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Effective Use of Video-Streaming for Support of Traditional ... Effective Use of Video-Streaming for Support of Traditional ... Document Transcript

  • Effective Use of Video-Streaming for Support of Traditional and Distance Learning Courses BJ Zirger, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of Learning Technologies James R. Evans, Ph.D., Professor of Quantitative Analysis and Operations Management Martin S. Levy, Ph.D., Professor of Quantitative Analysis and Operations Management College of Business, University of Cincinnati Abstract Video-streaming of course lectures and presentation materials is increasingly becoming a valuable pedagogical tool for business educators. We first discuss the benefits of video- streaming course lectures as a companion to traditional class lectures and present feedback from students using this material in MBA courses. Next, we compare and contrast several options for streaming course materials in support of class lectures. We also demonstrate the quality variations between the various choices and discuss the production and cost differences of the techniques used. This session should assist faculty and administrators in identifying appropriate uses for video-streaming in support of classroom teaching. Introduction Video streaming is rapidly becoming the next wave of technology innovation in the classroom. As institutions move toward more integrated electronic classrooms particularly those equipped with videoconferencing, they have an opportunity to use streaming video to capture course content for asynchronous education. While the typical use of streamed content has been to present materials for on-line courses, we have found it to be highly valuable as a support tool for both our traditional and videoconferenced courses. In these courses, students are using the streaming for reviewing of content or by our part-time students that miss an occasional class. We have experimented with two types of streaming technology each of which have differing advantages and costs. In this paper we discuss our uses of video streaming, streaming options we have used and their advantages and disadvantages, the resources needed to create this content and finally our assessment of how this tool will be used in the future. Uses of Video streaming Video streaming is a tool that captures visual and audio content in a format similar to a movie that can be replayed via the web, a cd or DVD. In our environment, we use video streaming to capture course lectures and any other visual content the lecturer presents such as PowerPoint, board work, VHS tapes and/or document camera images. We largely use streaming as a support tool for highly analytical courses, but have also found it highly beneficial for retaining special lectures or sessions of single event content experts. The benefits to students and faculty of this technology are numerous. The major use of streamed content in our College has been as a support tool for students in our traditional MBA program or our video conference programs. In our full-time program, streaming has been most beneficial for courses that are highly analytical such as Statistics for Managers and Decision Models. Like many MBA programs, the student 1
  • population is very heterogeneous group, with varying degrees of math competencies. In fact, it is often the case that we have classes with a quarter of the students having undergraduate degrees in engineering and an equal amount coming from liberal arts programs. This can create very disparate levels of comfort with basic algebra and calculus concepts. Thus, as these students go through statistical and mathematical materials in a course, many find it is very useful to be able to review class lectures several times. Indeed, with the video steaming material available 24 hours after a class is held, students have a mechanism for seeing and hearing the lecture material repetitively, thus can absorb new concepts at a rate that is comfortable for them. A secondary benefit has been the availability of content for students that miss a session. In our programs, especially our part-time classes, students often have conflicting work, family and school priorities. The streaming material provides a way for those students to learn this content without relying on a fellow classmate’s notes and relieves the instructor from trying to replicate an entire class session for a single student. This has been especially valuable for our off-site video conferencing programs where face-to-face connections between the students and the faculty are more difficult to arrange. One of the criticisms of video streaming course lectures is the fear that students will no longer attend class and just watch the video. In courses where we offer video streaming, faculty will explicitly state their class participation requirements. If these requirements include regular and frequent in class interaction, students are informed that streaming is not a substitute for attendance. In those courses where class participation is not critical, instructors will state their attendance policies. We are also only offering video streaming in MBA courses since this is typically a more mature population and we expect them to be able to effectively manage their time and course demands. A final major use of this technology has been to record special single event sessions of content experts. These single event sessions occur in several forms. For example, we frequently have speakers or experts in a field speak to a class about a topic of current interest. This content can then be saved for later viewing by follow-on classes or shown in other courses where the information would be relevant. In addition, faculty can also record a class lecture to replace a forthcoming class they expect to miss or to cover a topic that course time constraints prevent presenting during the regular term. In the past we have not had a systematic way to make this process easy to do or cost effective for the faculty member. Options Used for Video Streaming Course Materials Video streaming can be done in a number of different ways. In our College, we use two streaming processes. These streaming processes differ in their quality, the content that can be shown and their production time and costs. We will discuss the equipment and software necessary for effective streaming as well as describe the processes we use. Video streaming at a basic level requires a few tools. First, a video image with audio must be recorded using either a digital or traditional camcorder. In our electronic/video conferencing classroom we have wall mounted cameras and desktop microphones. In our 2
  • other classrooms, we use a digital video camera mounted on a tripod with an internal or external microphone. Once the audio and video is recorded, it may need to be digitized (if using a traditional camcorder), converted to a video streaming format, and in some cases, edited. We use a variety of tools for these steps. For conversion of files from either a camcorder or live camera images to a Real or Windows Media streaming format we use an inexpensive codec or video capture card, the Osprey 100 by Viewcast. This card is placed in a pci slot of a personal computer and has input connections for a camcorder, VCR recorder for playback of tapes (S-video or composite inputs) or other video sources that are in either NTSC or PAL formats. The hardware codec is used in conjunction with a software compression program such as Windows Media Encoder, a downloadable program from Microsoft. This creates a streaming video file with user defined levels of compression that can later be edited. Compression is important for reducing video file size and for allowing efficient streaming of files over different user bandwidths (56K to DSL/Cable modem/LAN speeds). If the video file needs to be edited, we use a popular program called Vegas Video by Sonic Foundry. This program allows us to edit either the video or audio content that has been captured into a video stream. Finally, for some applications we also use another software program downloadable from Microsoft called Microsoft Producer. When Producer is used in concert with a video capture and sound card in a pc, this program allows us to capture video streams and integrate in a timed fashion PowerPoint and other digital images into a streamed presentation. The final hardware and software required to host this content are a web and a streaming server. We use a streaming server that is maintained 24/7/365 by the University for our streaming files and a College based web-server to create a web linkage to the streamed server. The web-server files are easy to create and are reasonably small. Video streaming files, on the other hand, can be quite large (300 mbytes for a 2 hr class session) and should reside on a server dedicated to streaming applications. The majority of our video streamed files are accessed by students through the Blackboard course communications platform. Single Window Format Using the above equipment and software, we have standardized on two streaming formats, the Single Window and the Double Window. For the Single Window design, our most common session, we capture a lecture using Windows Media Encoder. Only one source of content is acquired and the quality is generally limited to s-video sources. An example of this format is shown below: 3
  • As with any technology the Single Window format has strengths and weaknesses. Its advantages include it is easy to create and time efficient to edit. To create a Single Window video streaming file, we simply capture a video and audio stream using a camcorder or live camera stream. If a camcorder tape is the original source, the content is encoded and the encoding time is about equal to the length of the class. In addition, if editing is necessary to remove pre-class, break or end of class clips, the edited stream will need to be re-compressed which may take about 10 minutes for every 60 minutes of video. Sessions that are encoded directly from a live camera feed and need no editing can be available for viewing within minutes after the class is completed. In general, this format is time and cost efficient to produce for frequent, reoccurring classes. The Single Window format has several major weaknesses. First, the single window limitation means that only one image can be shown to the viewer at any point. If an instructor is describing a PowerPoint slide or board work, the camera must be switched back and forth during the class between the instructor and the screen or board. In classes that are largely PowerPoint slides, the student remotely viewing the materials misses the gestures and body language of the instructor. 4
  • The second major weakness of this format is the quality of any digital (vga or xga) media is scaled down to an s-video resolution. This limitation is due to the capabilities of the codec card we use. Thus, digital images from a computer such as a PowerPoint presentation, software demonstrations in Excel or even an internet web page will be scaled to an s-video format for input into our codec. Digital content converted to an s- video format is not easy to read unless the material is specifically designed for this format (e.g. large fonts etc.) Since most videoconferencing systems use an s-video format it is not uncommon for presenters using this media to prepare their materials in larger, crisper fonts. However, this characteristic of the Single Window format is a major drawback. Double Window Format The second format we use extensively, the Double Window video stream, is created using Microsoft Producer. As shown below, this product creates two images, a streaming video of the instructor or the class audience and single slides of a PowerPoint presentation or other digital images. With this software product, the PowerPoint slide timings can be recorded as the session occurs so that the video and PowerPoint (image) sessions can be easily integrated. We can also add digital pictures of board work or document camera pictures. Thus, the Double Window format shows a synchronized video picture of the instructor and the PowerPoint presentation, thereby more realistically replicating the look and sound of the actual class session. 5
  • The advantages of this approach are twofold. First, the viewer can see the presenter or speakers (the video) as well as the screen or board content (digital images) simultaneously. As a speaker addresses a point on a slide and perhaps even gestures toward the board, the viewer can see both. Therefore, we are not losing the visual connection between the presenter and the content. Second, the original digital resolution of the content is preserved, thus requiring no modifications of slides by the presenter and presenting content as clearly in the streamed format as it would be in the classroom. The Double Window format does have its limitations. The major problem using the Double Window format is the time required to edit, modify and publish materials created in this format. If a file requires no editing and is simply a combination of a video stream of the presenter and their PowerPoint slides, the time required to convert the materials to a streamed format is about a 1:1 ratio or 1 hour of processing time for 1 hour of streamed content. If the video or image streams are modified, for example to include document camera or board work jpegs, re-synchronization of the video and image streams can take up to 1-2 times the time length of the session with an additional 1:1 processing time requirement. Thus, a typical two and half hour class could require 3-5 hours of processing time and labor to create an effective Double Window stream. Furthermore, hand written documents shown on a document camera must be scanned which adds more processing time and equipment costs. Another concern with both of these formats is the inability to clearly view Internet or other desktop program images in a video streamed format. This issue is particularly problematic if a faculty member is attempting to show an Excel spreadsheet or a webpage’s content. This quality degradation can be overcome by using screen capturing software such as Fantasia or Snag-it (by TechSmith) which uses a different video codec. This software creates high resolution static pictures of desktop images and streaming video clips of screen changes. These files can then be integrated into the Double Window format which best handles captures desktop images or video streams. Unfortunately, screen capturing can be time intensive and typically is not collected “real time” during the actual class session. Applications of each Format As our experience grows with these technologies, we better understand how these capabilities can be used effectively in the classroom. Feedback from students using video streamed content reinforces the high value added of this material. The most vocal proponents have been those students who have used the streamed content in our analytical courses and our off-site students. The analytical streamed material provides a re-viewing mechanism for students with weaker quantitative backgrounds. For our off- site students in the part-time program, attending every class session is difficult due to their irregular work demands. For example, our WPAFB program students are now responding to ramp-ups in defense requirements. This group utilizes the streamed materials to keep up-to-date on courses as their travel and work demands rise. In terms of the trade-off between the two formats, Single versus Double Window, we consider several factors. We evaluate the content of the course, the turnaround time 6
  • needed for the streamed materials and our staffing availability each quarter. If the class format is largely lecture based with PowerPoint slides and it meets frequently, we usually create a Single Window format. We also encourage students to download a copy of the PowerPoint slides from Blackboard and view them as they hear and see the lecture. On the other hand, if the streaming session will be reused frequently and the lecturer incorporates a combination of media, we will often invest in the Double Window format to provide a higher quality product. We are still developing criteria for making this streaming format decision, and expect to change our criteria as the software’s usability and our experience with it improves. Future Uses and Summary Streaming video as a tool for effective business education is in its infancy. The software and hardware for this application is improving significantly each year, and new options are emerging that will allow easier and more cost effective creation of content for teaching. In the near future, we expect to continue to use streaming as a supplemental tool for our off-site programs as well as an enrichment feature in other programs by capturing content experts and more broadly sharing their insights. In the long term, as camera and audio technology diffuses more consistently across our classrooms, and the user interfaces and post processing requirements decline, it is expected this technology will be a more common place resource for our students. Moreover, it is hoped this tool will not be considered an “extra expense” to accommodate special needs of a small group of students, but as a key tool for providing content in a way that responds to the changing needs and demographics of our students. 7