Sheffield Hallam University has a large student population, there are around 38,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students, including off-campus learners, both within the UK and abroad.
In the late 20th Century the demand for video resources in learning had grown massively. It was important that technological advances be used to best advantage to meet this need and provide a service that could be accessed easily and effectively by all, while also ensuring access to a wide range of resources in the most appropriate format.
In 2004, Sheffield Hallam University decided to invest in an IPTV and Video on Demand solution to be accessed via their IP network. A pioneering approach for its time, this investment helped the University reduce staff time spent recording and storing video content and also helped leverage the investment already made in its extensive network infrastructure across its two campuses.
David Parkin, Computer Operator from the University’s Operations Team used to manage video recording; “It was a difficult task, we had two staff who spent the majority of their time setting up and managing the recording of around 1,000 hours of content per month from broadcast channels to DVD. By using Tripleplay’s TripleChoice Media Portal, which we call shuplayer, we have aggregated the task of recording to the end user, reducing the amount of time our department has to spend on it to minutes, meaning we can now focus on adding value in other areas.
“In addition we also had the problem of managing a huge estate of cables, TVs and receiver boxes and were constantly dealing with faults, such as interference with RF equipment and channel tuning problems. This is all now a thing of the past.”
To ensure the resources are utilised to maximum potential, Sheffield Hallam integrated its Video on Demand service into its library catalogue, enabling students to access content in the same way they access other learning resources.
Linda Purdy, Media Materials and Copyright Manager at the University, saw this as an important step: “shuplayer has incorporated really well into the Library Discovery system. As video content is included in library searches we ensure maximum retrievability and use of our video resources. This integration was vital to capitalise on our investment.”
The desire to provide content off site brought with it the challenge of managing copyright compliance. One of the main reasons Sheffield Hallam University chose TripleChoice as its video portal solution was the ability to restrict and monitor content use.
Linda commented: “We are able to adhere to licensing terms through the content access controls feature. We can specify if a resource is restricted to on campus only, or if it can be accessed by authenticated users within the UK, or where licences permit allow access by our students overseas.
“Another advantage of the access control functionality is that locally created and uploaded content can either be shared with the whole University community or restricted to a specific Faculty, this can provide reassurances for lecturers when they wish to limit viewing of content to a specific user group.”
Use of shuplayer has steadily increased since its implementation. Over 10,000 video assets are now available to access and the addition of a number of new features has ensured that shuplayer remains up to the minute and relevant in the modern media environment.
New features have included bookmarking, to facilitate the use of clips in presentations and in the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment), and subtitling, providing extra support to students with hearing problems or students for whom English is not their first language.
Access to Video on Demand resources will be increased by the ability to stream directly to Smart Phones and Tablets in the near future. This is a simple add-on to the existing system and will be covered by the existing support agreement, meaning any implementation should be simple.
For now Sheffield Hallam has chosen to continue with a standard definition service, saving storage space and reducing network impact, whilst considering the Tripleplay high definition system as a future enhancement.
David Parkin commented: “When we first implemented the solution we only had a 10mb network and the Tripleplay solution ran perfectly well over this. However, our network now operates with a 1GB connection and is adequate to cope with high definition.
“Tripleplay’s TripleChoice Media Portal, has transformed our video streaming services and resources. The company has adapted its solution to our needs, listening to our requests and working with us to create a solution to our specifications.”