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University of Denver creates new system for rich media course libraries

Built on the Adobe® Flash® Platform, CourseMedia application enables tagging, editing, commenting and collaborating on rich-media objects

As new technologies are developed, many tried-and-true staples of academia have fallen. So it is with the carousel slide projector.

Long a staple of art history classes, slide projectors are becoming obsolete, and while many professors and instructors have plenty of media, they don't have a way to replace the projector itself.

For the University of Denver's multimedia department this presented an opportunity not only to solve an immediate problem but to create something that would go beyond the traditional uses of media objects.

"We had a huge slide library full of these slides that were going to be useless at some point. The art history department wanted to digitize and preserve it. And the idea expanded from there across the university, especially when we added video into the application," said Joseph Labrecque, DU's senior multimedia application developer.


Labrecque's resolution was an application called CourseMedia. They extensively used Flash®, a development platform that integrates a number of technologies to deliver a wide range of applications, content and video via desktop or web browsers.

The decision to use Flash® for the media presentation and management toolset was based on many factors. "We always look for the best tool for what we are trying to do," said Labrecque. "I'm pretty adaptable. But you cannot do what we're doing here with anything else."

The CourseMedia application includes a library called ALOLORA (Active Learning Object Repository Application), an integrated player and a full set of multimedia editing and tagging tools that enable instructors and students to quickly and easily build personal and course galleries, share them with others, and even move objects into other applications such as Blackboard.

Instructors build rich media libraries encompassing any kind of digital media, including audio, images, websites, external content like YouTube videos, entire movies, or clips they can create themselves using the a varied editing tool set that exists within the integrated video display window.

The first version of the system primarily replaced the old slide carousels with a Web-delivered version that handled images. But when the university acquired its Flash® Media Server Licenses in 2004 and Adobe® released a major Flash® upgrade in 2005, Labrecque knew they could take CourseMedia to a new level.

At first, the application was used primarily by art history instructors in a handful of courses. But today, between 200 and 300 courses are posting and sharing content through CourseMedia that's roughly 8 to 10 percent of the curriculum. In addition to the expected art and media programs, courses currently using the application include health and medical, human relations and social work.

"If we were not using Flash® for this, it wouldn't exist. I see it as an empowering tool for education."

To mimic the one major advantage of the old slide projectors - side-by-side projection - Labrecque's team used Adobe's Air® to build a Virtual Projection System (VPS) that enables dual projection of CourseMedia galleries from a single desktop.

"We monitor usage because we want to know that people are using it," he said. And they seem to be. The object repository holds 56,000 objects, an 88 percent increase in just the past two years. More than 800 instructors and nearly 15,000 students have been active users of the system since the current version was released.

"If we were not using Flash® for this, it wouldn't exist," said Labrecque. "It's allowed the instructors to be empowered and do things themselves. It's given students convenience. Flash has no boundaries. I see it as an empowering platform for education."

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