How to Manage Video Content in Higher Education

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Nevertheless, Berkeley is realizing success in its efforts to offer so much valuable educational content online. Bloom has found that "students are driving our coursecasting initiative. They want to see more classes online and are asking faculty about having their course [put on the] web or [a] podcast." In turn, "Faculty are seeing how useful it can be for the students and how empowering it is for a world wide audience to have access to some of the best teachers in the country."

Syracuse University: Building (and Marketing) a Better Mousetrap
Syracuse University is another institution that has faced the dilemma of what to do with hundreds upon hundreds of hours of online media content being produced across this campus of more than 19,000 students. Andy Covell, executive director of information technology for the Whitman School of Management, says that online media at Syracuse is growing by about 100 hours every semester.

"The Whitman School has a media strategy, and video is fairly central to that strategy," says Covell. "We infuse video into our public Web presence, and we also use video fairly extensively in our on-campus and distance instructional programs."

Similar to Berkeley, the Whitman School decided that developing its own system was the best way to get features specifically tailored to the unique needs of the whole university. The end result is a product called Ensemble Video (http://ensemblevideo.com). It differs from Berkeley’s approach in that it is a standalone application that Syracuse is now offering commercially.

According to Covell, "The University communications office and the CIO pushed for creation of a university-wide video showcase (http://video.syr.edu) where any campus organization can publish video content." As a result, a goal for Ensemble was to allow departments across campus to be able to upload, catalog, and share content easily.

The secret of Ensemble lies in the fact that it’s based upon a decentralized sharing model. While a campus may use a single installation of Ensemble, each department has the ability to manage its own media assets. So a department can decide to limit access to its video streams, but a department can also decide to share particular videos streams or downloads with any other department on campus.

When a departmental administrator logs in to Ensemble, alongside her department’s video library she can see videos uploaded by other departments that are shared and available to her. She can then choose which ones she wants to publish to her own department’s site.

"This is where high-level strategy meets a grass roots implementation," Covell says. In addition to the Whitman school, other Ensemble users at Syracuse include the law school, student television station, the School of Information Studies, the School of Education, and the part-time program called University College.

Covell notes that another key to Ensemble’s flexibility is that "you can use whatever back-end you want," whether it’s a Windows Media, QuickTime, Real Helix, or web server. Therefore different departments don’t even have to use the same media servers to use Ensemble and share media assets.

Syracuse produces and streams just about every kind of educational content you can think of, from public lectures and events to course lectures and promotional videos. All of that content poured into Ensemble is made accessible to a variety of audiences. Much of it is publicly viewable at the Syracuse University Showcase or on departmental websites, like the Whitman School’s (http://whitman.syr.edu/VideoArchive). Ensemble also is used to publish video directly in the Blackboard LMS so that content can be restricted to students enrolled in particular courses.

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