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Streaming Media Technologies

  1. 1. Streaming Media Technologies Can they deliver learning materials? An overview of synchronized media presentation Brian Ridgway 12 Feb 2003
  2. 2. Streaming Media Technologies Can they deliver learning materials? What’s this all about? This paper is intended as an introduction for staff within the college to streaming media presentations and to encourage debate as to how they could be potentially be used to deliver learning materials via WebCT. Samples of streaming presentations have been created to illustrate some of the potential of this medium and are referred to throughout the text. ‘…online learners will come to regard current text based online support as artificial and unnecessarily restrictive. Streamed/multicast media offer to make the potential to make the online world of learning more like the real world …’ 1 ‘From a learning and teaching perspective, the challenge for academics is how to use these new technologies in ways that are pedagogically appropriate and sensitive to their students’ needs and the learning context.’ 2 In particular I have concentrated on what can be produced relatively easily using commonly used software such as PowerPoint as a basis for content creation. The intention is to increase awareness of the use of streaming technologies in delivering learning material by pointing to some examples which hopefully can encourage academic staff to consider how they might become involved in producing some content as part of a pilot project. To make progress it is necessary for academic staff to experiment with ‘streaming’ and to evaluate and communicate their results. 3 This is not intended as a guide to streaming media in general – please see list of recommended references at the end of the paper. Throughout this paper there are links to samples of streaming media, so it is best read ‘online’. The demo site can be found at: To view some of these demonstrations you will need to have RealOne Player, Windows Media Player and Flash plugin installed on your PC. What is streaming media? Streaming media enables on-demand access to audio, video and multimedia content via the Internet or college intranet. It is usually transmitted by a specialized media server and played back by on the user’s PC often using a special player application as it is received leaving no residual content on the receiving device. 1
  3. 3. What can it deliver? There is a range of authoring and delivery technologies available to bring streaming media to the desktop. Streaming technology can deliver material in a variety of formats including: • Slides and audio • Standalone video presentations • Video and synchronized slides/images • Video synchronized with slides, images and transcripts Delivery and bandwidth When producing streaming presentations, consideration needs to be given to where the intended user is going to view the content. If material is intended to be viewed exclusively within the college network, then presentations can be coded using high bandwidth which means that any video used will be of higher quality and interactivity will be more responsive. If however it is desirable that students should be able to access content from home using a dialup internet connection, then this can place significant restrictions on the nature of the content due to bandwidth limitations. Skills and resources Skills required and time to author content vary significantly with simple slide and audio presentations requiring only knowledge of PowerPoint to more complex productions involving video content which may require video production resources. With its School of Film and Television, York St John College is well placed to be at the forefront in providing resources for the more complex video streaming presentations. From the point of view of the educator who is reasonably IT literate and is prepared to spend a little extra time in preparing teaching material, there may be some immediate benefits in creating material in PowerPoint and adding an audio commentary, where this is relevant. Examples could potentially include linguistics studies and poetry presentations. It is even practicable for an individual academic to produce ‘talking head’ video from a desktop or laptop PC using a webcam and integrate this within a presentation although there needs to be some clarity about the pedagogical relevance of this type of material. Beyond the relatively simple presentations which can be created using authoring tools such as PowerPoint, additional resources in areas such as video production and editing will be required as well as expertise in coding the material and arranging hosting. Overview of production and delivery technologies While there are many streaming technologies in the marketplace, the most popular current video streaming applications are Real Networks Real System, 2
  4. 4. Microsoft Windows Media Technologies and Apple Quicktime. These all require a dedicated player to be installed on the user’s PC. It is possible to deliver video and audio streams using a java applet which requires no special player, just a standard web browser. Impatica produce authoring and delivery software using this technology. It is also possible to deliver audio and image files via Flash which requires a browser plugin. In reviewing these technologies I have placed emphasis on those applications which produce presentations using slides with a combination of audio, video, other images and transcripts. These are known as synchronized media presentations. RealOne Media The RealOne player experiences rich media content via a customizable 3-pane interface that allows navigation between: • A media playback panel • A contextual information panel (e.g. PowerPoint slides) • An embedded media browser Authoring software – Accordent PresenterOne4 PresenterONE Basic provides a flexible way to synchronize Microsoft PowerPoint slides with on demand RealMedia. With PresenterONE Basic, content creators can create synchronized multimedia presentations up to fifteen minutes in length and publish those presentations either to the web or directly to a CD. Slides and video streaming presentation 1:45 3
  5. 5. Windows Media Windows Media is capable of controlling and linking web compatible sources of media. In this example slides are synchronized with audio and short descriptive text. Authoring software – Windows Media Author 5 Slides and audio 1:45 4
  6. 6. Authoring software - Microsoft Producer 6 Microsoft Producer is a free add-on to PowerPoint which enables authoring of streaming presentations through an easy-to-use intuitive interface. Delays initially loading the presentation even via the college network make viewing material somewhat frustrating. Slides and video 1:45 5
  7. 7. Impatica 7 Impatica presentations do not require the user to have any proprietary viewer installed, instead they use Java applets to display content. This and the use of efficient encoding enables presentations to be streamed even over dialup connections. Authoring software – Impatica for PowerPoint This software allows the user to create streaming presentations using slides prepared with Microsoft PowerPoint. Slides and audio 1:45 6
  8. 8. Authoring software – Impatica OnCue Slides made using PowerPoint and subsequently converted using Impatica for PowerPoint are combined with video and transcript to produce a navigable presentation. It is automatically created to be available in multiple bandwidths ranging from dialup, where the video is replaced with a still image, to 256 kb/s suitable for use within a college network. This scalable approach would be useful where material needs to be available to students both within college and at home. Slides, video and transcript 1:45 7
  9. 9. Boxmind Boxmind use either Windows Media or RealOne to stream video synchronized with slides and other images together with transcript text. Authoring software – Enlighten Professional 8 This does not work directly with PowerPoint but does allow importation of slides, images and video to construct a streaming presentation. Video, slides and transcript 0:30 8
  10. 10. Macromedia Breeze (formerly known as Presedia) 9 Authoring software – Presedia PowerPoint plug-in Macromedia Breeze (formerly known as Presedia) is a presentation technology which uses PowerPoint to author slides and convert them into navigable presentations containing slides narration and notes. It uses Flash and although developed for the corporate online training market has recently been acquired by Macromedia and is being promoted for use in the HE sector and talks about being SCORM compliant. It requires interaction with the Presedia server to produce the presentation files. It also features self-test quiz and survey capability. Pricing structure of the product is by annual licensing fee. One to watch. Slides, audio and transcripts 1:45 Sample quiz 9
  11. 11. SofTV 10 Authoring software – Show and Tell Show and Tell creates a web page with your PowerPoint slides and synchronized narration. It has table of contents (navigable when audio is delivered via a streaming server), displays speaker’s notes and slide thumbnails. It can be configured to allow users to download the complete presentation for use offline. It supports both Windows Media and Real Media, is WebCT aware and is modestly priced. The Tempest – setting the scene 1:48 10
  12. 12. References 1 Stephen Brown, Streaming media in UK higher and further education, 2 Thornhill, Asensio, Young ,Video Streaming – a guide for educational development, JISC 2002 3 Kerry Shephard, Streaming Audio and Video for Course Design, 4 Accordent Technologies, PresenterOne, 5 Microsoft Windows Media, 6 Microsft Producer, 7 Impatica, Impatica for PowerPoint, OnCue 8 Boxmind Enlighten Professional, 9 Presedia, SofTV Show and Tell, 10 Brian J Ridgway 12 February 2003 11