A partnership between Sonic Foundry and the University of the Free State has revolutionized academic video delivery to bandwidth-challenged areas in South Africa.

The university’s IDEAS Lab, in the Distance Education department on the South Campus (Previously, ICT Innovation in School Education Department (ICTISE)) has been using Sonic Foundry’s Mediasite Video Platform for the past five years to provide video instruction to Free State Department of Education learners and teachers at 83 rural high schools in the region. More than 54,000 learners and 3,000 teachers participate in the instruction on a weekly basis.

The university’s IDEAS Lab uses a private Mediasite network that includes Mediasite Video Platform at the end-point schools to deliver five hours of daily video lectures from highly-qualified teachers from around the Free State province. Videos are created in the central IDEAS Lab studio using Mediasite, and then automatically distributed to the remote Mediasite end-points via a robust MPLS VSAT content delivery network.

“Often rural areas present unique bandwidth challenges, either from a cost or infrastructure limitation, or both. We have architected Mediasite not just for online environments, but for distributed video deployments as well. Mediasite has the unique ability to put the content in front of the right audience using network optimization for viewing in local schools, while keeping it centrally managed,” said Gary Weis, chief executive officer, Sonic Foundry.

The videos include support for core subjects such as mathematics, physical science, life science, economics, accounting and geography; preparation and support for Grade 12 exams and revision; and teaching development training programs.

The distributed content maintains the benefits of a centrally-managed, secure and automated Mediasite deployment, including powerful analytics that measure student and school success.

“We can see what videos schools are viewing and judge that against how much the school is improving at the end of the day. Although we take a holistic educational approach, we can definitely see a direct correlation between Mediasite and success. The more content a school views, the longer they view it and the more they repeat watching the lessons, the better learning results they have at the end of the term and the end of the year,” said Edward Musgrave, IT & AV manager, IDEAS Lab, University of the Free State.

Since the program began in 2011, most school sites have shown improvement in pass rates, with some schools jumping from 17 percent to over 96 percent. Learn more about the university’s Mediasite usage at www.sonicfoundry.com/customer/university-of-the-free-state-south-africa/.