Last week I had the privilege of moderating a panel at Vidcon titled “Transforming Education with Online Video”. The panel was a stunning array of thought leaders in educational online video, and included Noel Waghorn, Lead Producer/Writer for the Reactions channel at the American Chemical Society, Malik Ducard, Global Head of Family and Learning at YouTube, John Green, Co-Founder of Vidcon and Vlogbrothers, Logan Smalley, Director of TED-Ed, TED Conferences, and James Tynan, VP Strategy and Operations, Khan Academy.

When I first proposed the idea, I had hoped we could get a handful of YouTube creators on the panel. But as the panel grew, it was clear we were going to approach this much more from the “big idea” perspective. As anxious as I was about the whole thing, I was most concerned that I wouldn’t have enough questions to fill a whole hour on the main stage. This was further exacerbated by the news that we were one of the panels that had been selected to be live streamed. But Jim Louderback, editorial director for the Industry Track at Vidcon, was very encouraging, and gave me the best advice: Just wind them up and let them go. These were truly thought leaders in the industry, and I absolutely knew my stuff. Back stage, as I met the panelists, and we got to talking, it was clear we would have no shortage of things to discuss. And once we were on stage, one hour flew by quickly. I didn’t get to ask half my questions and already I have new questions and ideas I want to expand upon should I get an opportunity to do this again in the future.

As I mentioned, the entire panel was live streamed and therefore a recording exists. I’ve tracked it down and made it available below.

— Raul Burriel

Lecture capture is an important part of any higher education institutions media infrastructure. It can also mean a lot of things. In the context of this report, we’re talking about recording lectures in the classroom and making them available online after the fact. We’ve seen no shortage of inquiries over the years from our colleagues in higher education as to “what’s the best lecture capture system?” or “what lecture capture system are you using?” Usually, the feedback we saw was generally very subjective: “this works for us,” or “this is what we’re using,” without any substantive reasoning given as to why these might be the right systems for anyone.

Ultimately, it made sense that we should reach out to the top manufacturers in the industry and invite them to submit their equipment for testing. For the better part of half a year, Chris Dechter and I have been working to assemble a report on lecture capture devices. Throughout early 2016, we received equipment from these manufacturers based on specifications we provided them, and ran the machines through their paces. I say “we”, although I’ll be honest. My job generally involved opening boxes and then closing them up again when we were done. Chris did most of the heavy lifting, mounting the equipment in our testing rack, connecting everything, setting up the machines, and running the recordings and streams. I did additional recording and stream testing, explored options in the web interfaces for the devices, and reviewed the recordings after the fact.

We took notes throughout our testing, and those notes eventually became our report. We parsed every detail and discussed the results both internally and externally. We weren’t shy about communicating with the manufacturers and seeking clarification on specific elements that may have left us scratching our heads. We wanted to be sure we left no stone unturned.

I’ve been frustrated by the closed and proprietary nature of lecture capture platforms for quite some time. For years it felt that if you wanted to deploy lecture capture on your campus, you had to go “all in” not only with the hardware – and associated licensing and maintenance costs – but also the delivery platform, whether it be servers on campus or in the cloud. But my optimism was piqued at the Educause conference in 2013 when Sonic Foundry’s Sean Brown spoke of a more modular approach to lecture capture, where you could use anyone’s hardware to upload to any server or service. During our evaluation process, we also had the opportunity to speak to Matt McCurdy of Sonic Foundry, who reiterated this platform agnostic approach. It is therefore ironic that Sonic Foundry is the one manufacturer we evaluated who produces hardware which does not yet adhere to this concept. Other manufacturers, such as Crestron and Extron, make equipment that are oblivious to the delivery platform. But beyond that, we’re starting to see manufacturers of production equipment crossing over into the capture realm. By that logic, a NewTek TriCaster can be considered a lecture capture device since it can record what’s passed through it, but it’s overly complex for that purpose, so for these manufacturers, simplification is key, boiling it down to the key essentials.

It was a long process and we know that the industry does not remain static. Already we know that firmware updates are due imminently for some of these devices which may impact their scoring. The report is a window in time, and we’re likely to revisit it in the future and revise our results. In addition to updates to some devices, there are newer versions sure to come out at some point, as well as a spate of devices due from competitors not evaluated here. A couple of things we know for sure: equipment is getting smaller and more affordable. You can wait forever to purchase your lecture capture solution, but if you’re looking for something right now, here’s what we have to say about it.

Please feel free to download this report and share it with your colleagues. And should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

— Raul Burriel

Download the report here.

2016-03-16 17.34.36We’ve been cleaning out the old studio in Kidder Hall as we prepare to turn over the space to New Media Communications. As materials are shipped away to Surplus, we unearth some ancient artifacts, some much older than this one artifact pictured here. But few are more relevant to my current occupation. This is an Anystream Apreso Coursecaster, a lecture capture device, and the appliance that Echo360 was using probably about a decade ago. We got this as part of an evaluation as we were testing lecture capture systems at OSU. We ultimately went with Apple Podcast Producer instead, a fateful decision. As Apple did what they often do, and discontinued the product almost immediately after we adopted it. We carried on for some time with Podcast Producer but ultimately retired it and replaced it with our current generation of lecture capture technology. We’ve become quite knowledgeable in regards to lecture capture over these many years, largely due to adversity and hardship. We’re now in a much better place, and much better informed. And I can’t say we’d be where we are now if we’d gone with this little box, instead.

P.S. The Canopus TwinPact 100, which was part of our Apple Podcast Producer deployment, is also sitting on my desk. But unlike the Anystream, which doesn’t seem to serve a purpose any more, the Canopus can still be leveraged as a type of Swiss Army knife for ingesting legacy standard definition sources into our workflow. You’ve got a VHS tape of your wedding that you’d like to convert into a digital file? I can do that… well, except now I need a VCR.

I did a webinar with Kaltura yesterday where I spoke about lessons learned from our (“successful”) deployment of Kaltura at OSU. I put “successful” in quotes only because it took some time to get to the point where we are today. We’ve been with Kaltura for 6 years and we’re very satisfied with the product today, but in the earliest days, it was certainly a difficult implementation. Both Kaltura and OSU grew in those intervening years, though, and Kaltura today is not what Kaltura was 6 years ago. The product’s implementation is turn-key and simple. I keep coming back to the words “integral”, “transparent”, and “ubiquitous” when I talk about Kaltura. Oftentimes, Kaltura is going exist invisibly behind the scenes. If it does its job, your interaction with Kaltura should be minimal. It’s job is to gobble up video and spit out video, and it does both those things wonderfully.

Recently when meeting with faculty and staff at OSU, and with people outside of OSU, I’ve refrained from going into the weeds when talking about Kaltura. If I try to touch on all the functionality, I’ll be talking for hours and I’ll surely lose my audience. Someone who wants to know about lecture capture doesn’t want to know about live streaming, for instance. Instead, what I often do when I walk into a room is go immediately to the whiteboard and draw a big cloud (“Kaltura”) and put a bunch of arrows going into that cloud on one side, and a bunch of arrows coming out of that cloud on the other side. That’s translated more recently into this Prezi I’ve made that I shared during yesterday’s webinar and you can see here.

ecosystem is reporting on how YouTube has started testing a responsive video player. In the world of web, “responsive” means components of a web page that resize with your browser. So a bigger browser would have a bigger video window and a smaller browser would resize accordingly. I just wanted to point out that the wizards at Central Web Services implemented this same functionality into OSU Live a year ago. MediaSpace 5, which we rolled out two weeks ago, also has a responsive video player. It’s nice to be ahead of the curve on this.

In this post, a blogger appears to have caught a Verizon customer service rep admitting that Verizon limits access to cloud services – like Amazon Web Services and Netflix – thus reducing bandwidth and functionality. Now, let’s take this with a grain of salt. How likely is it that a lowly CSR on a text chat is going to know what Verizon’s engineers are up to in the back room? Especially since this is probably being done on the down low and very hush-hush. But this is certainly something Verizon can do legally since they won a ruling back in January declaring that they were not common carriers when it came to Internet service. So, basically, they can deliver to you web sites at varying speeds. In essence, a provider that pays Verizon more will have their site delivered to you faster. And those that don’t pay at all may never reach you at all. That Congressman that’s running for office in your district? He paid Verizon, so his web site is fast. That other guy who’s running against him? He doesn’t have deep pockets, so his web site loads very slowly. Get it? But there’s more! You want Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime? Verizon has the Platinum package! Don’t have the Platinum package? Then your web streaming is going to suck. That’s all totally legal now since a court ruled that the FCC doesn’t have the right to regulate ISPs like common carriers, thus there is no “net neutrality”. It’s a scary thing. Frankly, I feel that if ISPs aren’t common carriers, then they shouldn’t be protected by safe harbor regulations. That’s an even scarier prospect. That would make ISPs libel for anything a user does on their network. Download music illegally? Pirate a movie? Plan a bombing? They were using your network, Verizon, so you’re responsible… because you’re not a common carrier like the phone company which absolves them of all responsibility. It’s a draconian carrot-and-stick response to this court ruling, but ISPs can’t have their cake and eat it too. Common carrier or not? What’s it going to be?

Hi and welcome to the first entry in the Video Streaming Blog @ OSU. I’m Raul Burriel, the streaming media coordinator at Oregon State University. I work in the Academic Technologies division of Information Systems. Specifically, I work in the Media Services branch and my job is to help get your videos – and audio – online for delivery. That encompasses both synchronous (live, real-time) and asynchronous (on-demand) content. If you’ve got a video you want people to watch online, or you want to stream an event live, I’m probably the guy who’s going to help you get that done. And we do that we a pretty advanced suite of tools.

Our top top of asynchronous content delivery is OSU MediaSpace. MediaSpace is our campus media delivery platform. Created by software developer Kaltura, MediaSpace is a cloud based (cloud = hosted on servers on the internet, not on campus) solution which allows a content owner to deliver his media (audio or video) to a select audience. That audience can be one person, a handful of people, or everyone. MediaSpace isn’t a means of archiving and storing your content, but of delivering it for playback, a kind of campus YouTube.

So why not use YouTube? YouTube serves a purpose and oftentimes you may find content that’s been uploaded to MediaSpace also available on YouTube. But because of FERPA regulations, we discourage the posting of academic content – particularly content that shows students or records their voices – on a publicly accessible unrestricted site such as YouTube.

MediaSpace allows for any person at OSU – student, faculty or staff – to log in, upload content, and share it to mobile and desktop platforms alike. All you need is an OSU Network ID (ONID) and you can get started, at no direct cost to you or your department. Furthermore, you can restrict your content based on the ONID of other persons at OSU. That means an instructor can restrict their videos with their students exclusively. And a student can upload a classroom assignment with their instructor without fear of other people seeing it. And MediaSpace also integrates with OSU’s Blackboard. In fact, anything uploaded to MediaSpace can be shared anywhere on the web, including a WordPress blog, a Drupal page, a regular HTML page, or a Facebook page. It’s entirely up to you as to how you want to share your content.

If you’re looking to live stream an event, we can help you with that too. OSU hosts its live content at OSU Live. This is our integrated portal for our featured content. Here you’ll find a selection of our best videos along with our featured live events. Our live events are designed to play back on both mobile and desktop platforms. Furthermore, we include a text chat so online participants can interact and in the event of a Q&A session, they can contribute questions to the speaker.

If you’d like more information about these services, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 541-737-4546.