Videostreaming of Academic Courses: A Guide for Teaching
Educational Telecommunication and Technology
Streaming is an emerging technology that allows users to receive nearly real-
time and on-demand video and/or audio at a computer via an internet
connection. Distance education has embraced this technology to open new
opportunities for students in remote locations.
At WSU, streaming is a service of Educational Telecommunications and
Technology (ETT) that has been used for both academic and institutional
purposes. Northwest Public Radio’s programming is available over the internet
by audio stream, for example, and many administrative events are video
streamed so that interested faculty, staff and others can participate in events
from their desks, rather than joining the event in person. Academic courses and
programs have used live video streaming to give students in remote locations
access to courses being taught in WSU’s interactive television classrooms; some
programs have also used on-demand video streaming as an extra resource for
students. To compensate for the one-way character of video/audio streaming, a
simultaneous direct messaging or “chat” tool allows videostreaming users to offer
input into many live events.
ETT collaborates with Washington Higher Education Telecommunication System
(WHETS) to video stream live class sessions taking place in WHETS
classrooms. ETT Streaming Services (firstname.lastname@example.org,
509-335-6504), streams the video/audio files, manages the companion chat
service, archives the files, administers security for the video files, and offers
technical support by email and phone (during regular working hours and during
after-hours classes). WHETS offers consultation, videostream scheduling, user
orientation, faculty support, and file administration. Faculty support specific to
video streaming is available from ETT’s New Media Applications Director
Cautions and Compensations
As an interactive television facility, WHETS allows two-way video and audio
between participants in geographically-separated WHETS classrooms. Similar to
interactive television, videostreaming is a nearly synchronous (real-time) distance
learning technology. Videostreaming is a less desirable distance learning
delivery medium than interactive television, however.
Most significantly, videostreaming is a one-way medium. The video/audio signal
from the WHETS classroom is received by student, but no video/audio signal
from the student is received in the WHETS classroom. Students accessing a live
class session via videostreaming can see the professor and, in some cases, their
classmates, but students taking a course via videostreaming cannot be seen or
heard by their instructor or classmates.
To allow videostreaming students some means of interacting with the instructor
and other students during class sessions, ETT/WHETS supports a parallel direct
messaging or “chat” tool that can be opened alongside the video media player.
Students access this chat room at their computer along with the videostream.
Instructors at their teaching stations also access the chat window. Through this
combination of videostream and chat, students can see and hear the activities of
the classroom, and can post a question, response or comment in the chatroom
that the instructor then can read at his/her computer. It should be noted that,
due to internet traffic, a lag or “latency” of 20-40 seconds delays the interaction
between classroom and videostream student, so interactions from
videostreaming student are only in nearly real time. Properly used, however, this
chat feature does give the videostreaming student an opportunity to ask
questions and make comments during class sessions.
ETT cautions that, since this distance education medium does not duplicate
interactive television in options for interaction, as well as in video quality, student/
instructor support and other features, courses should be delivered via
videostream only in exceptional circumstances and with the informed consent of
both the instructors and the students. ETT/WHETS’ New Media Applications
Director is glad to consult with programs and instructors who are considering
using videostreaming to suggest ways they can minimize the negative impact of
this medium on students’ experience. (See also Appendix 3: Checklist of issues
for academic programs to consider when implementing videostreaming as a
delivery method, p. 14.)
Videostreaming: Nuts and Bolts
To access a video stream of a live event or to view an archived video file, users
need high speed (not phone modem) internet access. ETT streams videos at
rates of 256K and 150K only. Users also need a (free) media player
downloaded onto their computer. ETT streams in Real or Windows Media
formats. Complete system requirements, including links to the free media
players, can be found in Appendix B or online at
Before the semester begins, students should consult this webpage to ensure that
their computer system and internet access meet the minimum requirements and
to download the needed media player. They should test their system as well,
using the test video files available there.
ETT offers technical support weekdays (except during semester breaks) from 8
a.m. (Pacific) to 5 p.m. and evenings when classes are being streamed. The live
phone hotline is (509) 335-335-6504. Technical support is also available by
email at email@example.com. Users who try to access video files from a
corporate setting may encounter difficulties related to their workplace’s internet
security, such as firewalls; these users should be prepared to consult with the
information technology personnel at their point of access to solve technical
difficulties related to the on-site technology.
Students access academic class videostream resources by going to WHETS
Class Videostreams web page at http://whets.wsu.edu/vs/vidstreams.aspx. On
this web page, students can find instructions and a list courses that are using
WHETS Class Videostreams Web Page
Students then select the appropriate class from the list, and go to the Individual
Class Videostream web page. This page (see illustration below) displays the
links to all resources for their course. (Users should not bookmark this individual
class videostream page, since the URL can change. Instead, they can bookmark
the main Class Videostreams page.) The individual class videostreams web
page offers a link to the live class session and the chatroom (active only when
class is in progress). It also offers links to past class videos. These archived
video files are available within 48 business hours after the class session.
Sample Individual Course Videostream Webpage
The individual class videostream web page also has a link to the chat room that
is set up for the live class session. Students should have both the video player
and the class chat window open side-by-side on their computer desktops. (See
illustration below.) This arrangement allows simultaneous monitoring of both
media. This side-by-side arrangement is possible by resizing the window using
the tool in the lower corner of each window.
Configuration of video media window (left) and chat window (right)
on student’s desktop
When a user clicks on the link to access a course video file for a course, he/she
will be asked to supply a user name and password. (See illustration below.). The
login information is generated by ETT Streaming Services, who provides it to the
instructor. ETT Streaming Services emails the login information to the instructor
approximately one week before the semester begins. The instructor is
responsible for ensuring that only students registered in the course are given the
Videostream login screen
How is teaching via videostream different from teaching in the interactive
Instructors offering courses via videostreaming, even if to only a few students,
would be wise to adapt to this distance learning technology. Preplanning and
consultation with the New Media Applications Director (firstname.lastname@example.org or
509-33-6524) and/or local site coordinator can help to ensure that
videostreaming students have the best chance of achieving the learning
objectives of the course. Two important topics are discussed in some detail,
followed by a set of other considerations.
First, it’s helpful to sample a video file, and we recommend “Teaching via
Videostreaming,” available in the Instructors/Presenters area of the WHETS web
site: http://whets.wsu.edu. This video demonstrates the various characteristics of
videostreaming that affect instructor-student communication. The video shows
the way computer screen images are affected by videostreaming, for example,
and offers guidance about selection of font size and type on Power Point slides,
among other topics.
Second, consider how to handle interactions with videostreaming students during
the live class session. Implementing two-way communication between
videostreaming students and the classroom clearly adds a level of difficulty to
teaching a class. The chat tool itself is a challenge. A message coming in to the
chat window requires that the instructor read, while messages coming in from
WHETS students over the WHETS system require that the instructor listen.
Moving between two different sensory inputs isn’t easy. Also, since only the
instructor, and not the other students sitting in the classroom, can see the chat
window, the instructor must read the chatroom comments aloud before
responding to them. The instructor thus becomes the voice of the videostream
students for the other students. The two media, one aural/visual and one visual
only, do not mix naturally.
Some instructors and programs use other technologies or tools than the ETT
chat tool to interact with videostreaming students during live class sessions.
These alternate tools include other instant messaging software, as well as the
telephone. While instructors are welcome to employ such other technologies,
ETT/WHETS cannot necessarily provide equipment, software or technical
support for them. Instructors should work with the site coordinator at their
originating location to work out the logistics if they want to use alternate tools,
and also recognize that these tools will probably not be available when they
teach from other locations.
Other considerations to keep in mind when delivering a course via videostream:
• Work with videostreaming students early in the semester to set up
communications channels. Students accessing a course via
videostream are even more likely than other distance learning students to
feel cut off from the instructor and other students. Address this drawback
before it affects students’ success in and satisfaction with the course. Set
up communication channels early in the semester, and use them
frequently to make the students part of the class. Give these students
several ways to get in touch with you for consultations, such as special
office hours via telephone or special office hours via the chat service. Use
email actively; respond within 24 hours to each message sent by distance
• Make the videostreaming students feel as if they are part of the
class. Share email addresses, set up chat events and find ways to
connect these students to study groups or other outside-of-class activities.
Incorporating an online learning environment, such as The Bridge or
WebCT, can help with this.
• Devise special instructions with the videostreaming student in mind.
Make sure that the videostreaming students understand the way to submit
assignments and to take tests.
Exams: Unless you plan to demand that videostreaming students travel to a
WHETS classroom to take an exam, instructor and student should agree to
special arrangements for tests. (Instructors could consult the Distance Degree
Program’s web page, http://www.distance.wsu.edu/resources/proctor.asp, for
helpful information about arranging for a proctor.)
• Use large text in visual aids: Videostream images appear to students at
the screen resolution of 320 x240; this does not allow for very sharp
resolution. Therefore, any lettering should be fairly large. Text written in
small letters may not be legible via videostream. If using a computer-
generated document with a presentation, the same principle applies: use
larger font sizes. Small font sizes may not be readable via
One important way to address the lower visual resolution of the
videostream is to distribute copies of class materials to your students
either before or after each class session. It’s possible to distribute these
documents electronically by posting them on a web page or even emailing
as an attachment. Students will be able to access the documents and
print them or view them on their computers while the documents are under
• Less movement is better: Try to limit motion as much as possible.
Rapid motions will appear to be choppy rather than smooth on a
videostream, especially a videostream accessed with a 56 K dial-up
connection. Be aware, too, that any videos that you might show in your
classes that present rapid motions can also appear choppy via
• Keep an eye on the chatroom window: Students accessing the class
via videostreaming can participate in class discussions and pose
questions through the online chat space. Check the computer screen
frequently to monitor these students’ questions and responses.
• 20-30 second delay: Internet signals can be held up by the flow of traffic.
This means that there may be a 20-30 second delay (called “latency’)
between the time a question is posed and a videostreaming student hears
it. Typing a response then takes time, and this message may be delayed
by traffic as well. Either wait 20-30 seconds for responses, or continue
with the discussion during the latency interval and then pick up the
comments from the chat room as they come in.
• Creating links to video files: If you create a bookmark to your class
videostream files, please link to the general Class Videos Page
(http://whets.wsu.edu/vs/vidstreams.aspx), rather than to the specific
course videostream page or to the files themselves. The URL of the
general Class Videos Page is stable, but the other URL’s can change.
This will ensure that your hyperlinks are accurate and help prevent
Please be aware that Netscape will not support direct links to
videostreaming servers. To make your links compliant with all browsers,
you will have to create "ram" or "asx" files, depending upon the media type
you are using. Contact ETT Web Streaming Services, (509) 335-6504, for
WHETS Support Services Extended to Students in
• Technical Support: Students and instructors can access technical support
by phone or email during regular business hours, during evenings when
classes are taking place, and at some other times. The number is (509)
335-6504. Support by email is available at email@example.com.
• WHETS Support Services works with academic departments to ensure
that technical and departmental evaluation forms are sent to students
taking class via videostreaming and to offer guidance regarding taking
exams. Other support issues, such as exchanging course materials, are
the responsibility of the instructor, student, and academic department.
• Students with Incompletes: Instructors can arrange for students with
incompletes to get extended access to the semester’s video files by
contacting ETT/WHETS New Media Applications Director (509) 335-6524
or firstname.lastname@example.org by the deadline for submitting grades.
“Educational Fair Use” Issues and Videostreaming
As an internet-based technology, videostreaming raises issues associated with
educational fair use that are not raised by the interactive television environment.
Since videostream files are digital, the content in these files could easily be
copied and reproduced infinitely via the internet. This could lead to copyright
infringement of any copyrighted materials used in a class session.
In an environment where legal regulation of new media is only just emerging,
WSU’s attorney general has asked ETT to administer the videostream files
conservatively. Accordingly, ETT restricts access to the videostream files and
does not duplicate video files.
Logon Required: An ID and password is required at a login screen in order to
access a live or archived video file of a class session. Shortly before the
beginning of the semester, ETT Streaming Services emails to the instructor the
ID and password information for the video files for each course. The instructor is
then responsible for distributing the login information only to registered students.
Restrictions to reproducing video files: Faculty sometimes request copies of
the video files for their personal archives. Unfortunately, under the guidance of
WSU’s attorney general’s office, ETT/WHETS cannot provide copies of video
files. Instructors wishing to view the files for professional development can
arrange to have continued online access to the files for up to six months after the
end of the semester. (Contact: ETT/WHETS New Media Applications Director)
Restrictions to storing video files: Video files are archived during the current
semester only. They can be accessed on-demand up to thirty days after the
instructor’s deadline for submitting grades at the end of the semester. At that
point, the video files are deleted from the server.
ETT/WHETS can accommodate students with incompletes who need continued
accessed if the instructor notifies ETT New Media Applications Director by the
end of finals week.
Appendix 1: How Videostreaming (of Academic Courses at WSU) Works
To videostream academic courses, the video and audio signals generated in
WHETS classrooms are sent not only through the WHETS system (ISDN,
primarily), but also are encoded as video/audio messages capable of being
distributed via the Internet (IP). These encoded signals are received from
WHETS by ETT Web Streaming Services and then sent as internet information.
Video can be delivered to a computer using a number of technologies, such as
video CD’s or downloadable video files. Each technology has its strengths and
weaknesses. CD’s can deliver very high quality video quality, if the original is
produced under the best conditions. Video files can also be downloaded, as
many college students do to access the latest films, but downloads can take
hours, even with high-speed, reliable connections to the Internet. Streaming
video has advantages over these technologies, though. With streaming video,
no CD needs to be physically delivered to the user; and the user is able to watch
the video as it is being received instead of having to wait until the entire file has
But streaming video does have drawbacks, compared to its companion
technologies, chiefly because the quality of the video does not equal that of
television. Ideally, video delivered via the Internet would look quite a bit like
video on a television, but in fact, the technology is different. A full-quality
television channel delivers 1800 pictures ("frames") per minute and each one
contains perhaps a million bytes of information. Clearly, the amount of
information needed by a television exceeds the maximum delivery rate of the
highest speed modems. So delivering video via the web requires some
compromises and some clever engineering:
• Picture size. Typical web-based videos use a quarter or a sixteenth of a
• Compression. A television picture includes a lot of redundant information;
one image may be very like the previous one, and both are sent in their
entirety. In contrast, videostreaming compression software calculates to
avoid sending the same information again and again, limiting the data sent
to the new information only, although that can degrade the image and
introduce some artifacts.
• Frame rate. A normal television picture delivers thirty uncompressed
pictures per second (twenty-four for PAL systems). When access is via
modem, rather than broadband, most computer video cuts this down to
fifteen or ten or even fewer frames per second.
• Quality compromises. A few other parameters are sacrificed to the
bandwidth limitations, such as video noise and color fidelity.
Because of these compromises, videostreaming picture quality is inferior to even
an inexpensive videotape, and far less that the typical DVD watched on the home
television set. But video via the Internet offers conveniences that videotape can’t
equal. As the technology matures and the infrastructure--such as high-
bandwidth local area networks, satellite links, and so on--develops, the quality
and features are improving.
Appendix 2: System Requirements and
Guidelines for Access to Videostreams
• Password Protection: For copyright reasons, class videostreams are
often password protected. To obtain the password, contact your instructor.
• Media Players: In order to watch a videostream you will need a media
player. WHETS classes are either streamed in RealPlayer or Windows
Media. RealPlayer version 8 or above is required. Videostreams WILL
NOT WORK with RealPlayer version 7 (G2) or previous versions of
Download RealPlayer for free:
Download RealPlayer version 8
Download Windows Media for free:
• Connection Speed: Make sure that your connection speed is set for the
appropriate level. Streams may appear to have poor quality even over a
LAN connection if your connection is set to a 56 Kbps modem. You can
set the connection speed in Real Player by going to "View" and then
"Preferences." Click on the Connection speed tab and select your
connection speed from the "Bandwidth" drop down lists.
• Screen Size: If you like, you can change the screen size of your media
player. For Real Player go to "View" then "Zoom" and select your screen
size. For Windows Media, select "View" and then "Full Screen" or "Zoom."
Keep in mind that increasing the screen size will make the image more
• Chat Rooms: Chat rooms are available for some classes. Contact your
professor for information on chatrooms. Keep in mind that when accessing
a class via videostreaming there is a 20-30 second delay. This means that
when your professor asks a question, you hear it 20-30 seconds later. You
can reply in the chatroom, which is instantaneous, but by the time you
question arrives in the classroom, your professor may have gone on to
another point. Most of the time, professors will stop to address your
question from the chat room.
• Archived Videos: Archived videos will be available for all classes 24
hours after the live class or sooner.
• Linking Directly from Netscape: If you know the direct address to a
videostream and type it in directly to Netscape it may not work. Netscape
does not support direct access to a videostreaming server, so typing the
address of a videostream file directly into the Netscape browser will not
work. Use Internet Explorer for this function. Netscape can still be used to
access videostreams, but only through links to "ram" or "asx" extensions.
• Interrupted Streams: A videostream might get interrupted for several
reasons. There might be “net congestion” (too much traffic on the Internet)
or problems with our equipment. If you lose the connection, try to
reconnect. In most instances, just pressing the play button (green triangle
rotated 90°) should automatically reconnect the stream.
• Some users may experience problems connecting to videostreams if their
network is behind a firewall. If you are using Real Player and are
experiencing difficulties connecting to the videostream, do the following:
1. Open Real Player. Under the "View" menu, select "Preferences."
2. Click on the "Transport" tab and make sure "automatically select
best transport" is selected.
3. Click the "Auto-Configure" button.
4. Click "OK."
5. Real Player will configure itself to work behind a firewall. When it's
finished, click "OK."
6. Click "OK" to close the Preferences Window
• If you are still unable to connect after completing the above procedure,
contact your network administrator.
Appendix 3: Checklist of Issues for Academic Programs to consider when
implementing videostreaming as a delivery method
Videostreaming as a delivery option should be pre-approved by the academic
curriculum committee. Department curriculum committee has to make the
decision about whether videostreaming fits or doesn’t fit with each course.
Course design and student support issues need to be understood by
the academic departments.
Impact on the program of using videostreaming throughout the
program needs to be assessed; if students take more than a few
courses via videostreaming, what will the impact be?
Instructor’s informed consent
Whether live and archived videostreaming or archived only is the best
Assessment of the course to determine whether the course is suitable for
Concerns: courses that require hands-on activities, special materials,
or ones where spontaneous interactivity and/or small group activities
are crucial to students’ success.
Instructor has participated in faculty training session, has taught
videostreamed courses before, or has had some other one-on-one
training (with site coordinator or New Media Applications Director).
Logistics of course delivery:
Document delivery: how will documents be exchanged between
instructor and student(s).
Test taking: arranging for proctors (see the DDP site for information)
Access to research tools: Special library materials that cannot be
accessed by students away from campuses or learning centers.
Access to instructor feedback and support: instructor prepared to use
distance learning technologies to support students
Instructor and student support typical of the WHETS environment are not
available via videostreaming. ETT/WHETS offers technical support by email and
phone, and the following:
Instructor orientation by F2F, print, and online
Student orientation by print and online
Some on-site support of the instant message feature that accompanies
Scheduling and network scheduling