Over the course of 18 months, the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and the Open University worked together to document and record as much of their expertise as possible related to setting up and managing of institutional multimedia (podcasting) services. This report gives a brief overview of the project's work - its lessons and outputs - introducing our key recommendations for this topic at the end. This is not a comprehensive document as much as a summary of the project website, our community wiki, the various audio and video recordings, downloadable handbooks, software products and more, generated through the Steeple Project.
In 2008 a small number of UK universities were offered the opportunity of being the first non-US institutions to be invited to participate in the Apple iTunes U online media portal. This new arena offered a new opportunity for innovative practices in making public lectures and talks available but also a challenge in instigating new institutional workflow policies for content creation and delivery. Oxford, Cambridge and the Open University decided to participate in this new service with each having around 200 talks and lectures initially. This material is available for free to a global audience for use in personal learning and all teaching media is stored by the local institution but surfaced through RSS via the iTunes U portal.
Three different factors have created a rise in demand for online educational media and hence for an increase in institutional audio-video activities. The first driver is the rise of consumer video capture devices that allow individual academics and students to record material and the related rise of YouTube and similar video hosting services that simplify encoding and hosting of online media. The second factor is the increased availability of portable media players such as iPods that can be synchronised with media hosting services. The third factor is the rise of walled garden educational video sharing services, such as the successful UK launch of Apple iTunes U in 2008 and the subsequent launch of YouTube Edu in 2009. These new distribution channels provide a unique opportunity for widening global access to high-quality educational resources.
Whilst the technical challenges associated with handling the large volume of video and audio content being produced by academic colleagues was seen as the major concern, we quickly discovered that the policies needed to manage such materials would also benefit our peers. This shared experience, together with a need for consolidation in legal and policy decisions was the starting point for the Steeple project.
Academic Podcasting Case Studies
Aims and Objectives
The vision for the Steeple project was to
- Investigate, develop and document sustainable cost-effective institutional infrastructure to support university wide educational podcasting.
- Instigate a community of practice around scalable, enterprise-level educational audio-video creation.
The projects main concerns were addressed by:
- Supporting and documenting the adoption of best practice for sustainability and longevity of material.
- Making it easier to deliver media into public channels via processes related to metadata standards and promoting the use of widespread encoding formats.
- Sharing of experiences that have allowed others to save unnecessary expenses and reduce their learning curve.
Steeple worked to document the following areas throughout the life of the project:
- Institutional change management, user requirements, use cases and legal processes.
- Audio/video policies and content workflows for public dissemination of teaching material.
- Audio/video transcoding technologies and service management.
- Training and support needs and sample materials.