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Kaltura video platform for NUI Galway

In 2011 NUI Galway deployed the Kaltura video platform, which not only answered the university’s video issues but came to be used

In 2011 NUI Galway deployed the Kaltura video platform, which not only answered the university’s video issues but came to be used in far more diverse ways than anyone ever expected. Sharon Flynn, assistant director at the centre for excellence in learning and teaching at NUI Galway, gives her account of how the platform has evolved.

We started our video journey in 2009. Fast-forward to today and video is now a vital tool for National University of Ireland – Galway (NUI Galway). With 17,000 students enrolled, of whom 3,000 study remotely, the use of video in teaching and learning is growing rapidly.

As one of the top 2% of universities globally for teaching and research, we are keen to stay ahead of the curve and embrace technologies that help with our world ranking. Video is clearly incredibly important for blended and distance learning, and also helps to improve student engagement, and ultimately learning outcomes.

We started looking for a solution for managing video on campus seven years ago. While we were looking, we developed our own interim solution, which didn’t scale, and then tried external services such as YouTube and Vimeo, which didn’t allow videos to be kept private. Also, a solution from HEAnet, Ireland’s education and research network, proved difficult to use.

Deploying Kaltura

In 2011 we discovered video technology company Kaltura’s open source video platform. We were impressed by its ease of use and that, because it is a hosted platform, we wouldn’t have to worry about storage capacity on campus. The platform also allowed us to keep videos private, another important factor in our decision because it allayed staff concerns over storing video content on publicly accessible sites.

Following a successful pilot, we integrated Kaltura Video Building Block for Blackboard with our main Blackboard learning environment in January 2012, making it available campus-wide.

Faculty and students now use rich media as easily as text. The cloud-based Kaltura platform allows faculty and students to create, edit and upload videos with a click of a button, using tablets, smartphones and laptops.

Once uploaded, videos can be viewed by students and staff from any device, via their Blackboard account. And staff can easily set up access rights for videos so they can be kept personal to a specific class. We believe that this video initiative, underpinned by Kaltura, is unique in Ireland.

In 2014 we added more Kaltura tools. Kaltura MediaSpace is a video-centric portal that allows staff and research groups on campus to promote their work to the rest of the world. It is also helping us to recruit the right calibre of staff and students. We have also deployed Kaltura’s video extension for Microsoft SharePoint, which means that we can house training videos on our staff-only intranet.

Initial learnings

Although we have always had clear goals for our technology projects, there were some unexpected results. For example, we did not foresee the popularity of the simple webcam recording, particularly for teachers on distance courses. This adds a touch of the personal, where the teacher can speak directly and naturally to the students. The Kaltura screen recording feature is also popular, because teachers no longer have to use free screen recorders or more expensive editing software.

Also, the platform just works. Early in the project, we were surprised to contact some teachers who were making extensive use of the Kaltura building block, but didn’t realise they were using anything more than the basic functionality of the VLE, so seamless is the integration.

We have also seen a considerable uptake in requests for use of our video recording facilities and training. By providing the platform, interest from staff to use video to support teaching has increased.

Taking stock

In 2015 we decided to assess the impact that video has had at our institution by looking at the analytics data available on the Kaltura platform and found rapid growth in video contributions, contributors and views year on year. Contributions rose from 287 to 962 between 2012 and 2014, while media entries played increased from 2,737 to 26,002 over the same period.

In terms of the breakdown of content views, as you’d expect, there were relatively few views over the summer recess, but we discovered that students watch videos during teaching weeks as well as during revision periods.

Interesting use

We also looked at some of the innovative ways that faculty and students are incorporating video into their teaching and learning. Here are a just a few highlights:

Lab demos:

One science lecturer now uses video to teach students how to plot drugs data onto graph paper. He storyboarded the whole process. We then filmed him in our studio as he filled in the graph and showed his Powerpoint slides. Afterwards we added the voiceover. The result is a nine-minute video that students can view prior to the lesson, and as many times as they like thereafter.

Two nurses in our nursing faculty recorded a video on an iPad in a single take. One nurse controlled the recording and did the voiceover live, while the other nurse performed the procedure on a ‘patient’. The video is a highly effective way of showing students important protocols and techniques that can be watched over and over again.

Flipped classroom:

One of our lecturers in soil mechanics was struggling to keep students engaged. He created 15 PowerPoint videos with a voiceover using Camtasia, condensing 24 hours of lecture material into just two hours of video. Students now watch the appropriate video before class and spend time in class problem solving. The students are far more active and engaged, and everyone is enjoying the classes much more.

One of our speech and language therapy lecturers wanted to link theory to practice using a flipped classroom. She used Kaltura’s screen recording tool and talked to the Powerpoint slides. These ten-minute videos are available for students to view ahead of the practical sessions. By incorporating simple multi-choice quizzes in Blackboard, the students can also test themselves. The result is that the lecturer now focuses on facilitating during lectures, rather than on conveying content.

Student-created videos:

A professor in our earth and ocean science team asks students to work in groups and produce a six- to eight-minute video on a topic relating to the history of the world. Students get to unleash their creativity and we have seen some outstanding videos using a range of techniques: some speak directly to camera; some film on location; while others film in our studio using the green screen and add graphics, animations and more. As well as gaining valuable experience of working in teams, students leave with a wonderful artefact they can use for job applications or further study.

In conclusion

One of my favourite quotes derives from the baseball movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, will people use it?” This is not always the case in ed tech, but I’m glad to say that our video capabilities, underpinned by the Kaltura platform, and supported by a small team of learning technologists with advice and training, are proving to be a winner campus-wide.