Project proposed by a member of staff to monitor practical exams. To use them in an educational setting was challenging and has opened up a number of areas of practice that these cameras can help with. The project’s brief was to provide a source of absolute truth in the case of a marking query. The exams are long and complicated – although the examiners do an exceptional job, they can’t see everything all the time. The camera does.

After a few conversations, it was decided that the GoPros would be best mounted to the top of the examiners’ head. We used the GoPro headstraps and attempted to use the Wi-Fi remotes that the Hero 3+ Black came with. They worked – occasionally. After some practice, the examiners just reached up to press the “record” button. Nice and simple.

H/T to for the image!

H/T to for the image!

After the exam, the examiners provided feedback on the system of recording with the GoPros. There was minor concern about the headstrap providing headaches & a couple of alignment issues, but the vast majority of feedback was positive. We worked on a couple of the issues (we’re still working on a good alternative to the headstrap – our current advice is to wear a hat as well), and adjusted the field of view to the “Narrow” setting so as to punch into the footage, right to the key bit.

A suggestion to record in 2.7K (1.7 times the size of the delivery format (1080p) – see the image below) and then punch into the specific bit in editing software was considered and tested, but was too much processing time.


At Harper Adams, we deliver videos in 1080p. We could have recorded in 2.7K, but it would take too much processing time.


It would involve a person with specific knowledge to either learn a non-linear editing suite (we use Premiere Pro) or would involve an examiner sitting with an editor. In short, too much effort at this stage in the tests. There was a suggestion to tag specific moments whilst recording, but that software did not come around until the release of the Hero 4 model, a few months after the initial test.

After the GoPros had been demo’d and talked about in several staff meetings, we started to get requests for the GoPros to be used in other things – some lecturers wanted to use them to record & project a “perfect” experiment in the labs, others wanted them to provide an up close and personal look at how meat was prepared.

In the next part of this series, we’ll talk about the usability of the GoPros for complete novices as well as how to get the best out of their footage, including getting rid of the annoying fisheye effect that the lens creates. We’ll also touch on IR pollution and its effect in low light situations.

-Rob Keyes


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