University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh’s online learning program thrives as new applications for Mediasite emerge.

University of Pittsburgh’s online learning program thrives as new applications for Mediasite emerge. The University of Pittsburgh Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education (CIDDE) needed technology that could capture video, audio and graphic elements. The solution that the center employed for many years only captured text. IT staff members wanted not only to increase the quality of distance learning technology, but also to increase the quantity of events and lectures available to students and faculty members. The CIDDE turned to Mediasite for an easy deployment.

Captured course content has increased ten-fold since the CIDDE purchased Mediasite. Students are also presenting with Mediasite, and faculty members are able to give feedback in real-time. Mediasite’s multimedia flexibility has given foreign students a better learning experience; distance learning programs have been developed for students as far away as Macedonia. Other uses of Mediasite include professional development and public health broadcasts. As its applications increase, Mediasite continues to exceed the University of Pittsburgh’s expectations.

At a glance

  • IT department wanted to extend lecture capture capabilities beyond text to include audio, video and graphic elements
  • Mediasite enables creation of content that is effective for students who learn best via a combination of sensory modalities
  • Faculty gain experience with emerging technology that can incorporate in the classroom
  • Webcasted content grows ten-fold, and the quality of academic work by international students increases

Challenge

Nick Laudato, Ph.D, is the associate director of CIDDE. In this role, he is responsible for instructional technology throughout the University. Laudato primarily assists faculty in deploying classroom technology.

Approximately three years ago, Laudato’s team wished to increase the number of events and class lectures being captured both for distance education students and for students and faculty to review previous course material. CIDDE had a solution on-campus they employed that captured text only. However, Laudato and other decision makers wanted to capture the audio and visual, as well as graphic elements of course presentations.

“We saw an opportunity to leverage our distance education efforts to share what was going on in the classroom,” Laudato said.

CIDDE officials had previously viewed a Mediasite demonstration but it was when Laudato attended a conference and had the opportunity to review Mediasite’s superior capability to capture live events, that “it was love at second sight,” he said. Laudato was so impressed that he purchased his first mobile Mediasite recorder the very next day.

“We were all particularly impressed with Mediasite’s ability to be transparent to presenters. All they need to do is plug their notebook into the Mediasite unit. Instructors do not have to use a specially configured machine with particular software on it. There’s a minimal learning curve,” Laudato said.

Laudato’s team found Mediasite to be both reliable and flexible to deploy, and the transition to Mediasite was immediate.

Solution

The University mediasites a wide variety of continuing education programs and guest lectures. This content is captured by CIDDE staff at approximately ten times the frequency than when they used their previous rich media solution. Laudato estimates that his team captures approximately 35 lectures and events per month using Mediasite. According to Laudato, “We recover the same costs for Mediasite capture services as we did with our previous rich media solution, so university decision makers clearly voted for Mediasite with their dollars.”

The content of captured Mediasite presentations is largely program or department-driven. However, to date, faculty members and guest speakers have been the presenters, while students and other faculty members have remained the intended audience. In 2006, biology students will start presenting curriculum material to other students. Using Mediasite’s 508-compliance capabilities, teachers will comment on students’ presentations in real-time. This “Communication across Curriculum” program allows students to view their public speaking skills and obtain immediate instructor feedback.

CIDDE staff members also have used Mediasite for a distance education program with students from Macedonia. Laudato’s team employed a Chroma-key or blue screen technology, similar to those used by television meteorologists, so that instructors may stand in front of and point to words or graphic images in their presentations. These offerings are particularly helpful for students who are non-native English speakers and are able to watch the presentations repeatedly.

Several university schools and departments use Mediasite to capture critical health information that is then broadcast nationally and even globally. An entire Bioterrorism series was captured via Mediasite, as was a disaster-preparedness speech that was part of a public health lecture series. This post-hurricane Katrina lecture was one of the CIDDE’s first live Mediasite streaming events and was successfully viewed simultaneously throughout the world. “The Graduate School of Public Health is using Mediasite to transmit potentially life-saving information,” Laudato said. “That, to me, is very exciting.”

Result

Starting in January 2006, CIDDE has begun offering an instructional technology series and a Blackboard® training series as part of their faculty development mission. These mCasts, or multimedia webcasts are streamed live every Wednesday and Thursday at 12:30 PM.

“We are building a content-rich resource library,” Laudato said. “These mCasts are designed to inform faculty about new and emerging instructional technologies at the University of Pittsburgh.” CIDDE makes the weekly instruction available in a variety of sensory modalities, to accommodate both the audience’s computer and their individual learning styles. Department officials take video recordings and merge them with slides to create podcasts or audio magazines. In addition, CIDDE staff members make presentations available in text format on the university website.

As more faculty members become comfortable employing the various technologies, increasing numbers will incorporate their use in the classroom. The more learning modalities that are available to students, the more opportunity students have to be academically successful.

The Macedonia Project, biology student presentations and mCasts are all examples of Laudato’s team using Mediasite in ways they had not anticipated when they purchased the system three years ago. In the near future, he anticipates the Human Resources department will use Mediasite to create an orientation for new hires. “The possible applications for Mediasite are as broad and deep as our imaginations,” Laudato said.

About the University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh Center for Instructional Development & Distance Education (CIDDE) provides support for instructional excellence and innovation in four primary cross-functional service areas: instructional development, faculty development, instructional support and university support. CIDDE provides faculty with a primary contact point for many of the instructional services they need, and it also assists in developing and supporting distance education programs and courses.