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  1. 1. Videostreaming of Academic Courses: A Guide for Teaching Educational Telecommunication and Technology Introduction 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 (, 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 (509-335-6524). 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 1
  2. 2. 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 2
  3. 3. phone hotline is (509) 335-335-6504. Technical support is also available by email at 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 On this web page, students can find instructions and a list courses that are using videostreaming. 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. 3
  4. 4. 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. 4
  5. 5. 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 login information. Videostream login screen 5
  6. 6. How is teaching via videostream different from teaching in the interactive television classroom? 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 ( 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: 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 6
  7. 7. 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 learning students. • 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,, 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 videostreaming. 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 discussion. • 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 videostream. • Keep an eye on the chatroom window: Students accessing the class via videostreaming can participate in class discussions and pose 7
  8. 8. 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 (, 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 confusion. 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 more information. WHETS Support Services Extended to Students in Videostreaming Sections • 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 • 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 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. 8
  9. 9. 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. 9
  10. 10. 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 been received. 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 screen. • • 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. 10
  11. 11. 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. 11
  12. 12. Appendix 2: System Requirements and Guidelines for Access to Videostreams URL: General Guidelines: • 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 RealPlayer. Download RealPlayer for free: Download RealPlayer version 8 Download RealOne Download Windows Media for free: Windows Media • 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 blurry. 12
  13. 13. • 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. Firewall Issues: • 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. 13
  14. 14. 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 choice. Assessment of the course to determine whether the course is suitable for videostreaming  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: 14
  15. 15.  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. Reserve materials.  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 live videostreaming  Scheduling and network scheduling 15