Gimme Five: Rich Media Presentation Systems for Education and the Enterprise
Tegrity’s Campus 2.0 is also a software-based solution, but it stands apart from PresenterPro by being Java-based, thus requiring no installation and being platform independent. But, like PresenterPro, it relies on the user’s PC’s audio and video input capabilities, typically a microphone and a webcam. It’s also a bit more flexible, capturing everything happening on the presenter’s screen, even if the presenter is scribbling on slides with a tablet.
Aside from cost, your choice of an appliance or a software-based system will be largely determined by how much control you expect to have over the computer the presenter uses and how much flexibility your users demand over their choices of presentation applications. If you have a dedicated classroom, conference room, or lecture hall where a variety of presenters bring their own laptops, an appliance-based system is probably a good way to go. What you spend in hardware you’ll probably save in avoiding last-minute hassles trying to install software or moving a presentation to a resident PC just moments before start time.
On the other hand, if you are working with a known set of users within a school or enterprise, deploying software can be less of a hassle and can be worth the savings of not buying hardware. With a Java-based software system such as Tegrity, you can realize a bit of the best of both worlds since installation is minimized.
Backend: System Servers
All of these lecture capture systems are designed to be used along with some kind of backend server infrastructure for storage, organization, and delivery of recorded presentations. Minimally, they each require at least one dedicated machine running their server software.
The key advantage to a server is the automation of ingest. With all of these systems, the capture appliance or software uploads the captured presentation to that system’s server without intervention from the presenter. At that point, the presentation is published out to the relevant web and streaming servers. Depending on the system, these servers might reside on the same physical machine.
Additional features offered by the lecture capture server include cataloging, content management, and integration with learning management systems (LMSs), such as Blackboard or WebCT. All of these systems tout this integration, and indeed it’s a very important factor for most colleges and universities. Thus your choice for lecture capture may indeed by driven by how it integrates with your campus’ LMS. If you’re using an LMS, much of your security and access control is going to be managed with that LMS. Additionally, Echo360 advertises integration with Apple’s iTunes U, which has its own content and access control features.
For environments not using an LMS, both Sonic Foundry’s EX Server and Accordent’s Media Management System offer rich cataloging and search tools, along with Microsoft Active Directory and LDAP integration for security. Echo360 and Tegrity provide a web-based catalog, and Echo360 also features RSS feeds for podcast publishing.
The Mediasite ML portable appliance stands alone in not requiring a server. Presentations recorded on this unit can be exported or burned to a CD-R for stand-alone playback or HTTP delivery. While you lose the advantages of a server, if your audience is relatively small and not geographically dispersed, this can be a good option.
Delivery: Media Formats and Servers
All of these systems can take advantage of one of the major streaming media servers to distribute most or all of the content. Your choice of system, therefore, may well depend on the streaming infrastructure you already have, whether you run your own servers or you use a CDN. Accordent and Sonic Foundry make a point of highlighting the compatibility of their systems with major CDNs. If you don’t yet have a streaming infrastructure, all of these systems will also work with progressive download, although streaming is recommended for its random access capability and bandwidth efficiency.
Both of Accordent’s products support Real and Windows Media servers and players. Echo360 supports these too, but it also adds Flash to the mix. Tegrity uses QuickTime and Windows Media but not Flash or Real.
Companies and Suppliers Mentioned