Partner for More

August 19, 2011

I was cleaning my office to head off on vacation and ran across the article I wrote last year for the Continuing Higher Education Review about the work UC Berkeley ETS has done in our Opencast project and our engagement in higher education community source projects.

“Partner for More: Creating and Sustaining Collaboration to Support Campus-Based Rich Media”.

I meant to share it back then… Just shows how quickly time is moving!

2010-09-01_Partner For More Article – Mara Hancock

Sakai Conference 2011

June 16, 2011

Wrapped up the 2011 Sakai Conference in Los Angeles today. It started on Monday with a full day Opencast Matterhorn workshop. We had a packed room to start the day and it ebbed and flowed throughout the day. Bootcamp, implementation stories, speed dating… There is an impressive small group of vendors starting to come together to support the new project: Entwine (support services in AV design and software Dev.), Epiphan (hardware), NCast (hardware), and Longsight were all there. Big Blue Button is also working on an integration with Boise State. All-in-all it was a good day and I am really excited about the work being done on this project as it moves to it’s next stage and folks start adopting it. There is an impressive 762 instances installed around the world right now!

The conference was abuzz again with the promise of Sakai OAE, as it is on the verge of it’s v1 release. I think people are only starting to become aware of how transformative that product may be for our campuses. It is not your mother’s LMS nor is it your father’s portal… (I am sure someone else has said that already).

I am proud of the ETS team at Berkeley team for being an integral part of both of these projects.

Just a quick post on the session that Josh Baron, Jenn Stringer and I held at Educause Annual. For a Friday session at 8 am, we had a pretty good crowd. Held it in a point-counter point style trying to include the audience. Each question was accompanied by a fact slide with some statistic or report finding. The slides are available on the Educause session site. Inside Higher Ed also had an article, Fans and Fears of ‘Lecture Capture’, that included some highlights from our session and several other sessions on lecture capture. We intend to write more thorough paper on the topic over the next several months.

OCW Sustainability Formula?

October 7, 2007

I attended the Open Courseware Consortium (OCWC) conference in beautiful Logan, Utah at the end of September. The OCW “movement” is still relatively young (2002ish?), and the OCWC organization is busy trying to define its mission and structure.

UC Berkeley joined OCWC in August, although we have been delivering “open courseware” via our online lectures since 1995 ( This began as a research project managed by Professor Larry Rowe in his Berkeley Multimedia Research Center (BMRC) as the BIBS project (Berkeley Internet Broadcast System). We are now busy on what we call webcast NG, the next generation of the webcasting infrastructure that is being built upon Sakai’s open source framework and new infrastructure that includes some key elements from one of our favorite education and media companies, Apple. I gave a little talk about this while at OCWC and have attached my slides as a PDF if you are interested in learning more about what we do at UC Berkeley.

Some of the discussions I enjoyed the most were about sustainability. This is always of interest to me, as someone who is responsible for providing centrally supported services to my campus. Sustainability was talked about in terms of the OCWC organization and in terms of the OCW effort in general.

I think a central criterion for sustainability in the open content arena is “perceived value”. This means the value provided by the supporting organizations, and the value provided by the activity of providing the content (think about the alignment of university mission for this one), and, hopefully, the value of the content itself.

I suspect there is a formula for something like this that looks like, sustainability + meeting real (local and global) need + innovation = value. When looking through the lens of this formula, there may be an opportunity to expand the definition of OCW and its associated activities. To date it has often been defined as a publishing model which reflects the artifacts and experiences of a traditional course taught in the physical space of a classroom as well as those represented in an LMS or CLE. When thinking about sustainability, a publishing model makes good sense. However, while sustainability remains (and should be) prominent for most of us (this need is driving UCB’s current efforts), I doubt there is value in constraining the OCW vision to this in the future: innovation and meeting real needs will begin to take us well beyond this.

In regards to the meeting real needs part of the formula, at UCB we deliver videos and podcasts of complete courses via the capture of lectures. As we all know, a lecture is in no way the entirety of the course and this limitation is one of the common arguments used to convince a professor that public webcasts or podcasts are an OK thing to do — we are not giving away the keys to the kingdom! In fact, I think I would be hard pressed to find a large contingent of UC Berkeley professors at this moment who would be willing to release their entire course content in the manner of MIT’s powerful OCW program, let alone obtain an operating budget that would enable me to do so. That said, the email we receive from people all over the world indicates that in many cases, they consider these videos and podcasts alone as fantastic learning aids that expand their thinking and knowledge in valuable ways – these course web & pod casts improve lives! Now, if we could only get the funding to make all this content fully accessible through captioning, then we would truly be meeting real needs.

Adding “innovation” into the mix

While UCB is heads-down on getting our NG infrastructure in place, we are anxiously thinking ahead about new tools that will improve the experience of interacting with this content and help learners manage and share their own learning. These can be simple widgets with discrete interactions, to more complex applications that need to integrate with each other to manage institutional data through a CLE-type environment. Supporting these types of interactions begin to round out the value proposition since the activities that support managing an individual’s own learning and engaging with others to build knowledge are key motivators for learners. One way in which we can start to jump start this and alleviate costs is to form partnerships across higher ed and with companies doing interesting work such as YouTube and Apple, as well as building our platforms in an open enough way that our own constituencies can start to add to the value proposition!

UC Berkeley webcast has a new distribution partner in YouTube: The site was officially launched on Wednesday, October 3, to a great community (global) response. There were many notices of this across the blogosphere and Web. Ben Hubbard, our webcast program manager at UC Berkeley is tracking many of these on his site.

We see this as the beginning of a very interesting relationship. Integrating educational content into YouTube, firmly a leader in the web 2.0 world, begins a unique experiment in building informal learning communities around formal learning activities. Not sure exactly where this will take us, but I expect there to be some tensions along the way and some breakthroughs. I’ll keep you posted.