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Video for Instruction: establishing a comprehensive video strategy for the future

Video for Instruction
Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Binoy Ravindran tests a Zoom Room connection to 1120 Torgersen Hall.

It can seem a bit magical to users when enterprise-wide programs change service providers, but a peek inside the process reveals the teamwork and planning required to get from idea to launch. With the contracts for WebEx and Echo360 services ending in June 2018, Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies began planning for a possible service change by forming the Video-for-Instruction working group in 2016. The VFI group was charged to evaluate all the available, innovative, and affordable service options for using video in teaching and learning with a specific focus on services not requiring proprietary hardware or file formats. The resulting report recommended the ideal service transition would feature the new tools integrated into existing services with all content migrated and no disruptions for users while offering an easier to use and improved service compared to those replaced.

Guided by the discoveries of the VFI working group, the VFI program launched in July 2017 to focus on selecting services for video conferencing, streaming, recording, and content management in support of the “enable networked learning” pillar of the Division of Information Technology strategic plan. The program group focused on finding solutions that would improve user experience, deliver consistent functionality across devices, feature streamlined support, and provide seamless integration with existing products including using the familiar Virginia Tech Login Service.

A project of this size and scope requires collaboration with many people from throughout the university. The VFI program team worked closely with the program sponsors, steering committee, coordination teams, work teams, and IT Council, as well as gathering faculty and staff input. Much of the work involved aligning and agreeing to processes and responsibilities between TLOS, IT Experience & Engagement, IT Procurement and Licensing Solutions, University Legal Counsel, and University Relations. In February, after the contracts were negotiated and signed, Zoom and Kaltura were announced as the university’s primary platforms for interactive video, lecture capture, and video content management and implementation began.

A comprehensive project management plan guided the implementation including providing communication, creating training and documentation, testing the new tools, and migrating content. Continuing communication alerted the university community of significant milestones, new URLs, training dates, and end of support reminders. Training sessions were listed on the Networked Learning Initiatives site with some in-person training also provided to departments. Self-help guides were added to the 4Help Knowledge Base complete with screen captures and step-by-step instructions. Careful consideration focused on how the new tools would affect existing classrooms as well as faculty and students. Outcomes from the testing of equipment and setup along with the expertise of the Connected Classrooms working group and Learning Experience Design will be used to create a set of room standards with an equipment list and best practices. Finally, as long as the new tools are in place there will be ongoing maintenance and data storage management. The adoption of Zoom and Kaltura is going as planned with 5,225 meetings and 18,146 hours of interactive video meetings held using Zoom since March 18, and five summer courses are using Connected Classrooms powered by Zoom     . More than 30,000 recordings were migrated from WebEx and Echo360 into the My Media Space in Kaltura. Plus, both Zoom and Kaltura have been fully integrated into Canvas.

So while to the users it might seem like magic, there is no wizardry at work. Instead, the success comes from a collaborative team of dedicated individuals from across the Division of IT and the university. As Steve Jobs said, “Great things in business are never done by one person; they're done by a team of people."

If you have questions regarding the use of Zoom and Kaltura, contact the product service owner Dan Yaffe at yaffedi@vt.edu or Slack @Dan.