Classesv2 goes video

Classesv2 may not be as much fun as YouTube or Hulu, but it will soon play videos.

Information Technology Services is piloting a new program, Kaltura, to interface with Classesv2 and allow professors to upload video and audio files to their class websites. If the experiment goes as planned, the program will join the 26 other available tools on Classesv2 — including the ability to upload PDF files or send announcements to the class — next fall, said David Hirsch, an associate director of ITS. This semester, several professors are testing the highly customizable program before it becomes available for general use.

Yale plans to ask professors for feedback, and customize Kaltura’s features for different types of courses, Hirsch said.

“The more creative professors can allow students to upload content or mix videos using Kaltura tools,” said Devon Copley ’95, managing director of Kaltura. “We’ll provide the tools. The institution and individual professors can figure out ways to use them.”

For example, the current default setting allows only professors and teaching fellows to upload content, but the settings can be adjusted by course to allow students to contribute material from a webcam, Hirsch said. Foreign language instructors have expressed interest in using this feature so that students can submit oral assignments through the system, he added.

Yale completed integration of Kaltura and Classesv2 in December after beginning its contract with the company in July. Kaltura is the third program ITS has tried to use, Hirsch said. Lawrence added that this is the first time the program has worked directly on Classesv2.

Kaltura is currently used at 100 universities, including Harvard, which began a series of contracts with the software company in summer 2009, and Princeton, which opened a contract last June, said Adi Vaxman, director of customer accounts at Kaltura.

“Kaltura is heavily focused on the education market,” she said. “And the world in general is just going after media.”

Hirsch said ITS has yet to finalize the list of classes using the program this term, but will choose 12 to 15 courses. After the pilot, he expects up to 100 classes to use the program each semester, including many music classes.

Forty percent of the classes involved in the pilot are language courses, Hirsch said, but the film studies, history, and anthropology departments and the School of Medicine are also involved. The study will include at least one large lecture course, testing the program’s functionality when 200 students try to access the same video file.

ITS will monitor how smooth the video quality is and how quickly files of different sizes become available to students after their upload, Hirsch added.

One of the goals of the pilot, he said, is to learn what features professors want to see in the program — even features ITS did not anticipate.

The program already allows professors to embed audio files in class announcements and ask students to translate and respond to the clips, but language professors would also like for students and instructors to be able to comment on uploaded videos, he said.

Paul Lawrence, director of the Center for Media and Instructional Innovation for ITS, said he is optimistic because the video quality looks good so far and excited because Kaltura brings “a YouTube-esque experience” into academia.

He added that ITS has not yet heard back from faculty on how they like the program, but will soon conduct surveys and hold regular meetings with the “beta group” for feedback.

Attempts to incorporate video began five years ago, when ITS used a company called Cdigix to share clips. But the company unexpectedly went out of business in 2008, Hirsch said. ITS then turned to ShareStream, but that program required professors to contact ITS before every upload, which Hirsch said was impractical. Ideally, Hirsch added, professors should be able to upload video in the morning and have it ready to be viewed in class within the hour.

“With Kaltura, fingers crossed, they’ll be able to have that flexibility,” he said.

In the future, Yale might incorporate Kaltura into its public websites as well as Classesv2, Hirsch said.

Kaltura was founded in 2006 and offers a community edition, which is available for free on the Internet.

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