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The Secret to Campus-Wide Lecture Capture – How University of Leeds Did It

Best practices from the largest automated lecture capture implementation in the world
University Business, August 2015

No one in the world does automated lecture capture bigger or better than the University of Leeds. Launched in the fall of 2014, the university successfully deployed more than 250 rooms at once. In the first four months alone, they created 16,500 videos that were viewed 185,000 times – and those numbers have been multiplying ever since. The initiative has catapulted Leeds – chartered in 1904 – into a modern, digital campus, and has had immediate positive impact on teaching and learning. In this web seminar, originally broadcast on June 23, 2015, Neil Morris, the Director of Digital Learning at Leeds, described the project, from planning to practice, and how the institution launched the world’s largest automated lecture capture initiative with Mediasite as the foundation.

Neil Morris: Around two years ago, we developed a digital strategy for the university, which brought together our aspirations in terms of providing students with an integrated and seamless digital experience while undertaking their campus-based education with us, at the undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. levels. We developed a strategy that will enable students to have a consistent and equitable experience with the use of digital technologies. This digital strategy is underpinned by our blended learning approach.

We are a campus-based university with over 30,000 students, and we have subjects from anthropology through to zoology. We teach across nine different units in many departments.
We embarked on a lecture-capture mission to go from piloting a wide range of vendors, to a place where all students would have consistent access to digital resources. At the same time we developed an audio and video recording policy outlining expectations for how staff and students would use digital recordings.

The University of Leeds is committed to open educational practice. It encourages staff and students to create, share and use open educational resources.

We also have digital learning channels that enable us to showcase our work at the individual learning object level, all the way through to online learning courses. These channels enable us to openly share and disseminate resources and courses to people all around the world, including massive open online courses on the FutureLearn platform, objects and courses on iTunes U and on YouTube, and in the Apple bookstore.

Our vision for the lecture capture project was to make sure our students had access to a consistent suite of digital technologies that would support their learning and inspire them to reach their full potential. We wanted a system that would be seamlessly integrated with our existing data sources and our virtual learning environment. We wanted a system that would be easy for our more than 2,000 academic staff members to use with minimal intervention.

We implemented Mediasite by Sonic Foundry, which encodes, processes, stores and manages all of our multimedia. I wanted that content—whether lectures captured automatically, or content people have created at their desks or on mobile phones—to be published to any of the channels that the university uses.

We have an interface that enables all staff and students to capture recordings in one of three scenarios: They can capture a scheduled teaching session, which will be automatically captured as a result of taking data from the timetable system; they can capture recordings at their desk using the software solution; or they can upload content from their mobile device.

There is a single interface for managing that content through a review, edit and approve process, which enables people to look at their content, change it, edit it if they wish to, and then make that content viewable. They can access this interface through Blackboard, our virtual learning environment, or through a stand-alone website. And finally, they can publish their content beyond the virtual learning environment to what we call Video Leeds, which is Mediasite’s showcase, or out to YouTube or iTunes U.

We developed the business case for the procurement with the help of two dedicated project managers, and this case was then accepted by the university executive. We then moved forward with our project delivery group using standard management tools, where I was the project executive and we had stakeholders represented from all of the major services across the university. The whole process, from contract signing to go-live, was 142 days.

The policy states that all staff and students consent to recording for educational purposes. This has now become a baseline across the university. All staff and all students have given their consent to be recorded. But individual schools and departments will choose which teaching events will be recorded, and staff and students are able to opt out of recording.

We have recording notifications in place in advance of all recordings, which are done in printed form and digital form; there’s also a recording light in the lecture theaters. Staff, or presenters, have the ability to pause any recordings, and they have the right to edit any recordings. Recordings will be automatically generated, but they will be published by the presenter.

In terms of AV equipment, we outfitted 250 rooms with Mediasite Recorders. Every room has screen capture and audio capture as default. In addition, we put 30 fixed cameras into our larger lecture theaters. These are forward-facing, fixed cameras which have a fixed zoom to the front of the lecture theater, but they also capture writing on the whiteboard. In our 12 most prestigious lecture theaters, we put in tracking cameras.

Because of the duration and sheer volume of recording in our teaching rooms, we needed a hardware solution. So we have our own hardware storage on the university campus (meaning we have to pay for it and maintain it). Our policy is that we will keep recordings for the year that they were recorded, plus one year afterward, and then they will be deleted. That will give us a plateaued storage over a few years that is manageable. We have plans for 700 terabytes of storage in five years.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to http://www.universitybusiness.com/ws061115

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