Mediasite: What’s New in Lecture Capture

Contributions from Laura Stephenson, Dr. Marty Dulberg, Burak Eryigit, Stacy Gant, Joe Gray, Lou Harrison, Tony Pearson, Dr. Donna Petherbridge, and Peter Watson

DELTA offers a variety of enterprise learning technologies in support of instructional efforts at NC State, including Mediasite, which has been integrated into all DELTA classrooms and is currently deployed across campus in selected classrooms and mini-studios. For a current list of classrooms and mini-studios that support Mediasite, email mediasite-help@ncsu.edu.

What is Mediasite?
Mediasite is considered a “lecture capture” technology, and is a combined hardware/software solution that allows the video, audio and/or screen capture of any event to be streamed lived and/or archived for future viewing.  With this system, instructors can record and deliver interactive lectures, multimedia presentations and online learning experiences automatically.  More information about Mediasite is available on the DELTA website.

Who do I contact if I wish to use Mediasite?
Your first point of contact if you wish to use Mediasite is to email mediasite-help@ncsu.edu.  Your email will then go into a “help queue” that will be read by DELTA’s Mediasite Implementation Team, which includes the following members:

  • Laura Stephenson, Team Lead
  • Burak Eryigit, Server Administrator
  • Dr. Martin Dulberg
  • Stacy Gant
  • Joe Gray
  • Tony Pearson
  • Peter Watson

In addition to receiving and responding to your question, the team will ensure that any others that need to be involved in supporting your request (e.g. your college, or OIT) are notified and involved.

We’ve heard about a “Mediasite Pilot?”  What is that?

At a college level, Mediasite has been around and successfully used for some time.  For example, the College of Engineering has used Mediasite successfully for several years in support of the EOL program.  Additionally, since 2008, DELTA has successfully used Mediasite to record lectures in the DE classrooms supported by DELTA’s Video Communication Services team.

A pilot was initiated this semester as part of the lecture capture expansion process.   The “pilot” has been about understanding how Mediasite can be used in classrooms that are not equipped with full time operators, and how Mediasite can be used and supported at a larger scale.  Participants in the pilot include DELTA, the Poole College of Management (PCOM), and the Office of Information Technology (OIT).

The pilot has been extremely informative, and the information gathered will help inform decisions related to future Mediasite deployment, considering both the most efficient and cost effective methods of servicing the greatest number of students possible.  Space does not permit an exhaustive recitation of all that has been and continues to be learned from the pilot, but current lessons learned include:

(1)   Importance of common standards.

There is a clear need to standardize equipment, lecture room design and operational processes across university departments in order to most effectively support lecture capture efforts. DELTA and OIT  are providing leadership in this area, in order that the many college and departmental efforts across the campus are unified and achieve the economies of scale desired in an enterprise system.  However, we are not launching an enterprise system from scratch. We are incorporating equipment and facilities across the university that already exist, and in many cases were designed/created/purchased without an enterprise system in mind. “Grandfathering in” existing and separately acquired assets has presented unique challenges in a number of classrooms, as the pilot has clearly demonstrated.

(2)    Shared understanding of system requirements.

Clear understanding on the part of DELTA partners of what is involved in managing college and departmental assets is essential, so that lecture capture operates in a dependable and predictable manner. DELTA’s goal is for Mediasite lecture capture to be transparent to faculty and students; that it simply work and the only part of the system users notice is the end product.  One inherent challenge here is helping everyone understand that Mediasite is part of a larger “system” that needs to work – and that system includes the audio and video components of a given classroom, as well as the processes in place for local information technology support staff to provide “just in time” support for their faculty, in case a microphone goes out or a camera stops working.   Based on what we have learned during the pilot, we have created a classroom checklist that should provide guidance in testing the recorder with your room configuration to aid in successful  recordings.   More about this later . . .

(3)    Clear delineation of responsibilities.

DELTA and campus partners must have understanding and agreement regarding management of system assets; particularly in lecture classrooms. The expansion of lecture capture at NCSU is a partnership, not a sole proprietor endeavor. DELTA does not own or control the entire system; the assets on the classroom side belong to the colleges or OIT.  In order for this enterprise effort to succeed, the “who, what, where, when and how” of system maintenance, repair and operation must be clearly defined, with clear responsibilities outlined for what is needed from local support and what is expected from the enterprise support level.  To begin to address this, we have been working on several MOUs during the pilot that outline these responsibilities; see samples from PCOM and OIT.

(4)    Expectation management.

There must be clear understanding and agreement between DELTA and campus partners of what can and cannot be achieved with lecture capture and/or the Mediasite system within a particular context.  A combination of the technical capabilities of a given room and the ability for local information technology specialists to support instructors using the room in a “just in time” way will definitely impact the quality of the final product.  In a DELTA Distance Education (DE) classroom, for example, the rooms are fully operational, tested, and have full time operations equipped to immediately address any issues that arise in the moment.  Thus, the lecture capture in those rooms is of the highest quality and the final product is something that can be used for delivery of a distance education course and/or other venue where a high quality, lasting product is expected.  In some contexts with Mediasite, audio-only or a “preset” video quality may be acceptable and appropriate; for example, when lecture capture is being used for a face-to-face class for review purposes only.   The key is to understand your context and manage expectations about what is realistic – as the same type of quality will not come out of every room. At this time, it is not recommended for distance education courses to be recorded in ClassTech classrooms due to the fact there is no plan in place currently for redundancy if there is an equipment failure of any type in the classroom.  In addition, these classrooms will be instructor driven rooms with no assistance present, and with no cameras or cameras with specific presets, the quality will not be as good as a DE classroom expressly built for this purpose.  Therefore, if you are interested in recording a course for distance education, please contact Melissa Williford at melissa_williford@ncsu.edu or 515-9032.

Future plans for the pilot include:

  • Working with OIT in selecting classrooms for the deployment of Mediasite
  • Working with OIT to identify faculty to would like to participate in recording courses in ClassTech classrooms
  • Further development in automated processes such as Crestron and Scheduler development, which will aid in the automated workflow for recording content in ClassTech classrooms that do not have dedicated operators to assist faculty.

I’d like more detail about the Room Configurations and Requirements.
If you would like to add the ability to record content in one of your departmental classrooms, DELTA provides consultations to assist departments and units with purchasing and integrating Mediasite recorders with existing room control systems or recommending purchasing options. DELTA is also working closely with ClassTech to support building classroom environments which can be supported by ClassTech and follows their recommended classroom standards.  In addition, we provide consultations to aid in setting up a recording studio where users can record content without the need for a classroom environment.

What kind of training and support do you provide for this service?
Training and support services are available for all levels of Mediasite operation.  Instructors can participate in workshops on Mediasite (see DELTA’s workshop schedule at https://delta.ncsu.edu/learn/workshops/ ).  Those who need to maintain and operate the recorder and server instance can receive customized training.  End-user support is also available through our campus help desks (help@ncsu.edu and learntech@ncsu.edu ) and via on-site engineering support groups that are staffed with professionals who are well aware of common Mediasite concerns and issues.  Please contact us at mediasite-help@ncsu.edu if you are interested in training and support at any level in this area.

I have purchased a Mediasite recorder and want access to the Mediasite server.  Who is running the Mediasite servers and how do I get access to connect my recorder to the server?

In support of Engineering Online, the College of Engineering’s Information Technology and Engineering Computer Services unit (ITECS) has been successfully running Mediasite in production for several years.  With campus demand for lecture capture capabilities increasing significantly, a transition of Mediasite support from ITECS to DELTA is underway to provide a more centralized server support service.  Currently, DELTA is providing some funding for ITECS to run the Mediasite servers; however, a transition is planned to move Mediasite server administration completely under DELTA’s management. A new systems administrator, Burak Eryigit, has been hired in DELTA to run the Mediasite servers. He has been in training and working closely with Sonic Foundry to set up the new hardware DELTA has purchased to run the Mediasite service. At the same time, he has been working with ITECS (where the current Mediasite servers are managed) to plan the move of the Mediasite service to DELTA hardware. Our initial goal is to migrate the existing Mediasite configuration to newer, more streamlined hardware, and build an identical test environment. Later, we’ll experiment with the Mediasite 6.0 beta release (due out sometime later this year) of the server software in anticipation of a migration once the new version is production ready. Due to hardware and software changes in 6.0, Sonic Foundry has recommended for NC State’s emerging enterprise level solution some architecture changes to our installation,  including collapsing our current multiple instance environment into one single instance. DELTA is evaluating this recommendation and will be discussing this option further with the Mediasite Advisory committee. During and after this migration, DELTA wants to maintain a close working relationship with all unit administrators and IT staff who are using the Mediasite service to ensure DELTA is meeting their mission-specific Mediasite needs. DELTA will work closely with units and Sonic Foundry to work out all the details involved in this migration.

Please contact us at mediasite-help@ncsu.edu if you need to connect a recorder to the server or need further information on server support.

We don’t really want to set up a Mediasite classroom, so what kind of production options do you have and what do they cost?
If you are recording in one of the Distance Education video classrooms, your lectures are automatically recorded in the Mediasite format. However, if you are not scheduled to teach in one of the video classrooms and wish to record a course to be offered online, DELTA’s mini-studio is available for you to record a course or course content to be delivered online. The mini-studio is located in DELTA’s Venture II offices on Centennial Campus. The studio is designed to be user-friendly, with an environment that requires little training and expertise to record content for online distribution.

There are many advantages to recording in the mini studio.

  • Flexibility Record on your own schedule. You choose the time and days.
  • User friendly – Mediasite is very easy to use and no presenter skills are required. At a single touch, you click Record, and when you are done, click Stop. We’ll take care of the rest for you.
  • Lectures are automatically available online as soon as you have completed the recording.

This fully-equipped rich media studio can be used for a variety of recordings in addition to lectures, such as exam or topic reviews, pre-recording lectures (if you will be attending a conference), course introductions or overviews, guest lecturers, or any content you would like to record and deliver online. There are currently no fees for the use of DELTA’s rich media mini-studio for members of the NC State community recording content. However, first priority for usage is for distance education courses, followed by other academic uses as outlined in the SOP for our studio’s use.

For recurring or semester-length courses, you should schedule the studio at least three months in advance of the semester to ensure you receive your desired recording time. Short term or one-time room usage should be scheduled as early as possible to ensure space availability.

For a tour and introduction to the studio, please email us at mediasite-help@ncsu.edu.

In addition, DELTA’s Video Communication Services (VCS) is a multidimensional unit that supports the technology, facilities, production, and pedagogy behind NC State’s distance learning program. VCS plays a significant role in the development of media for the university through television production, multimedia production, and Video Conference services.   The intent of this service is to provide NC State University with, a high quality multimedia/rich media recording and webcast service for both synchronous (live) and asynchronous activities at remote locations.   These include the following:

  • lectures and learning objects
  • seminars
  • workshops
  • symposiums
  • special announcements
  • staff training and announcements
  • public broadcasts
  • other industry or collegial activity

Using Mediasite, we have the ability to provide your event/lecture with a quality webcast for both synchronous and asynchronous delivery.  Mediasite streams content in the true sense (not downloaded by the viewer) which is managed and archived.  We are also able to provide reports generated from our server and protect and deliver your Rich media content in an efficient, secure, and timely fashion.

While DELTA and VCS remain dedicated to providing quality, convenient, low-cost services to the university community, it is necessary to charge service fees to our clients who require this service outside of the scope of our distance education programs.  These fees allow us to cover costs of remote recorders, maintenance, and other materials needed to offer this service.

All projects will be assessed individually by a VCS production manager.  Final production costs will be influenced by simplicity or complexity.  For more information, email delta-video@ncsu.edu or phone 919-515-1868 or 919-513-5020.

How are people providing input into this process?  Do you have an Advisory Committee?

DELTA’s Mediasite Implementation Team has worked together for the past year, meeting with various stakeholders, conducting focus groups with IT professionals in several administrative units and colleges to help inform the scope of services, and providing current pilot-level support for selected courses using Mediasite in PCOM  and in OIT ClassTech rooms.

While the dispersed conversations around Mediasite have been insightful in moving us forward, the need to have a consistent group meeting that includes non-DELTA staff where ongoing discussions regarding administrative and policy issues for lecture capture service has become clear.  We need to work together to ensure that a viable management infrastructure and process is created to meet the needs of all current and future users of the enterprise Mediasite service, and this is a broader conversation than is currently happening.

Working with college deans and other administrators as appropriate, a Mediasite Enterprise Pilot Advisory Team has been appointed. This group:

  • Is expected to start meeting later this spring, with membership through the next academic calendar year, concluding by June 30, 2012.  Our anticipated first meeting will be the morning of April 26 (as we have an opportunity to meet with Sonic Foundry).
  • Will be co-facilitated by DELTA Associate Vice Provosts Donna Petherbridge and Rebecca Swanson.
  • Includes a functional mix of DE program expertise, front-end user expertise, college-level technical expertise, and instructional technology support perspectives.
  • Will not be a body to make technical or implementation decisions, though technical insight and implementation ideas can inform discussions. Rather, this is the body to bring college/program needs to the table for discussion.
  • Will make recommendations for Mediasite implementation priorities and service structure, with final decisions resting with the Vice Provost for DELTA.
  • Includes all colleges and administrative units currently using Mediasite (CED, COE, CALS, COT, OIT, CNR, McKimmon Center, CHASS, CVM and COM).

Where are things going?  Can you give us an idea of what’s coming up next?
As the size of our Mediasite installation at NC State University has grown to over 140 recorders, we are starting to recognize that there are limitations to the current design of the Mediasite server infrastructure, administrative software and automated processes for content creation and delivery. We have discussed several issues with Sonic Foundry and look forward to working with them more closely in the future to ensure that their management portal software and feature set keep pace with our needs at NC State.

We are working closely with ClassTech and the Mediasite Crestron Development group on automated methods and programming for Creston for recording content in non-operated classrooms.  If you would like to be a part of this development group or would more information, please contact us at mediasite-help@ncsu.edu.

DELTA has created and tested during the spring pilot an internal scheduler program which allows data to be pulled from SIS, which in turns pushes information to the Mediasite management portal on courses which are being recorded.  This information is then pushed to the recorders so when an instructor walks in the classroom, the recorder knows who is in the room and is ready to record the appropriate lecture.  As soon as final revisions are made to the scheduler, we will be sharing this program with other units.

We also plan to work closely with Sonic Foundry on further development of their Mediasite/Moodle plugin.  Currently the plugin is very basic and does not work with multiple instances.  Our goal with a Moodle plugin is for students to have access to the lectures recorded with Mediasite when they login.  This would also simplify the process for instructors and students knowing where to access Mediasite recorded content.

Sonic Foundry is also making significant changes to their server software in version 6.0, which will allow us to simplify and improve the server infrastructure.

Through several meetings with Sonic Foundry over the past few months, we have been discussing key product design changes we would like to see in their next major release and will be heavily involved in their 6.0 beta testing. We have an additional planning meeting with Sonic Foundry that will include an open session on April 25 from 5-7 pm for Mediasite users across campus and a session for our new advisory board on April 26. In addition to our advisory group, several different teams within DELTA who are supporting the enterprise service will be meeting with key individuals from Sonic Foundry.  Then, in the May/June timeframe, we will host a Mediasite technical and administrative meeting for local college support staff, for additional discussion regarding issues, concerns, and planning needs that arise from the discussions with Sonic Foundry.