24.01.11

Lecture Capture for the ‘Now’ Generation

AUTHOR: Geny Caloisi
Where's the lecture I missed from last week?

Recording lectures and delivering the digital content to students remotely isn’t a new idea but one that is rapidly gathering momentum.

The YouTube and iPod generation, Generation Y, is banging at the door to make us rethink the way we deal with higher education. Young people, born and bred in the digital world, are facing rising tuition fees, a rapid pace of life and a habit of getting everything they need online. So, “Where is the video form the lecture I missed last week?” we hear them cry. And now, more than ever, the soil is fertile for the role out of lecture capture.

Lecture capture describes the lifecycle of recording academic instruction, through to the delivery of resulting presentations via an online or digital medium. In most cases, it includes multimedia content like video, audio and the visual aids that support the instruction.

Certain things are already in place to make the ride a bit smoother. With WiFi across most campuses; laptops and video-enabled mobile devices allow students access to what they need at any point in time and from where ever they are. Also easier to use software and smart touch control panels – such as Crestron, Extron or AMX - now de rigour in most classrooms, can make recording lessons very easy and straight forward for lecturers.

Quite a few educational establishments in the UK and Europe are getting into the groove. The London School of Business and Finance (LSBF), for instance, is using Facebook as a platform to deliver content for its new free MBA programme. Users are able to access online video lectures and student discussions on the platform by clicking the “Like” button on the MBA Facebook page. Access to the content is free since users will have to pay a fee to sit formal qualifying examinations. The privately owned business school has reportedly invested £7.5m (€8.5m) in creating the course, which is expected to reach over 500,000 users in the first year.

The London School of Economics has been creating podcasts for a number of years now and they are available online. Other higher education institutions, including Newcastle University, City of Bristol College and the University of Bath are also implementing lecture capture to offer added value to their students.

However, there is quite a bit of confusion in the market. Some end users and installers are puzzled as to what to choose, why to implement it and what’s necessary to make it work.

All you need in simple terms is: a camera or two; a lecture capture system, which should include a robust server to deal with the hours of video, audio and slides; and a secure network. The latter is particularly important to preserve the universities’ copy right of their content and insure students’ privacy. Scalability is also key.

The classroom of the 21st century

Is lecture capture new? Well, not really. It’s been talked about, tried and tested since the beginning of the new millennium. One of the first companies to start working on this was SonicFoundry with MediaSite, which offers end-to-end capture, server, streaming and on-demand capabilities. Other popular companies in this area are Echo360 and VBrick, which also offer hardware and software combos.

Paul Reeves, VBrick’s EMEA director, says that there are five key questions any further education institution needs to ask itself when looking into lecture capture:
1. Do you want to broadcast your lectures live?
2. Do you want to record your lectures?
3. Do you want to include the output of a computer, DVD player, and other types of video sources into your lectures?
4. Do you want to control who has access to your lecture content?
5. Do you want to allow people view content in remote locations?

VBrick provides tools to capture the content with its Rich Media Studio and get it around campus, to remote campuses, and to e-learners on the Internet. VBrick Enterprise Media System (VEMS) provides a video-networking engine that allows content to be distributed and delivered to remote locations. Recorded classes can be accessed through VBrick Video On-Demand server. Schools wishing to reach e-learners can combine VBrick’s lecture capture and distribution system with VBrick’s online streaming service (VBoss). VBoss provides a hosted and managed service that allows schools to distribute live and on-demand video over the internet to students anywhere.

For lower end desktop lecture capture you have software-based solutions such as Panopto. Panopto can be used on any existing PC or Mac.

However, this industry has no standards and what’s best for each particular higher education organisation, will depend on its needs, its size and how widely spread it wants this service to be.

Why use lecture capture?
Reservations

Some prestigious institutions, such as City University London, are yet to implement Lecture Capture. Omid Shiraji, IS Strategy Manager at City points out that this is not only a matter of installing a system, but it’s also important to change people’s habits and encourage them to use the technology.

He argues that the main points currently under review are:

· Scalability – with more than 150 education spaces, there is a requirement for any lecture capture service to be scalable enough to cope with the volume and variety of physical spaces we maintain.

· Cost – given the current financial climate, the cost of this service is a critical factor in deciding implementation. We have looked at a number of systems, from the “black box” Mediasite service to the infrastructure based Echo 360 service, each has benefits and disadvantages, but the total cost of ownership of lecture capture needs to be defined before we can engage in understanding the full cost/benefit.

· Business Change – this encompasses a number of areas. The first is the amount of training required for staff (both academics and professional) to use the service effectively. Although all lecture capture systems promote “usability”, from our significant experience of delivering technology into the classroom, even the simplest implementation requires significant investment in user training. The second is the actual lecture delivery method of the academic. There is likely to be a requirement for the academic community to engage in improving the style and content of education delivery to make the best use of lecture capture. For example, an academic whose lecture involves active participation and walking around has a different lecture capture requirement to one who stands in one place and reads notes. Finally, there will be a requirement to adapt the IT/AV support processes to manage the consequences of the implementation of this technology. This is likely to come at a cost, which is normally overlooked.

· Compliance and Accessibility – any implementation will need to be compliant with DDA requirements and be accessible to a range of users. We are dedicated to ensuring equality and diversity and as a result, any lecture capture service will need to support this agenda.

· Copyright/IPR – a significant area of concern is the intellectual property and copyright of lecture captured recordings. There is a great deal of confusion around the legalities of this topic and probably a significant area of concern in the academic community. This will require debate and agreement from the education community before we are able to resolve.

· Mobile use – as part of our IT strategy, we are committed to ensuring all services are accessible via mobile devices. We are yet to see a fully compatible mobile lecture capture solution and any implementation will need to meet this agenda.

· User demand – there are conflicting reports about the demand for lecture capture from our students. Anecdotal evidence is strongly in favour, however there is relatively little qualitative data available supporting demand as a “must-have” service.

Advantages
Most Lecture Capture manufacturers agree on what the advantages are of using this type of technology.
1- Extend university reach into new geographies: By recording lectures, Universities can repurpose the content and make it available online for distance learning students;
2- Improve learning outcomes: Using lecture capture, students can review course materials over and over again in order to grasp difficult concepts and augment their notes;
3- Give the university extra financial resources and stay competitive: Lecture capture allows institutions to over enrol on over subscribed courses, so students can attend face to face or online; and
4- Continuity and Emergency Planning: Weather emergencies, pandemics and even terrorism have forced many institutions to review their academic continuity plan. Lecture capture plays a vital role in maintaining academic operations. Courses can be recorded and archived. If a problem arises, students can attend virtually.

The paradigm on lecture capture has shifted. Five years ago people were wondering whether they needed this resource or was it just luxury. Today the question is when and what one gets to stay up to date.

CASE STUDIES

University of Bath

The University of Bath is using software-based solution Panopto. Simon Hiller, recorded media manager at the University, started looking into using this resource two and a half years ago. It was to be used on Moodle Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

“The most popular ones in education at the time (Echo360) just worked out too expensive for anything more than a few high profile lecture theatres. The system had to scale across campus without too much effort or expense. We wanted all users to have access to a room where they could record without us having to install the expensive capture 'device' and move it afterwards,” explained Hillier.

A software based system that could be installed on existing teaching PCs in classrooms with minimal extra hardware to incorporate Bath’s AV systems was the only option. “Our AV team just couldn't cope with a standard video production model of staffed camera capture, edit and post production,” added Hillier. “We had to find a solution that could be installed permanently, require minimal admin, minimal support, and perform all aspects of a production work flow from the initial record to the web.”

The University decided to implement lecture capture, to meet demand for Podcast audio recording of our various public lecture series. Hillier says, “We had a new marketing team in PR and the profile of the University was to be raised using new technology, audio, video and web. The audio then expanded to include Power Point followed by video. This increased the interest from staff to record lectures for revision, distance learners, and promotional work.”

Panopto ticked all boxes for Bath. It records whatever is on or connected to the PC and syncs it all together, and displays in a searchable web page. “There are two types of software,” explained Hillier, “we use the remote software to schedule recordings in lecture rooms. The lecture has to do nothing more than use the microphone and PC and teach as normal, the recording then goes directly to their Moodle course where the students can log in and pick it up minutes after the lecture has finished.”

A server controls the whole system. Content is recorded locally and video sources encoded live, even older machines handle this with no problems. It is then all uploaded to the server where it is time-synced together and the web front-end created. As well as the full web viewer, mp3 and mp4 Podcast files are created which can be downloaded. Everything is web-based including the newly updated video editor. The server also provides stats. The sessions themselves are searchable by simply skipping slides or audio and video.

The Univiersity of Bath is now running a full-scale service since the start of Oct 2010. “We have around 120 recorders running, and are expanding with an investment of about £15K per year,” concludes Hillier.

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Delft University of Technology
Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), in the Netherlands, has been offering Collegerama, a campus-wide blended learning initiative centred around Mediasite, to its students for the past three years.

“What we want is to capture educational content in an efficient way on a large scale, and Mediasite can do that,” said Leon Huijbers, staff manager of the Campus Congress Centre and multimedia department.

“We were looking for a system that automated the process; you press a button, and it's online,” said Tom van Buren, CEO of Mediasite reseller Mediamission, who advised TU Delft on the lecture capture initiative.

Sonic Foundry’s Sean Brown, VP of higher education, said that Mediasite is the “most automatic and comprehensive system. All content recorded is navigable, available synchronously and asynchronously, automatically displayed on RSS and organised in a portal that integrates with existing security. The fact that Mediasite streams the content form its server, and this is never downloaded, adds an extra layer of security.”

TU Delft has now expanded from just one to 13 Mediasite recorders that integrate with technology including DVD players, robotic cameras, computers with internet access, digital whiteboards, document cameras, tablet PCs and digital paper. Eight recorders are part of customised mobile carts used for lecture capture in about 80 classrooms across campus that allow the multimedia department to work independently of technical details in classrooms.

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University of Birmingham
Birmingham has been implementing lecture capture for the past five years on its WebCT virtual learning environment. To start with, lecture capture was designed to cater for its most popular lectures on medical studies which had classes of over 400 students.

The product of choice, at the beginning, for Birmingham was Lectopia, an Australian company that produced an easy to use lecture capture solution. Echo360 acquired Lectopia in 2008 and Birmingham is now trying Echo360 out.

“Since we adopted lecture capture,” Dr John Couperthwaite, manager of the Educational Technology Team, said, “I have seen how the use of this technology has changed attitudes between lectures and students. We get requests form lecturers to record more lessons all the time.”

The AV department at Birmingham has the task of pre-scheduling all lectures that will be recorded. “This avoids problems,” affirmed Couperthwaite, “If staff have to do it themselves it can fall down and fail.”

Couperthwaite likes Echo360 because it is more secure than software-based products because the content stays on the local server. This protects the University’s copyright and controls students’ access to the right material. Couperthwaite is particularly enthused by Echo360’s next version, the EchoSystem 3.0. It will offer the expansion of system monitoring to include capture, processing and publishing status. This will add editing capability throughout the recording, to streamline the creation of learning modules and classroom-based, video-only capture and playback.