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Case Study: Enhancing the Educational Experience

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Miami University is located in Oxford, Ohio, 35 miles north of Cincinnati, with regional locations in Hamilton, Middletown, and West Chester, Ohio, as well as a European Center in Luxembourg. With 14,488 undergraduates and 1,812 graduate students on the Oxford campus, the university effectively combines a wide range of academic programs with the personal attention ordinarily found only at much smaller institutions. The university’s residential programs involve students in life-enhancing activities that build leadership, character, and lifelong friendships.

While many universities rely on a cable system for delivery of video to the classroom or dormitory, Miami University sought a different model—one that would give faculty members more flexibility in making media available to students and that would also free students to take greater advantage of both the university’s academic and student life opportunities. "Our goal in implementing a flexible streaming system is to offer resources that improve the student experience and facilitate, rather than hinder, the learning process," says Chris Bernard, director of network engineering and telecommunications at Miami University. "It was very quickly evident that HaiVision’s video distribution system would enhance student life across our campuses."

The conventional cable-based model required faculty to be in the classroom and students to be working on their computers to view media according to a preset schedule. As a result, professors had little flexibility in presenting the day’s material and students were forced to organize their schedules around specific broadcast times. The nature of cable delivery further prevented staff and students from pausing video for discussion or to simply attend to other priorities. Seeking a smarter, forward-looking solution to its video-delivery needs, Miami University evaluated and tested various solutions available on the market. After an intense evaluation and testing process, the university selected HaiVision to deploy a new IP video streaming system throughout its campuses.

Solution Implemented
Miami University today uses HaiVision’s Video Furnace System to deliver live television channels and video on demand to students and instructors across its main and satellite campuses. A fully integrated video distribution solution, HaiVision’s system allows Miami University to use its existing IP network to deliver high-quality video to desktops, laptops, and LCD displays with a high degree of flexibility and very minimal maintenance.

"By simplifying the previously frustrating and difficult task of obtaining video for student viewing, the HaiVision system has made a dramatic improvement in the lives of our instructors," adds Bernard. "Our students benefit from the remarkable speed and efficiency of the system, as well as from the look and feel of the interface, which clearly was designed by individuals who knew how users would work with the system. The response across faculty, students, and IT staff has been very enthusiastic."

The university commissioned the HaiVision system with both the Portal Server and Media Server. The Furnace Portal Server controls the direct and secure distribution of video to the InStream player. This player can be enabled with all Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux users to watch video with the simple click of a mouse while enjoying the exact same user interface across all platforms.

The platform independence of the InStream player was important in this implementation because Miami University offers both Mac- and Windows-based laptops through its "Miami Notebook" program. Approximately 60% of students take advantage of this program, which offers students a business-class laptop equipped to meet both academic and lifestyle needs for 4 years, and more than 50% of participating students have purchased Mac systems.

Before InStream, smooth operation within the Mac environment was a significant issue with the video systems tested by the university. The InStream player eliminated this problem and, in turn, minimized the work required of IT staff to ensure students enjoyed ongoing access to media. In addition, because InStream simply appears with the video stream and disappears when viewing ends without any software installation or plug-in required, there is no need for IT staff to install or manage end-user software on student or classroom computers at all.

The Furnace Media Server enables the university’s video-on-demand services, making media readily accessible to classrooms across the campus network. A powerful suite of administrative components offers administrators an array of tools for digitizing, managing, and distributing live, archived, or on-demand video over the IP network.

HaiVision’s engineering team worked with Bernard and his staff to get the system implemented according to the university’s needs. In addition to providing ongoing support to technical staff, the company held on-campus training sessions for the nontechnical users, such as staff members in the university library and those members located at the university’s regional centers.

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