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Streaming: The Groundbreaking Innovation that Changed Distance Learning Forever

A natural evolution of class capture, streaming allows integrators to interface with the class scheduling system and send the lecture capture file to a number of places, truly duplicating the expensive distance learning systems of the 90s.

Tim Albright

In the mid-90s, I was taking an economics class at my local community college. As soon as I walked into the room it was apparent that this would be a unique learning experience.

At the front of the classroom were two large JVC 50-inch CRT monitors encased in an impressive wooden cabinet. Four PTZ cameras were laid out over the ceiling as were microphones.

This was a distance learning classroom from the early days. My professor taught economics at Washington University in St. Louis as well as being an instructor at our little community college. We were able to learn from a highly respected professor through the magic of cameras, microphones, and an ISDN line.

Fast forward twenty some odd years and you are able to do the exact same thing through software and a significantly less investment. Right now you could teach a class on whatever you are passionate or knowledgeable about from your office with a webcam and Internet connection. Those early days of distance learning were fraught with connection issues, expensive equipment that required expert hands, and an unfamiliarity with seeing your professor on a screen.

Streaming, and class capture, has provided those who wish to learn the ability to do so on their time schedule and at their pace. iTunes introduced iTunes University that boasted lessons from MIT, Harvard, and Stanford. Kahn Academy has given us the free-to-learn platform. Masters Class provides expert mentoring on a variety of subjects. What about on your campus, or your client’s campus?

Related: Here’s Why Media Vision Launched Assistive Listening and Streaming Solutions

Setting up a camera into a class capture system has been dramatically simplified over the last two decades. Whether it is software or hardware based, you plug in the camera connection, a microphone connection, and press record, stream, or both. Once the class is over there are a variety of ways to deliver the content.

As an integrator or technology manager you are able to interface with the class scheduling system and once the professor presses “Stop” that file can be sent to a number of places including their email. Once they have the file they are free to do with it as they need. This can be putting it on YouTube, a class management system, iTunes, or an RSS feed.

The streaming part of this equation is a natural evolution of class capture. Instead of simply recording for later playback, you have the ability to truly duplicate the expensive distance learning system of the 90s.

With this system, the feed can be sent out to YouTube Live, Facebook Live, a managed streaming service, or through your class management system. In this way students who are not able to physically be in class can still enjoy the lecture. This is more than just a mechanism for a sick student to still get the content. It is a way to increase the size of the class without increasing the size of the space.

Think of a soldier who is deployed but still wants to take classes and further their education. The single parent who has no child care. The person with physical disabilities who has difficulties traversing your, or any, campus. These groups of people and others can benefit from both capture and streaming.

As you, your faculty, and administration begin to assess which streaming and capture system is right for you keep your own staff and faculty in mind. The faculty’s contract has to be considered for violations and accommodations. Your staff needs to be brought up to speed on functionality as well as deployment. Your campus administration needs to layout their expectations and level of commitment.

Once you have worked through these hurdles you are on your way to creating a campus both online, and in person, that can be engaging and interactive.

InfoComm on Campus—Boston
Watch AV Nation’s Tim Albright expand on this higher education topic as he presents “Emerging Technologies That Will Change the Future of AV in the Classroom” on August 2. Register here.