Open Cast Planning Grant

April 29, 2008

Thanks to WIlliam and Flora Hewlett and Andrew W. Mellon Foundations for joining together to support the Open Cast project (new site will be coming out soon) planning grant. This funding will support the project in conducting three requirements and best practices workshops to explore the requirements and readiness for a new community source effort around the shared development and design of an open source podcast capture and delivery system for higher ed. Outcomes will be documentation of the resulting requirements and best practices, the development of a collaborative community (already well underway with over 200 individual participants), and a well defined proposal for next steps.

Why is this important?

UC Berkeley has been delivering open webcast content (audio and video) since the mid-90’s. As we have increasingly automated the process, brought down the cost to sustain the system, disseminated the content to popular platforms such as YouTube and iTunes (go to where the viewers/learners/users are), and increased our installations, we have found that this program makes a difference in both lives and professions.

First, professions.

In Spring 2006, UC Berkeley launched a free podcasting service, which leveraged Berkeley’s existing video webcast infrastructure in general assignment classrooms and our central scheduling and capture system. In doing so, humanities curriculum was exposed to an eager public. These humanities podcasts have had a tremendous impact on the public and far exceed the popularity of the sciences – becoming some of the most popular podcasts on iTunes, wedged between notable media outlets like CNN and National Geographic. Popular courses include “Man, God, and Society in Western Literature,” taught by Philosophy Professor Herbert Dreyfus and Professor Michael Nagler’s “Non-Violence Today

Webcast video and audio helps to spotlight humanities curriculum and faculty at a time when the humanities are struggling to receive funds and recognition. The American Historical Society, for example, highlights the Berkeley History curriculum on its website . One young Berkeley history lecturer used the webcasting of her course to promote her teaching and scholarship, eventually earning an assistant professorship at the University of Virginia. Without a scalable and affordable system and set of best practices, the sharing of this content and exposure for the Berkeley History Department would not be possible.

Now, lives.

ETS and our webcasting faculty get amazing letters from learners around the world. These webcasts are engaging, entertaining, educating millions of people. There is not a continent that has gone untouched. Here are a couple of examples:

“…As far as I’ve been watching it’s been great, though I’ve only been watching Physics 10 with Professor Richard A. Muller because he’s really such an interesting teacher. I’m interested, I’m laughing and I’m learning…”

“Is there a course on art history? If so I beg on bended knee for that to be uploaded!
Thank you a million times for allowing us to watch your lectures here!
The person who had this idea should be knighted or maybe a petition for sainthood!
The free flow of information is an essential part of the evolution of any society!
Thank you again!!!”

No kidding. Comments like this come in like candy, reminding us why we come to work every day at such an incredible public institution like UC Berkeley.

Interestingly, the UC Berkeley students seem to get it too. They are absolutely in love with webcast because it helps them learn better. In recent focus groups with ETS they have talked about using it to review the lecture and to listen to other teachers from other semesters on the same subjects. They will review the lecture notes at night and then listen to the podcast on the way to school in the morning. Several students have mentioned that while they would love to have these embedded in their course sites, they also don’t want to deprive the public of them. One student mentioned how the MIT OCW helped her augment her studies as a high school student in India and credited her acceptance to Berkeley because of that.

Wouldn’t it be great if more schools could/would do this too?

We hope that Open Cast will make it easier for them to join in.