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Challenges of Building Out eLearning

Sonic Foundry VP Customer Success Bill Cherne discusses the process of rapidly ramping up eLearning on college campuses in this clip from Streaming Media East Connect 2020.

Watch the complete panel from Streaming Media East Connect, Education Video Takes Center Stage, on the Streaming Media YouTube channel.

Learn more about EDU streaming at Streaming Media West 2020.

Read the complete transcript of this clip:

Bill Cherne: We saw a lot of this starting with our customers in China when, towards the end of 2019, COVID was starting to become a thing, and a lot of them went on to the holiday break and Chinese New Year, and we were getting a few requests to help them plan for a spring semester or an extended winter semester that would be more remote. For our customers, there are really two aspects to it. We have customers that can purchase our server software and run it in the cloud. They didn't really have too much of a concern. China's a little bit of a different story because it has data centers and everything. But for a lot of customers that run media site on-prem or in their own hardware, they had to really look at it hard and say, "Well, we built this infrastructure to support a hundred concurrent users, maybe a few terabytes a year," and they had their set business use case and all of that's been thrown out the window. Then they said, "How do we support a few terabytes a week of data, and potentially, we're going from maybe supporting 50 or 100 classes to now, eventually having to conduct every class, somehow, using a web conferencing or on-demand videos and then stored for on-demand access."

So that was one part of the problem: How do you build up infrastructure quickly when nobody can get on campus? For our on-prem customers, we spent a lot of January, February, and March having those discussions and basically trying to run as fast as you can to buy hardware, buy networking gear, and tie in CDN providers if they wanted to go that approach. So that was one half of my team's headaches from the customer success perspective, just helping them get there. For the people that were in the cloud, we had to grow our cloud infrastructure to handle that as well. And I know other online vendors experienced similar growing pains--suddenly viewership has skyrocketed and the content being great has skyrocketed, and so infrastructure had to be expanded as well.

The other piece we saw--just like those of you who are in the trenches, dealing with instructors, dealing with students, dealing with the content creators--spreading to the U S quickly through February and March and into April, was an acceleration of plans that people had at some level for many, many years to get video online and make their courses online, or do blended learning, or whatever hot title you want to give this week to providing a different experience from a typical in-person classroom. So what a lot of our customers are faced with is, "We had this plan, we were going to do it over four years, but now we basically need to accelerate that and do it over four months. How the heck do we do that?" And some of them said, "Hey, I've never turned on the LMS. I never wanted to use that. What's Moodle? What's Canvas?" And that's the easy step of turning that on, because it doesn't require somebody to be in front of a camera and record themselves. And then, we hear a lot of times, "I hate how my voice sounds. I don't sound that way. Do I really sound that way?"

So it's really a three-pronged approach. Pillar number one is, "What do you do in the LMS?" Number two is, "How are you going to conduct class?" Is it purely on demand videos? Is it interactive stuff like you'd get in Zoom or GoToMeeting or WebEx? And number three is, "How are we going to store that content you're building?" Video is what all of us here probably love the most, but there's other stuff like documents and interactive tutorials and quizzes you need to build a great engagement.

So it's been a hard problem. It's been a lot of sleepless nights, just trying to keep up with the workload and trying to help everybody just figure out the best solution for them. 

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