How to Manage Video Content in Higher Education

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Whether they’ve chosen commercial asset management solutions, developed something in house, or done a little of both, what all these institutions have in common is that they’ve made an effort to take the value of their online media seriously and to maximize its value inside and outside their ivied walls.

University of California–Berkeley: Homegrown and Open Source
As an educational video producer working for a major state research university, I’ve had a major case of online video envy with the University of California–Berkeley’s webcast site (http://webcast.berkeley.edu). If you surf over there, you can browse streaming course lecture videos going back to 2001. For fall 2007, Berkeley students and the general public alike can eavesdrop on courses like General Chemistry, The Ancient Mediterranean World, and Human Emotion. Most of these courses are available as MP3 podcast downloads too.

But webcast.berkeley isn’t just course lectures. As a world-class research university, Berkeley is host to dozens of important, thought-provoking lectures and talks by renowned experts, scholars, and dignitaries from Stephen Hawking and Jane Goodall to Israeli President Ehud Barak and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). All of these are also available online.

Berkeley coursecast administrator Richard Bloom explains that they keep all of these programs organized and available using a system developed in-house, called bSpace. In turn, bSpace is built on an open source learning management and collaboration system called Sakai (www.sakaiproject.org), which was developed by an international community of colleges, universities, and other educational institutions.

"Open source access is very important at Berkeley," Bloom explains. This is why the university decided to transition away from commercial LMSs and move toward a system that the university’s educational technology systems (ETS) department can more easily adapt and modify to meet the campus’ growing needs. Streaming media asset management is not a feature typically included in major LMSs, but Berkeley was able to build in this functionality with Sakai.

Still, choosing to develop a system in-house rather than using a commercial product has its complications. Bloom admits that "in the beginning, development can be difficult. But in the end, we manage the training and the upgrades. This route gives us the ability to create the best set of features for the system." What’s important about Berkeley’s bSpace solution is that the university community is not limited to a predefined set of features. "It’s very faculty-driven," says Bloom.

Berkeley isn’t putting all of its video eggs in one basket, and it’s not missing out on the YouTube revolution, either. In addition to its webcast.berkeley site, Berkeley has established a presence on iTunesU, Google Video, and, most recently, YouTube.

iTunesU is a space that Apple has created in the iTunes store where the company invites colleges and universities to publish downloadable audio and video. That content is freely available to download by anyone with an iTunes account. Berkeley is joined on iTunesU by such other institutions as neighboring Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin. And, for the moment at least, Apple is providing the service to the academic community for free.

YouTube and Google Video provide another avenue to view Berkeley’s wide array of video content. Both of these sites, along with iTunesU, allow Berkeley to distribute its content without putting a heavier load on the university’s media servers. Indeed, storage, along with postproduction and archiving, is one of the biggest challenges facing an online video initiative as big as Berkeley’s. "Being able to expand the program without overwhelming the system and the people are the biggest concerns," Bloom acknowledges.

But putting video up on YouTube doesn’t mean that Berkeley is ready to start managing hours of student-generated video. "We haven’t really discussed this," says Bloom. "There are issues around quality and copyright." For the time being, Bloom says, ETS "would like to maintain control of the content."

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