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Originally published in: Proceedings IADIS e-Learning conference 2010, Freiburg,

Germany, p. 139-144

CAPTURE YOUR UNIVERSITY

Walther Nagler, Ypatios Grigoriadis, Christian Stickel and Martin Ebner

Department Social Learning


Computer and Information Services
Graz University of Technology
Austria
walther.nagler@tugraz.at

ABSTRACT
This paper reflects the experiences of four years of managing (lecture) recording activities at Graz University of
Technology (TU Graz), its history, development and management, its increase and evaluation as well as its future trends
which have already set into life by launching Austria’s first iTunes U platform for a university of technology in
November 2009. The paper recommends a way of implementing podcasting and streaming into university daily routine
from a didactical point of view as well as in practice. The pros and cons of screening, streaming, live-streaming or simple
capturing are being discussed in this context. Finally the next step to a university wide automated recording system is
touched which is an unavoidable result of the successful way of podcasting TU Graz has decided to go.

KEYWORDS
podcast, streaming, recording, online, platform, mobile, iTunes U, university, informal learning, didactics

1. PODCASTING AT TU GRAZ
The revolution of the Web 2.0 enabled anybody with internet access to contribute personal data in a very
handy way (O’Reilly, 2005). Since the Web has opened its doors for online editing all kind of media glutted
that had been published by the private internet user. The beginning of podcasting goes back to those years
and was first called audioblogging. The boom of podcasting is closely linked to the one of RSS technology
and the fact that this way of publishing audio files has been given the more catchy term podcasting by Ben
Hammersley in 2004. Finally iTunes and YouTube leveraged podcasts to the mass. (iTunes is Apple’s
program for managing media files online and offline; YouTube is the most used video sharing website owned
by Google Inc.). By definition a podcast originally is an audio file transferred automatically via RSS to the
user in case the user submitted to that RSS-source (feed). Today the meaning of the term podcast did change.
Audio as well as video files are generally called podcasts; whereas the term videocast has not gained that
popularity yet. Very colloquial the term podcast may be used for any audio and video on the Web regardless
whether it is supplied via RSS or not.
At the University of Technology Graz (TU Graz) the use of multimedia for teaching and learning efforts
has a long tradition as it has been part of TU Graz research by several institutes of informatics. But the aim to
record a lecture or to capture important parts of teaching content such as experiments in physics had always
been the job of the institute itself that was interested in doing so. Besides filming of university events at
special occasions the recording for teaching and learning purposes always seemed to be kind of reinventing
the wheel. Nevertheless adequate equipment could be loan from the Computer and Information Services of
the TU Graz (CIS), the lack of a centralized service for recording often led to clumsy and individual
Originally published in: Proceedings IADIS e-Learning conference 2010, Freiburg,
Germany, p. 139-144

procedures. This gap was closed in autumn 2006 by the Department for Social Learning (DSL) of the TU
Graz offering its podcasting services to the entire university. In summer 2007 the DSL organized the first
Austrian podcasting conference within a community of interest of all four universities of Graz (iUNIg –
Initiative for New Media of Graz Universities) (Ebner et al, 2008). In autumn 2008 DSL enriched its scope
by adding streaming and live-streaming to its services. In November 2009 the TU Graz launched its own
iTunes U portal to the public being the first Austrian university of technology to do so. Latest attempts has
been started to aim for a university wide automated system of recording lectures.
This paper not only outlines the different possibilities of audio and video media worked with at TU Graz
but reflects their didactical aspects as well. The paper addresses the activities of the DSL in this context but
does not cover additionally efforts done by individual institutes of the TU Graz apart from the services of
DSL. To keep the paper simple and wherever it makes no important difference the term podcast will be used
in a broader sense not limited by the RSS-quality and comprising videocasts as well.

1.1 Basic Considerations about Didactics on Podcasting


There is no sense of introducing a new method or application to the teaching and learning community
without adding an adequate didactical scenario or at least some basic considerations and guidelines how to
use them best and avoid the worst. The DSL always tries to do so by testing and evaluating different
possibilities of realization by implementing such new methods into a couple of voluntary lectures or projects.
First year’s experiences quickly taught us that podcasting can be profitably used for teaching and learning
purposes at universities in multiple ways but always need a minimum of didactical presetting at least
(Edirisingha & Salmon, 2007). Other research works corroborate this statement (Blaisdell, 2006; Dale, 2007;
Towned, 2005). It is of no greater surplus broadcasting a live-stream to the public when the streamed lecture
is part of a prepaid advanced training program where the attendees are told to join the event locally. Instead
there could be a great interest on live-streaming some conference sessions.
The following chapters describe the background, workflow and outcomes of the several capturing
methods the DSL undertakes as service features. Although these methods differ from each other basically
they have some principles in common to be taken care of. The didactical scenario always depends on the
question about the major aim of the recording: what is going to be recorded, duration and time of recording
as well as the target group; is it for teaching and learning purposes or archival ones, will it act just as short
current information or shall it have commercial promotion character? The following very simple overall list
of possibilities of recordings may help to find the main setting:
• Recording/streaming of a whole lecture in classroom (or in the office)
• Recording/streaming of short sequences (tutorial, instructions, definitions …)
• Recording for strictly archival scopes
• Recording as a part of students (collaborative) work and marking
• Shooting of short clips and movies (advertisement, public purposes …)
For the recordings they can be done as audio only or video, as screening with or without video.
Furthermore it must be decided whether the recording shall be a live-stream or not. Apart from these any
recording can be published within a free or locked environment for enrolled people only. When these basic
parameters are defined the settings including the hardware and software as well as post processing methods
and release details can be fixed.

1.2 General Possibilities and Workflow of Podcasting at TU Graz


With the formation of DSL in autumn 2006 as a further department of the CIS the e-learning platform called
TU Graz TeachCenter (TUGTC) has been set into being. It has served as the main central environment for
teaching and learning processes at TU Graz since then (Ebner, 2008). The TUGTC bases on the so called
WBTmaster-system that has been developed and used by the team of Prof. Nikolai Scerbakov at the Institute
for Information Systems and Computer Media of TU Graz (IICM) since the later 1990s (Maurer &
Scerbakov, 1996). In autumn 2008 the (live-) streaming service has been started off by installing a portable
streaming server and by launching its corresponding internet platform1. The system chosen is from the

1
http://curry.tugraz.at – last visited March 2010
Originally published in: Proceedings IADIS e-Learning conference 2010, Freiburg,
Germany, p. 139-144

Canadian company ePresence. Latest in November 2009 TU Graz opened its own portal on Apple’s iTunes
U platform as the first Austrian university of technology. All contents can be subscribed to and consumed for
free. Nearly all of the recordings done or hosted by DSL are being published on one of these three portals.
Most of them are uploaded to the TUGTC to become a lecture content for learning purposes. Even a lot of
streaming records that are displayed on the streaming platform are linked to the TUGTC as well as a couple
of videos presented on the iTunes U portal. Subject to the agreed scenario the best platform is chosen.
Even though the output format and used publishing platform is actually not limited to the recording
settings the output needs special attention to be turned to. The fact that mobile devices become more and
more powerful, extensive and popular even for learning efforts (Campell, 2005) the output formats shall be
considered to fit that challenge. Mobile phones became small computers for online multimedia content and
communication. Apple’s products spread all over the world, set trends and even change the development of
future devices lasting. Netbooks gain a boom and social platforms like Facebook have gone far beyond
simple platforms for managing private or business relationships; they have mutated into mashup landscapes
providing content being added by users’ choice from any embeddable source even a streamed lecture.
Besides those ways of very formal processes members of DSL make use of the informal ways the Web
2.0 revolution entails not only for private but also for business reasons. It has become very easy to share real
life experiences at the moment with the mass or a distinguished community with no additional costs. Whether
it is a video taken via mobile phone being live streamed on a free online platform such as Qik, vimeo and
AudioBoo to catch the power of a situation acted on impulse or to protocol spots of an ongoing presentation
or discussion at a conference; the reasons and range of use are only limited to one’s own imagination. In
November 2009 DSL (in cooperation with iUNIg and German EduCamp founder) organized the first
EduCamp in Austria. It was not only the first EduCamp in Austria but it was the first German speaking,
educational Camp to be completely broadcasted live on Internet. All needed for that was a set of cameras and
microphones each connected to ordinary laptops that have Internet access to the DSL-account on Ustream. In
principle it even could had been done only using mobile phones, if high quality would not had been a limiting
factor.
Originally published in: Proceedings IADIS e-Learning conference 2010, Freiburg,
Germany, p. 139-144

Figure 1. Different ways of recording services by DSL and CIS at TU Graz


Figure 1 displays the different ways of capturing events mainly done by DSL. The left column lists the
different recording services schematic. Screening by DSL means that the screen of the computer the lecturer
is using is being captured together with the voice of the lecturer being recorded using a wireless microphone
and an adequate software by default. Shooting by CIS is a very new service offered by CIS. Aim of this
service is to produce high quality professional videos mainly to be published on TU Graz iTunes U portal.
The videos will be of interest to the mass and focus on outstanding or special or individual subjects of TU
Graz with commercial character. Streaming by DSL comprise any formal and informal streaming activities in
this context done by DSL as a department or by any of its members. For formal procedure a professional
streaming server that captures the lecturer’s screen, a camera and a wireless microphone set takes the event
directly to the Internet. The result is streamed on a platform the user can interact with during the time of
recording by chat functionality or afterwards by searching through the recorded content even by words. For
individual streaming any mobile phone connected to an online video-sharing portal can do. The column in
the middle covers the platforms in use. They will be discussed later on in more details than shortly
summarized above. The right column lists the main interaction possibilities to connect and take part with the
content presented. The connection between the middle and right columns signifies the multiple ways of
interacting with the media. It makes no claim to be complete as well as the selection of devices and
environments within the right column. The important about it is that fact of interaction shown by the arrow
pointing in both directions the platforms of presenting and the platforms of the users. Interaction and
communication anywhere apart from simple consummation are qualities of Web 2.0 applications.

2. PRACTICE
This chapter goes into details of the different ways of recording services by DSL displayed in Figure 1 and
experienced in practice. Didactical aspects and concepts as well as hardware and software settings are
subject. Evaluation data from the beginning of the services and change of workflow are described. Emerging
problems and future progress finalize the discussion.

2.1 Screening
When in autumn 2006 DSL started its podcast services as a project the consequences were not to be
estimated. The prior aim was to find a standard procedure for recording a lecture that can be easily operated
by the lecturer self. The request for such a service was a fact. Podcasting for educational efforts at that time
has already reached the education community seriously and has been exercised by well-known organizations
so far (MIT, ETH Zürich …). To meet this trend for instance YouTube launched his TeacherTube portal for
“to provide an online community for sharing instructional videos”1 in March 2007. At TU Graz it was to get
that demand wrapped up centralized.
To keep it as simple as possible the decision for screening software instead of filming the activities at the
classroom including the lecturer and the projection of the data projector was reached. The advantage of
watching the lecturer explaining and gesticulating was deemed of less importance compared to the fact of
simplification by leaving a camera out of the process. Furthermore the screening software produces a small
sized video of good quality that can be structured and is searchable instead of a big sized one in case of
filming. In combination with any kind of touch-screen terminal (Tablet PC, interactive pen display …) even
the handwritten content can be captured that would have been written on the blackboard instead. A couple of
lectures were recorded on voluntary basis before going into real practice. After a first time of learning–by-
doing DSL quickly reached an acceptable level to launch that service for the mass (Ebner et al, 2007). The
recording process was reduced to a minimum operating expense for DSL in case the lecturer was able to do it
on his/her own with own equipment. Only the step of post-processing and publishing of the final output was
job of DSL. In case of local support at the classroom the time and effort still remains high. In such
circumstance DSL trends to film the lecturer by now, because it makes no significant difference for the

1
http://www.teachertube.com/staticPage.php?pg=about – last visited March 2010
Originally published in: Proceedings IADIS e-Learning conference 2010, Freiburg,
Germany, p. 139-144

person supporting the recording whether hand is given only on screening or screening and filming. In second
case generally the streaming server is applied regardless whether the recording will be live streamed or not.
2.1.1 Concept and Settings
The concept and settings for screening purposes could be reduced to a standard that only needs the following
questions to be answered:
• Hardware support needed?
• Software support needed?
• Local support needed?
• Screening including video wanted?
• Which output formats wanted?
• Which platform for publishing preferred?
For resource of manpower and equipment management reasons it is essential to discuss the number of
single recordings in a series of lectures of a course during a term in advance. The statistics displayed in the
following chapter show an increasing of the podcast service of DSL which has already pushed DSL to its
support limits. Apart from that a full screening service includes a preliminary talk to check the intention and
aim of the recording at all and to come to an agreement about the further project process. If hardware is
needed DSL offers a Tablet PC and a wireless microphone set (Sennheiser EK 100 G2 receiver and SK 100
G2 transmitter) at minimum. In four lecture rooms of TU Graz there are SMART boards interactive pen
displays (Sympodium ID370) permanently installed (Ebner & Nagler, 2008). The recordings are taken with
the screening software Camtasia by TechSmith (version 6 as by spring 2010). Camtasia can be used with all
Window operating systems and is ideal for workstation and laptop as well as Tablet PC and SMAT board.
Although new version 6 of Camtasia works on Mac systems too DSL still prefers the screening software
iShowU for Mac. In case the software is being installed on the lecture’s own laptop its appropriate recording
settings are adjusted by DSL to fit best the laptop’s specifications subject to the wireless microphone.
Generally the screen capture rate is 1 fps (frames per second) or 5 fps but can be matched to 15 fps if a video
is part of the lecture and shall be recorded too. The codec in use is a Camtasia special codec (TechSmith
Screen Capture Codec - TSCC) resulting very small file sizes of the record. The settings for audio are
generally PCM format with 22.050 kHz at 16 bit mono by 43 kb/sec. After recording the record is being
saved as special Camtasia raw data for producing several output formats. By default DSL releases the record
as AVI (XviD), .mov, MP4 and MP3. Additionally a Flash video can be produced as well. Besides Camtasia
software there are several programs for post-processing workflow in use regarding to the actual need:
• “VirtualDub” and “Avidemux” (video post processing, synchronisation of audio and video)
• “Audacity” (audio post processing: High pass handling, normalising, compressor)
• “gnome_wave_cleaner” (audio post processing: noise removal, click and pop reduction)
• “postfish” (audio post processing: declipping)
• “mencoder” (conversional efforts: converts AVI-files to several formats; using command-line)
Final step of a screening procedure is to upload it to one of the platforms named before. Usually the files
are published within the corresponding course of the lecture at TUGTC. Backup-systems of the TUGTC and
additional saving of each record raw data assure steadiness.
2.1.2 Statistics and Results
After four years of recording a total of 933 recording events took place (the current summer term 2010
inclusive) which results in nearly 2100 hours of video. Figure 2 shows the increase during this period. The
breakdown in winter term 2008 to be seen in the left chart could not be argued at all. It might be have caused
by the adjustment from test phase to normal operating. The charts include screening and streaming activities.
Originally published in: Proceedings IADIS e-Learning conference 2010, Freiburg,
Germany, p. 139-144

Figure 2. Number of recordings from winter term 2006 to summer term 2010. Left chart shows the number of individual
recordings (and recording hours) each term; right chart shows the summed up total number of recordings and time;
streaming activities included since winter term 2008
In the early years of podcasting (winter term 2006 to summer term 2008) DSL was very interested in
evaluation of its new service (Nagler et al. 2008, Ebner et al. 2007). For that reason students attending
lectures recorded have been polled. Table 1 lists the increase of recordings within this period. After two years
of practice a total of 700 hours have been evaluated by n=217 students. The small number of students results
from the fact that the recordings had not been taken from big lectures in that time of early implementation. It
must be pointed out that the number of recording events did increase disproportionately compared to the
number of lectures recorded. Since winter term 2007 it became usual to record all dates of a lecture during a
term whereas in the first year selective recording mirror the very experimentally phase of podcasting.
Table 1. Facts about early years of recording
Term Number of lectures Number of recordings Recorded time (h)
Winter 2006 4 23 32
Summer 2007 16 62 76
Winter 2007 10 125 257
Summer 2008 12 154 331
Total 42 364 697

Figure 3 has the results of the early year’s evaluation. One-fifth of all polled students did not exercise the
option of that new service. The most stated reason for not using the offered podcasts had been technical
problems or ignorance of the service (totals 86%). Improvement of both the technical part and better
information are problems of the past by now. Surprisingly a quarter of all students listened to all recordings
of their relevant lectures. Only 14% tried the offer once but did not stuck to it longer. Mainly podcasts are
seen as a supplement to the general teaching and learning content offered and to have a possibility to go
through the lecture again. For learning efforts 10% used the podcasts intensively. The quality of the podcasts
has been rated “well” by more than the half of all students in means of technical quality but not of the
content.
Originally published in: Proceedings IADIS e-Learning conference 2010, Freiburg,
Germany, p. 139-144

Figure 3. Results from the podcasting evaluations of 2006 to 2008


Latest an extraordinary growth in summer term 2010 can be noted (Figure 2); which requires further
evaluations about the potential and future demand of podcasting at TU Graz. The capacity of the equipment
and members of DSL involved with podcasting at TU Graz has reached a limit so far subject to personal
support. The fact that the most time consuming work, the local support and post-processing is done by two
student employees with less time left apart from their study compared to regularly employers leads to
considerations about an automated recording system in future. Furthermore the local support must be reduced
by training lecturers how to record on their own especially as long as the number of new lectures being
recorded is an increasing one.

2.2 Streaming and Live Streaming


In winter term 2008 DSL started its streaming services by launching the portal curry.tugraz.at after a short
time of test-phase. Core of the project is the streaming server from the Canadian company ePresence (v.4.1)
(Baecker et al. 2004) with its web-interface for displaying the live casts and as an archive of them afterwards.
Besides that the whole system comes with two software packages; the ePresence Presenter for screening the
lecturer’s laptop and the ePresence Producer for (post-) recording and publishing procedures. Furthermore a
portable media station eases the procedure. The media station is linked to the server to manage the recording
in a smart way. For the screening part of the recording no Camtasia is needed to be installed at the lecturer’s
laptop. Unlike the screening setting the streaming always includes a filming, an ordinary camcorder can do.
Although the setting and workflow requires an additional person it can be learned and handled easily. The
system is ready within 10 minutes including booting the system and connecting the media station to the
camera, the wireless microphone and laptop. To have the laptop connected both to the media station and the
class room projector as well as to optimize the performance of the recording a VGA splitter and a VG2USB
box is used. As soon as the server is ready the recoding may start. The post-processing for archival reasons is
much easier and takes less manpower compared to the one of screening. The software does it all; it only
needs to be started.
The results are very satisfying. During the live streaming attendees of the cast can follow easily using any
browser. They may discuss the ongoing activities within a chat, may take notes to several slides presented
online or comment them. An archived cast can be searched through by words and is automatically structured
subject to the slides of the PowerPoint presentation. Furthermore a code is offered for embedding the cast
into one’s own web interface.
Main area of application is on the one hand a relief of lectures with a high number of students registered.
The fact that the largest lecture hall of the TU Graz did not cover the “biggest” lectures has always been a
problem of the past. Streaming helps to join the lecture in real-time from anywhere with Internet access.
Secondly streaming is applied for lectures or speeches with special interest to the public such as the course
Originally published in: Proceedings IADIS e-Learning conference 2010, Freiburg,
Germany, p. 139-144

“Gesellschaftliche Aspekte der Informationstechnologie”1 with well-known guest speakers from the field of
e-learning. Last but not least the system is in use for screening purposes with filming additionally wanted.

2.3 iTunes U
No other but Apple pushed the media podcasting that much. The iPod as well as the iPhone still are booming
devices. To manage one’s one music and video collection has become simple with Apple’s iTunes platform
since January 2001. The platform is not limited to Mac systems but can be used on Windows systems as well.
In spring 2007 Apple opened an academic version of it called iTunes U: “The service was created to manage,
distribute, and control access to educational audio and video content and PDF files for students within a
college or university as well as the broader Internet.”2
In November 2009 TU Graz was pleased to launch its own portal on Apple’s iTunes U platform for free.
To enable anybody with Internet access but regardless to the system the content is offered twice, once on
iTunes U platform and on a corresponding TU Graz variant of it3. Main target of these platforms is to have a
collection of multimedia content that represents all subjects of the TU Graz. The offer covers outstanding
research and teaching activities as well as news and stories. TU Graz conferences media reports and event
impressions come along with useful hints for young people ready to join TU Graz as a student as well as
information about Graz for the public. Not only for such purposes of rather general and commercial content
CIS established a team for shooting professional videos to be published on the portal. For TU Graz is the first
academic partner of Apple in Austria to develop iPhone (mobile phone by Apple) applications officially there
is a special series about that subject as well. An own series of student’s podcasts has been started latest.
By March 2010 248 media files structured within 25 different series and five subject areas comprehend
the range of TU Graz on iTunes U. Each series contains a steadily growing number of multimedia files not
exclusively restricted to video or audio formats but also providing text files or images and illustrations. For
sure new input will be delivered via RSS to subscribers of a series. Since its launch on the 4th of November
2009 there have been 14.417 complete downloads till mid-March 2010 totally from both platforms;
exclusively the number of interrupted downloads.
It is not up to DSL at all but to several parts and institutions of the TU Graz to manage the content on TU
Graz iTunes U. DSL is responsible for contributions covering for e-learning and teaching aspects. For that
purpose podcasts of outstanding or public interest are taken from the existing pool of recordings or recorded
new and get linked to Apple’s system. In this context more than 60 videos have been published within the
last four month only by DSL.

2.4 Further Practice


The application areas of recording described above are all to be counted as formal activities. But with the
achievements of Web 2.0 informal processes have become very popular. The following lists a couple of
possibilities of informal ways of podcasting that can be exercised very easily following the principles of the
famous e-learning expression A³ - anytime, anywhere, anybody. DSL as a group as well as its members are
contributing media files using those ways whenever the situation calls for it or all of a sudden and
unprepared.
It is not up to the software used for the recording but the interest lies on the ubiquity of channels used for
distribution. The power of communities is a factor not to be neglected any longer. Twitter (most popular
micro-blogging platform) has reached its top in summer 2009 till then when Michael Jackson died. The news
spread over the Twitter-linked world within minutes long before official websites or television companies
paid attention to Jackson’s death (Kim et al, 2009). Facebook (international social community website) is
adapting its interface continuously to meet the ever changing requirements of Web 2.0 applications and is
still rising in popularity. This potential of reachability may also be used for educational purposes of informal
learning, regardless whether it is a live audio recording or a live streamed video using any of adequate
application to be installed on one’s mobile device. The list of software to do so is getting longer each day.

1
http://tugtc.tugraz.at/wbtmaster/courses/706009.htm - last visited March 2010
2
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITunes_U#iTunes_U - last visited March 2010
3
http://deimos.apple.com/WebObjects/Core.woa/Browsev2/tugraz.at and http://itunes.tugraz.at/ - last visited March 2010
Originally published in: Proceedings IADIS e-Learning conference 2010, Freiburg,
Germany, p. 139-144

Another essential factor of success is the embeddable character of such contributions published on the Web.
This makes it easy to collect and arrange one’s own favorite sources of media within a mashup, the future of
personalized learning environment.

3. CONCLUSION
After four years of capturing lectures, events and practicing informal ways of media sharing DSL can point
out that podcasting still is very popular and seems to gain new popularity within educational settings. The
demand for recording is steadily growing; capacity cannot keep up with it. DSL not only was able to
standardize the process of podcasting but to extend its service to a new quality. Live-streaming of lectures
has become daily routine; TU Graz opened itself to the mass by providing multimedia content using popular
ways. The implementation of Web 2.0 benefits into student’s everyday life has started.
For the future of podcasting at TU Graz the enlargement of the offer and services is essential. Evaluations
of the ongoing activities are indispensable and will support the university wide solution of automated
recording being aspired.

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