Open Education Data, Video Streaming, Wine and Cheese

Last week I presented on Open Data in Education at the LTI NetworkED Seminar series run by the London School of Economics Learning Technology and Innovation Department. The talk was videoed and streamed and I just had to share my favourite image Tweeted by Deb Baff from University of South Wales!

My talk on screen while Debs drinks wine and eats cheese!

My talk on screen while Debs drinks wine and eats cheese!

I was a little unsure of the crowd so ended up giving a very broad overview covering open data, open data in education, relevant datasets, how we can use open data sets to meet educational needs, learning analytics, and the main related challenges. Everything went in the mix!

Prior to giving the talk I was interviewed for the LSE blog.

The video of the talk is available on the CLTSupport YouTube Channel and embedded below.

My slides are available on Slideshare and embedded below.

There is a Storify of the Tweets.

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Vibrant Vidi Video!

The LinkedUp Project that I work on has just launched the second of its competitions – Vidi. The competition is aimed at developers and is asking them to design and build innovative and robust prototypes and demos for tools that analyse and/or integrate open web data for educational purposes.

To support the competition launch we worked on a publicity video. I’ve created screencasts and videos in the past but have never had the luxury of a graphic designer to help me. Anyway the end result is pretty cool – despite it being my voice!

To create it I wrote the script and then recorded the audio using Audacity, saving it as an MP3. I already had some ideas for the visual story and shared these with our graphic designer, who created a story board. After some discussions we agreed on the ideas and he put it all together (he is a star!). At first it was just my voice, but then we added some openly licensed music and sound effects, to make it a little less dry. I finished the process off by uploading it to YouTube and manually adding captions for accessibility reasons. You can create your own caption file in advance (caption files contains both the text and time codes for when each line of text should be displayed) but as the video was only 2 minutes long it was easier to do this manually. If you haven’t got the time to do this you can just add a transcript.

All fun and games!

For those who want to create quick and easy videos there a plethora of tools out there right now. My children seem have a new app on the go each week. A few weeks ago I attended MozFest (I’ve written about what I got up to on the Open Education Working Group blog) – one of the tools they were keen to promote is Popcorn maker. This allows you to remix videos from YouTube and other sources. Someone also pointed out Videoscribe made by Sparkol, which lets you create those scribble type videos. It costs but you can get a free 7-day trial, which should be enough time in which to create a video. Anyone else spotted any good tools?

Very Virtual: Kaltura Education Video Summit

Unfortunately I missed the Kaltura Education Video Summit virtual event a few weeks back due to other commitments, but after a friendly email inviting me in I decided to take a look at what was still available.

The home screen with embedded video and virtual hostess

The home screen with embedded video and virtual hostess

The first annual Kaltura Education Video Summit has been billed as the most comprehensive conference dedicated to online video in education, learning, and training. It looked at ways to harness video to improve teaching, learning and training and offered those attending the opportunity to network with the world’s leading education video experts, connect with peers from leading educational institutions and enterprises around the world.

Kultura teamed up with InterCall, industry leaders in virtual environments and webcasting, to provide a really innovative virtual event.

The conference is structured round the main hall (home area), which offers links to all the talks, resources and sponsors.

Virtual exhibition hall

Virtual exhibition hall

You can take a tour around or create a virtual agenda, which will help point you in the direction of interesting sessions.

Blackboards’s interactive Booth

Blackboards’s interactive Booth

This year’s summit had 3 different tracks:

  • The Future of Education
  • Video in Education
  • Enterprise Learning, Training and collaboration
Sharon Flynn, Assistant Director, CELT at NUI Galway, presenting

Sharon Flynn, Assistant Director, CELT at NUI Galway, presenting

Each offered interesting presentations on high-level areas such as open and online education, alongside practical talks on areas such as discussion in the classroom, MOOCs and use of YouTube. Some of the talks are more traditional presentations while others are panel sessions and discussions. As well as attending talks you can take a look around the virtual exhibition hall or sit and have a chat with fellow delegates in the networking lounge. You can then pop all the resources and business cards your collect in to your virtual brief case. And of course everything can be shared via Facebook, Twitter or email. You can even upload your own resources and share these with delegates that you meet.

Networking Lounge

Networking Lounge

All pretty impressive stuff! Surprisingly next year’s video summit will be a physical event!

Digital Storytelling

I’m not alone in liking a good story, so the Netskills one-day workshop on Exploring digital storytelling appealed. The workshop looked at why stories are a powerful and effective way of communicating with an audience and how the digital techniques suggested can be used effectively for a wide range of purposes; learning, publicity and marketing, community engagement and more.

Wikipedia describes digital storytelling as “a relatively new term which describes the new practice of ordinary people who use digital tools to tell their ‘story’. Digital stories often present in compelling and emotionally engaging formats, they are usually less than 8 minutes long and can be interactive.”

So I’ll say no more about the day but will let my digital story do the talking. This is my effort from the hands-on session, it was created using WeVideo (a collaborative online video editor) and took me a couple of hours to produce all-in. It’s pretty rough round the edges and I did think of starting again and re-recording the sound, but then I decided that it was more important to show what could be achieved in a very short amount of time.

Most of the photos in the video were taken in the workshop using my phone, hence not great quality. The others are from Flickr and acknowledgements are given at the end of the footage.

There were some great tools suggested during the workshop, here are a few of my favourites:

  • iMovie – doh! Didn’t even realise I had this on my Mac!
  • Voicethread – great for creating collaborative conversations
  • Pixton – I’ve used it before but a nice comic making tool with a database of graphics
  • Comic Life – A downloadable comic maker
  • Wallwisher – An online notice board
  • Animoto – really quick videos out of still images
  • Splice – video creator for your phone
  • Blue mountains – better search engine for Flickr CC photos
  • Vimeo music store – Free sounds/music – search by genre

How to Capture Great Web Video Interviews

Software Advice have published a useful blog post on how to create cheap, professional-looking Web videos. They have written a step-by-step guide which discusses the best apps to record Skype interviews, what equipment you can get on a shoestring budget, how to frame shots and lots more.

I particularly like their section on how to set up a DIY video studio. They give some useful tips on layout, lighting and backdrop.

DIY Studio layout

The 10 Commandments of Video Calls

Video calls – If you work from home then you won’t be able to avoid them, if you work (anywhere) you probably won’t be able to avoid them for much longer. We all have to get our head round how to make effective video calls.

Chris Lee has written his top 10 tips when it comes to making video calls. Chris is studying for a BA in Music, and spends what little spare time he has musing about everything from philosophy, to economics, to developments in technology. This post was inspired by a recent, awkward Google+ Hangouts conversation, and the subsequent thoughts about how to get the most out of video conversations. He maintains a blog (somewhat sporadically) at —(p)latitudes.

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With the recent advent of Skype, Google+ Hangouts, and business video conferencing¸ the way we communicate with friends, family, and even business partners around the world is changing. Though highly beneficial mediums (no travel expenses, access to local resources, ability to include others in the conversation, and so on), they can take a bit of getting used to for the inexperienced user.

I’ve drafted up “10 Commandments of video calls”, which will hopefully lead to a smooth video call, regardless of the context. Disclaimer: Given the modern subject matter, I’ve dispensed with the ‘thou shalts’ and ‘thou shalt nots’: apologies if this makes the commandments seem less authentic!

1. Give your equipment a test-run before the conference

There’s nothing worse than getting caught off-guard by technology and software you’re not familiar with, or by a connectivity problem. To make sure this doesn’t happen, have a practice run in which you can get used to setting up and using your microphone, monitor, and headsets, and ensure you check all devices are connected and that the internet connection is working correctly before starting the call.


It can sometimes seem more complicated than it is!

2. Dress appropriately for the occasion

If you’re preparing for a business based video conference, the expectation of what you should wear will probably be similar to a face-to-face business meeting. This means smart, clean business attire. Creases still show up over webcam! If you’re preparing for a more casual call with friends or family, your options are less restrictive, although remembers it’s unlikely anyone wants to see you in just your underwear!

3. Try to sit still

A webcam will amplify movement and sound made by participants on both ends and lag in the video stream may cause the screen to freeze. The best way to avoid becoming a messy blur is to remain as still as possible during the call, and ensure the lighting is optimal.

4. Optimise the lighting and environment

Talking to an ill-defined shape is less appealing than talking with the well-defined visage of a friend / family member / business contact. Ensuring the lighting is correct will prevent the former, and will improve the quality of the whole conversation. Some good tips to achieve optimal lighting include not having a window or bright light in shot, and not having your face lit from below (unless you want to look like a character from a horror film).

5. Speak clearly!

Bandwidth discrepancies between participants may create a delay in video and audio on one or both sides of the conversation; allow for this when waiting for a response. If you don’t receive a response straight away it’s more likely that a short delay is occurring somewhere in the connection than your remark has been ignored.

6. Keep it short and sweet

As with a face-to-face conversation, long sessions without a break can grow boring and it’s likely that participants on both sides will become distracted. Regular breaks and a conversation that’s as short and focused as possible are a great way to avoid this pitfall. A good way to gauge this is how frequently awkward silences occur (and how awkward they are).

Keep an eye on the time!

7. Position yourself well

Sitting around three feet from the webcam portrays a feeling of interest on your part, while also maintaining the sense of personal space (still a factor to consider despite the fact participants may be hundreds or even thousands of miles from each other!) While your friends and family may be more interested in your appearance than business partners, a close up view of your face filling up their screen may be off-putting.

8. Maintain eye contact

As has been mentioned previously, rules of face-to-face conversation still apply; keep eye contact during the conversation. This means looking at the webcam rather than the monitor image, and while this may feel unusual at first, you will become accustomed to it quickly.

9. Increase font size for on-screen conversation

Any on-screen text used to compliment the video conversation should be of an appropriate font size to avoid tiring the eyes of the reader.

10. Check comprehension during the conversation

Make sure everyone is following the conversation while it is in progress. Video calling technology is not yet a perfect system and sometimes bugs in the call can cause participants to miss part of what has been said. Answer questions and address any concerns that may arise in order to avoid this causing problems.

Business Models for Video Streaming

Many large-scale conferences now offer some form of streaming of talks or videos of the talks soon after the event. How they actually do this varies hugely.

I touched on possible business models in the post I wrote on Openness and Event Amplification last month. I wanted to take a more detailed look at this area and see if I could define a set of possible business models and also raise some of the challenges within each approach.

Do it Yourself

This is likely to be the cheapest option available to event organisers. On a fairly fundamental level the event team will need to assign roles and someone will then need to use a phone or camera to film talks. These can then be served up through a free streaming service (like LiveStream, Bambuser, blip.tv, Ustream etc.), a paid for streaming service or through a webinar service (like Adobe Connect, Collaborate etc.) The videos can also be shared using services like YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, Yahoo Video etc. It is worth noting that some video sites have limitations on the length, file size and formats they will accept. Event organisers will also be wise to add good metadata to the videos as this will help their categorisation and enable others to find them. Some of the videos may need editing in some way and there are countless free and licenced services out there. It is more than likely that many of the decisions regarding tools and services may be dictated by what your institution already has a licence for.

There is a comprehensive list of video hosting services on Wikipedia

At the Institutional Web Management Workshop that I have chaired for several years we have tended to rely on the skills of the host institution in streaming talks, which is a slight variation on the DIY model. Last year we found that the host institution couldn’t provide this service so we did the work ourselves.

The biggest cost here is the resources needed to train staff and the time needed to actually carry out the actual work (for example video editing can be hugely time-consuming). This approach works best if you have staff members who are interested in learning the skills needed and if you are likely to be organising events on a regular basis.

Cost: $

Event Amplifier

I’ve mentioned Kirsty Pitkin many a time, she’s definitely my event amplifier of choice! Kirsty and the rest of her team have a set of skills (live blogging, tweeting, filming, video editing etc.) that are essential when amplifying events and they also own all the necessary equipment. Not only that but Kirsty has an excellent grasp of the academic sector. These days Kirsty is extremely busy and I’ve no doubt that there will be others joining her in this space in the not too distant future – if there aren’t already. I can see the role of event amplifiers developing into a sort of ‘wedding planner for event amplification’ where they lead you through all aspects of the amplification from pre-event, during event and through to post-event. Their role is likely to extend beyond that of just video streaming. They will help you with many of the choices available but are also likely to be fairly flexible and happy to use the tools and services your institution already has a licence for.

Cost: $$

Outsource to a Commercial Company

Taking this one step further event organisers can employ commercial video streaming companies who carry out all aspects of event amplification. Obviously cost is dependant on what you exactly you would like done and at what spec you require it. Services like SwitchNewMedia are experts at this in the HE sector. The likelihood is that services like this will have a set of tools that they use and there will be less flexibility in processes and approaches. There are an increasing number of commercial media streaming companies out there and it probably makes sense to go with one that has been recommended by others. This approach is likely to be the most costly and the one in which you have the least control over tools and services used. It is probably the most appropriate approach for large scale conferences where quality is key and there is no room for technical error.

Cost: $$$

Use a Commercial ‘Kit’

At the APA Conference I attended last week all the sessions were videoed and archived through the River Valley TV service. The service send someone along who records the sessions using a fairly low spec camera (not HD). The videos are then edited (in Kerala, India) and delivered up on the River Valley TV site asap. The cost is fairly minimal. I chatted to the River Valley TV guy at the conference and he explained that in the future they intend to offer a ‘take away kit’ for users. Users are delivered the cameras, film the event, return the cameras and then the videos are edited and distributed online. I can see this model really taking off.

Cost: $$

Other Questions to Consider:

  • Who is paying for this?
  • Will you charge for access to the recorded talks?
  • Will you charge for remote attendance of the live event?
  • Will the streaming costs be paid by upping the price for face-to-face attendees?
  • Will you allow advertising? Will the resources be freely available or not?
  • Do you have the right processes and policies in place to allow you to video talks?
  • Have you asked the presenters?
  • Have you asked the audience?
  • Have you decided on a licence?
  • What impact will streaming have on your attendance?
  • How much does quality matter?

The recent Streaming Media Europe Conference 2011 has some talks that might be of interest.

So are there any more potential models that I could list here? Or are there more questions that need consideration?