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Videoconferencing Grows With Rich Media Preservation
Educational institutions and businesses are creating innovative solutions that combine online video instruction and interactivity.
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While writing “Videoconferencing Meets Streaming -- Finally," I was particularly excited to revisit the world of rich media recording. A few years after I moved from integrating training rooms with videoconferencing gear to consulting on streaming technologies, a number of rich media companies appeared on the scene: Accordent, SofTV, Sonic Foundry, and more recent companies such as DAT Media.

Many of these companies have either been acquired, gone out of business, or shifted focus. Sonic Foundry, with the Mediasite line of products, is one of the few independent rich media companies still standing, so I spent some time discussing the rich media tie to streaming and videoconferencing with its vice president, Sean Brown.

I asked Brown what he felt about the value of integrating streaming and rich media capture with videoconferencing.

“It’s worth preserving the knowledge shared in collaborative videoconferences,” says Brown. “Using an enterprise video platform allows you to capture the real-time experience but also transform it into a more interactive and searchable on-demand video.”

Mediasite’s Enterprise Video Platform is designed to connect with popular end points. More interestingly, now that a number of videoconferencing recording solutions are in the field, the Mediasite line also imports videoconferences recorded with Tandberg Content Server, Cisco TelePresence, or Polycom RSS systems.

“We store the recorded videoconferences alongside all other video in Mediasite,” says Brown, “to take advantage of advanced viewing analytics, indexing, online catalogs and security. Integration of videoconferencing with streaming extends your reach beyond just connected endpoints by live streaming to any device, including mobiles.”

Polycom acquired Accordent a few years ago and has integrated its rich media solutions across the Polycom line, but Brown’s main point is well-taken: a rich media capture solution needs to be able to ingest from all videoconferencing options, not just a single manufacturer’s video end points.

In some ways this isn’t much different than the idea of a content server working with various streaming encoders, but rich media content adds the critical factor of synchronizing video, still images of PowerPoint slides, or webpages, as well as integrated chat and polling data.

Brown mentioned that it’s possible to even use desktop or laptop-based “videoconferencing” solutions that don’t necessarily adhere to the H.323 specification used by traditional room-based videoconferencing end points. He said the best examples of this are occurring in educational institutions.

“Texas Tech University created a system that integrates Microsoft Lync, a video conferencing and instant messaging tool, with Mediasite to record and deliver courses and make them available live or on-demand to students,” says Brown.

This allows a level of flexibility for those educational institutions that might require the services of a world-class faculty -- some of which may not be in the same geographic location.

“One electrical engineering professor moved to Oregon last year,” says Brown, referring to a Texas Tech faculty member. “He still teaches his class virtually three times a week from 1,700 miles away with this technique. He records his live video chats with students on campus in Microsoft Lync and uploads them to Mediasite.”

One reason to upload to Mediasite is the ability for the professor to edit content, and a second reason is so the video can then be posted in a learning management system (LMS) such as Blackboard.

“The content ends up in Blackboard for students to access,” says Brown. “This is a key example of the importance of interoperability as well as the need for deep integration capabilities between videoconferencing, streaming, rich media capture, and the campus-wide LMS platforms that a professor’s classes and colleagues rely on.”

This article appears in the October/November 2013 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "Rich Media’s Role in Knowledge Preservation."

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