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Gimme Five: Rich Media Presentation Systems for Education and the Enterprise

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Tegrity Campus 2.0
Tegrity has been around since 1995, so it is not a new player on the scene. But the company arguably has not had the same level of profile as others in this overview. Tegrity also focuses exclusively on the education market, claiming that more than 400 institutions use its products.

Tegrity’s Campus 2.0 is a software-based product that differentiates itself from PresenterPro by being Java-based, which simplifies its installation.

The Capture: Appliance or Software?
The first choice to make is whether to use an appliance-based system or a system that runs on a presenter’s PC. The advantages to an appliance are that it’s easily installed in a classroom or lecture hall and it can offer simple setup, similar to that of a VCR. Another plus is that it doesn’t put any resource drain on the presenter’s PC or laptop, which can be of particular concern if the presenter is using software needing more horsepower than plain old PowerPoint. Finally, it’s not always a practical reality to be able to get software installed on a presenter’s computer before the lecture begins. An appliance lets you dispense with that step.

Mediasite is essentially an appliance-based system, whether you choose the company’s portable ML Recorder or its rack-mountable RL440 Recorder. Both Mediasite recorders are essentially PCs running embedded Windows XP and Sonic Foundry’s proprietary capture software.

While truly portable, at 22 pounds, ML Recorder does not resemble a modern notebook computer so much as what we once called "luggable" first-generation portable computers—albeit with a 17" high resolution LCD display rather than a 5" amber CRT. In the trade-off for the weight you get a rugged system which is ready to be carted down the hall to a classroom or across the country to a trade show.

Echo360’s system is also appliance-based. Instead of a full-featured PC, the Echo360System capture appliance is a specialized box running embedded Linux. Where the Mediasite includes hard drives and CD burners, the Echo360 appliance simply connects to a network, so it is limited to installed use.

Accordent offers both its Capture Station appliance and the software-based PresenterPro. The Capture Station is similar to the Mediasite in that it’s basically a PC (in this case, Lenovo), tricked out with audio, video, and VGA capture cards along with Accordent’s own software.

All of these capture appliances feature the ability to bring other sources of video too, such as VCRs, DVD players, or document cameras.

A software-based system is often less costly than an appliance-based one, simply because hardware usually costs more than licenses on a per-unit level. That can be a real advantage if you want to deploy capture in a large number of locations. Software systems are also convenient if you want to have lecturers working from their own offices, homes, or other locations where it’s impractical to install or cart in hardware.

Accordent’s PresenterPro is a Windows-only software-based solution designed to be installed on the presenter’s computer, taking advantage of built-in or added-on sound and video inputs. Whereas the capture appliances can record just about anything that can be displayed on a VGA screen, PresenterPro is more limited in what kind of presentation it captures—it’s limited to PowerPoint, Flash, and webpages. But, let’s face it, out of these three, PowerPoint is probably used more often to create presentations.

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