Case Study

Bryant University Takes On-Demand Approach to Multimedia Delivery

Extending classroom walls through educational videos and other multimedia offerings has become common in higher education but often brings its own set of challenges. Managing the increasing amount of multimedia content, along with cataloging new material, such as live recordings, can be costly.

Bryant University in Smithfield, RI, has a substantial and growing collection of educational videos that it needed to manage and distribute to its classrooms on demand. The university also wanted to stream live events to its 3,700 undergraduate and graduate students, including speeches given at the school by former United States Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush.

To help with its multimedia asset management needs, Bryant is using video on demand software from Connecticut-based VBrick Systems, a company that offers digital video appliances and other solutions for managing video content.

Before the VBrick system was in place, according to Daniel Greene, Bryant's media production specialist, professors had to physically visit the library, select a video, download it to a portable media such as disk or tape, and carry it to class. When the university purchased a large number of professionally produced educational documentary videos several years ago, it became obvious that a better system was needed to manage and distribute them.

"The videos were just sitting around on hard drives," according to Greene. "We had no way to share them with the community."

The university was also delivering a small amount of video on demand content, occasionally using a portable recording setup and Microsoft Windows Media for capturing events. It served its purpose, but didn't really scale once the university began to grow its video offerings. Now, with VBrick's appliances in place, a live event can be captured via a camera or other device connected right to the IP network.

With VBrick's VOD system, an instructor can log onto the university's network from anywhere on campus and request a video from the library in a short series of steps. The video is then streamed to the connected computer as an MPEG-2 file, so the images are high-resolution and television-quality. Bryant's hundreds of videos are listed and ready, making the selection process simple and straightforward. VBrick includes a file management system that Bryant has customized to match the library's existing cataloging system.

Although Bryant's video library was initially provided over the network to academic buildings only, it has since been extended to dormitories as well. Students, faculty and staff access videos use the same password that allows access to the campus network.

With a robust infrastructure in place already before the rollout, Bryant was well-suited to bring in the VBrick video management system. "We had a strong network already," Greene said. "Our administration has always understood that you need a solid infrastructure to do something like this."

Part of the reason for the state-of-the-art network was the fact that, just a few years before the VBrick implementation, Bryant had installed an IP telephone system used by students and in new administration offices across campus. With that in place, yet another use of the IP network seemed a logical step. "We've been gradually working toward the idea of network convergence," Greene said.

Indeed, an organization with a voice-over-IP network already implemented is generally a good candidate for VBrick immediately, according to VBrick Director of Marketing Andy Howard, since that tends to indicate a robust, up-to-date network infrastructure.

Bryant also uses the VBrick system to deliver four channels of cable stations to classrooms over the network--the Discovery channel, History channel, Fox News and CNN. It can also stream events via live video across campus, such as sports and political events, on the same IP network.

About the Author

Linda Briggs is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif. She can be reached at lbriggs@lindabriggs.com.

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