September 12, 2005

Vodcastings, Screencasting or whatever you would like to call and WebCT.

What is it?

A system that allows me to record software demonstrations during face to face sessions with students and then deliver these to students via webCT and RSS feeds. This means if a student misses a session they can watch the video files !!! And it also means I'm building up a collection of resources that I can make available to future students.

How it works

1) Recording

I have a microphone attached to the computer that is also attached to the data projector. The microphone sits above the monitor. It would be better if it was a wireless tie-mic because I would get a cleaner sound. I record the sessions using Windows Media Encoder. I started using the default screen recording settings in Windows Media Encoder and these made great quality small files but didn't work on Macs. I have now built my own template that works OK with Macs but the quality is not so great.

Some of the guidelines I use are

  • I try to make sure each demo is only short.
  • I don't use this in the early stages of the course because I find that students are a bit quiet when they know a session is being recorded.
  • I try and include the question and answer sessions.

What I used to find is that it would take ages for me to get the files up on to WebCT, and students really need the files ASAP. The solution below is what I've come up with.

2) At the end of the day I use Windows Media Player to edit the meta data on the files.

3) I store all the files in one folder, on the WebCT server. This folder is then set up so that students don't need to login to access the folder. This is done by:

  • Creating a sub-directory of the course root directory (webct\webct \user\course_id)
  • Copying the .htaccess file from the course root directory into the sub-directory.
  • Remove the line require valid-user in the .htaccess file (thank you to Stephen for this) Your WebCT system administrator might need to do this.
With version 6 of webCT, I just put the files into the Public Files folder and I don't need to worry about changing the permissions. But for some reason .wmv files don't work only .mov or .avi work.

4) I then use a piece of software called Weed Exporter and a RSS template I wrote to generate a RSS feed from the meta data on the Windows Media Files.

5) I then upload the RSS feed and the new Windows Media Files.

6) To get the RSS feed looking like a normal page in WebCT I use the Feed2JS service.

7) Then the students can download the files from the page that is generated by Feed2JS or they can subscribe to the RSS feed.

What I personally love about the system is all that I have to do is write or edit the meta data and then the RSS feed and HTML page is built from that.

What needs to be worked on is getting the dates off the files with Weedexporter. Also at this stage I'm also not sure how many students are actually using the system.

Update: 14/September/2004

In the new beta version of weed export Christopher Stewart has added created and modified dates to the fields that can be accessed !!! Which solves the date problem.

Posted by robin at September 12, 2005 05:34 PM