Connecting, story telling through digital media

Every day, professors and students are taking advantage of OSU’s cutting edge digital offerings, but what they often don’t realize is the infrastructure that is being built to make posting a video or recording a lecture as easy as pushing a button.

An Oregon Department of Transportation workshop in Kidder Hall takes advantage of OSU’s video streaming technology. In the center, Larry Christianson of ODOT moderates on-line comments from workshop participants in other parts of the state and makes sure they’re included. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

An Oregon Department of Transportation workshop in Kidder Hall takes advantage of OSU’s video streaming technology. In the center, Larry Christianson of ODOT moderates on-line comments from workshop participants in other parts of the state and makes sure they’re included. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

Tucked into Kidder Hall, Media Services is quietly working to put powerful digital tools into the hands of faculty members, and to find ways to use new technology to supplement traditional instruction. For John Greydanus, Director of Media Services, the point of embracing digital technology is to simplify and automate workflows, while providing the latest teaching tools.

“The only way to take full advantage of the new Web environment,” Greydanus said, “is to make sure users can manage their own resources, and don’t require a great deal of technical knowledge to post, distribute or use online media.”

In early 2007, OSU began working with Apple to launch an iTunes U site for posting videos and podcasts, but the project hit a snag when the Oregon Department of Justice raised concerns about the ownership of lectures and university intellectual properties when hosted by Apple.

As the legal battle dragged on, Media Services began looking at how to create a “Web 2.0” environment at OSU, which would do more than deliver podcasts to iTunes. After consulting with users across campus, they created a series of tools that do everything from allowing users to embed video clips into their own web sites, to streaming live events, posting classroom lectures to BlackBoard and videoconferencing.

The biggest project, and the one that impacts the largest portion of campus, is the Media Manager, a tool which automatically encodes media files into a format that can be played in Flash player. Students, staff and faculty can use their ONID logins to access Media Manager, upload their digital files from their cameras or computers, and get back code that they can embed into Web sites ranging from OSU Web pages to Facebook, as well as providing a postable URL to access the video.

The application was developed by Robert Hopson, former CWS system administrator, who created it using open source code.

Even though Greydanus has not yet heavily advertised Media Manager, there are already more than 1,500 videos loaded by users, with another 50 to 75 being added each week. One of the advantages of using Media Manager is that videos can be posted directly to OSU sites, so that viewers aren’t guided away from OSU and to a location where the university can’t control the content, or what else is being advertised alongside the university-produced videos.

Another Media Services innovation is the use of Podcast Producer, an Apple product that can be built into classroom teaching stations. It allows professors to record their lectures while also capturing whatever is being projected to the class, whether it’s a Powerpoint presentation, a document or even a DVD. The professor doesn’t need to do anything to use Podcast Producer, it will automatically begin recording when the lecture begins, and will later post the captured lecture onto the professor’s BlackBoard account.

It’s a much simpler way to record lectures that doesn’t involve staff attending classes to videotape instructors, Greydanus said.

“It captures classroom lectures in a cost-effective, scalable way.”

Media Services is also providing live video streaming from two live on-line channels. There is a live chat feature that accompanies the live streaming, allowing far-off viewers to participate in real-time during events. During a recent Oregon Department of Transportation workshop that was streamed around the state, ODOT moderator Larry Christianson fed on-line questions to the speakers, allowing those watching to have a say in how the workshop progressed.

Christianson said since ODOT has started offering workshops at OSU with the video streaming option, a growing number of participants have chosen to watch from home, what he calls “the environmentally and travel friendly option.”

“These guys were so good,” he said of OSU Media Services, that they’ve kept coming back to use the Kidder Hall facilities.

Media Services also uses something called a Tandberg Content Manager to automatically capture and archive videoconferences so that students and staff who missed classes and seminars can review them later from their computers.

By putting power into the hands of users, as well as automating many systems, Greydanus’ staff accomplished their original goal.

“We started out looking for the right mix of digital tools to capture and distribute media,” said Greydanus. “It wasn’t always easy but I believe we have a tool set that allows OSU to become an active Web 2.0 institution.”

~Theresa Hogue

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