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Lecture Capture Takes to the Cloud

Columbus State Community College has formed an alliance with Kaltura and TechSmith to create a turnkey lecture capture solution that can be deployed via the cloud.

Using TechSmith’s Camtasia Relay system and Kaltura’s open source video platform, Columbus State Community College (OH) has developed a process to move captured Relay content directly from on-campus classrooms to the Kaltura cloud. The goal is to ensure high-quality streaming video for all CSCC students, regardless of where they are.

The school's focus is hardly surprising. CSCC is a widely dispersed institution, with two campuses and nine off-campus centers serving more than 30,000 students. Of that number, nearly a quarter are enrolled in distance-learning programs. Add in another 22,000 students in CSCC's Community Education and Workforce Development program--many of whom participate in training from their workplace--and you begin to see why the high-quality delivery of online instruction is so critical.

To learn more about CSCC's cloud-based lecture capture program, Campus Technology spoke with Jason LaMar and Joel Nelson, multimedia web developers with the college's Instructional Technologies and Distance Learning division and project coordinators for the CSCC/TechSmith/Kaltura alliance.

Campus Technology: How did the project--and the alliance--get started?

Joel Nelson: CSCC was part of the initial beta for Camtasia Relay, so we've been working with TechSmith from the beginning.

We have a lot of instructors at CSCC who want to record their lecture in class and deliver it to the business learning courses or as supplemental material in the traditional courses. Relay was an ideal product, but it only recorded and produced the lecture capture. Our faculty needed delivery methods as well, and they wanted a solution they could grow into. We began to do research, we looked into a few different solutions, but we quickly settled on Kaltura.

Kaltura had a willingness to configure a solution specific to what we wanted to do: tie into Relay and use it with Blackboard. Pretty much all of our courses offer supplemental material using Blackboard.

LaMar: We were interested in finding a better outlet for storage and delivery of content--and that interested Kaltura. I think both companies immediately saw how the marriage of their products could benefit all of their clients.

CT: How does Kaltura help CSCC make the transition from a locally based solution to the cloud?

Nelson: The lure of Kaltura is the cloud element. You could use the product right out of the box to put your media onto iTunesU or YouTube. But in education there's always a need to find a solution over which you have some sort of ownership. Even if you're planning on making it freely available, you still want that ownership. From YouTube, you can deliver to everybody, but you don't have ownership; with iTunesU, you have ownership, but you can't deliver to everybody.

Now the piece is inside your LMS--that's another step Kaltura has taken. It's integrated so you can deploy right into the heart of a course, so instructors feel that ownership as well.

CT: What kind of cloud system does Kaltura offer?

Nelson: The back end of Kaltura is Akamai. When you put your content on Kaltura, the video can be delivered quickly because it's coming from the server closest to you or the one with the least traffic. It automatically chooses the best option.

Kaltura also has the capability to do adaptive bit-rate streaming. It can instantly change the quality of the stream depending on your network connection. If there's a bottleneck, you're going to continue to get the stream but at a lower quality. And they have the capability to deliver to a mobile device as well. It's able to detect whether you're watching on an iPad or an Android, and deliver the best quality or type of video for that device, so you don't have to do that on the front end.

LaMar: The other advantage of the cloud over a locally based solution is the server system. Previously, we had a single server on campus, which was great but it was also a single point of failure. No matter how big the university, you can't beat the internet. Storage, availability, and redundancy aren't on our mind now, because we're relying on the internet.

It really makes sense to move from a local solution to a cloud solution for something like this. It provides the best experience for everybody, no matter where they are.

CT: Does the system support real-time delivery of content?

Nelson: There's an add-on to Kaltura for live-streaming, and they already do some of that through their hosted services.

LaMar: At CSCC, though, our focus is on-demand asynchronous streaming. You record it, vet it, and then upload it (either through the web or your LMS). Then, whenever somebody wants it, the content is available for use. The Relay-Kaltura mesh provides this.

CT: Have you piloted this new project yet?

Nelson: So far we've just been testing it. This fall is the large-scale pilot, when we expect to get it across to more faculty members. It'll be our widespread testing phase. Working with both companies, we've gotten it to a point where a few things need to be ironed out. We're still doing that, and we've also upgraded to a new version of Blackboard at the same time.

LaMar: We have a lot of lectures available in the Relay system, and this summer we created content for Kaltura. We've deployed both pieces independently of each other, but this fall will give us the chance to make the link end-to-end for the faculty. Now it's just about merging everything together. That's the focus for the fall.

CT: What are your goals for this project?

Nelson: A system we can grow into is the important piece of it. We're hoping to stay ahead of the game so that a year or two down the line, we're in a position to do more with video and media because we're not still trying to figure out how best to deliver it. We've already taken care of that. The goal, too, is to add video objects to learning content as easily as adding any other document. That's really the thing. If you can't have the student and instructor in the same room at the same time, the next best experience would be one using media and video. The remote student gets to hear the instructor's voice and see how and what they're presenting.

LaMar: Another reason we wanted to make this happen is so other institutions could benefit from it. We hope they can tap into this TechSmith/Kaltura partnership. We consider ourselves evangelists in terms of integrating multimedia with online learning--a critical piece to humanize what may otherwise be a cold medium on the web. At the end of the day, it's about helping students learn.

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