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ION Resources - Streaming Media:

Instructional Applications of
Streaming Technology

This information was adapted from Streaming Media On the Web

One of the simplest ways to integrate streaming technology into an academic web site is to provide students with web links that contain audio and or video resources. Students often need to go to campus audio/visual media libraries to preview media resource materials. Streaming technology, however, can put an audio/visual resource center right on a student’s desktop. More and more video and audio recordings can now be accessed or viewed by students any time on the web. For example, students can link to recorded speeches or video programs form a variety of Web sites. These media files can be streamed directly from servers around the world. You can almost think of it as a direct one-to-one broadcast of audio and video material to a learner’s desktop. This of course works best when you have a good, high speed network connection.

Another application of streaming technology is in the design of multimedia web-based learning modules. A few years ago, the CD-ROM format was probably the most feasible way to deliver multimedia computer assisted instruction. However, this is gradually changing. As streaming technology matures, and Java and DHTML become more prevalent, you will see more and more interactive multimedia tutorials on the Web.

Related Resources
Examples of Streamed Online Tutorials

bluarrow.gif (860 bytes)Streaming Media on the Web
bluarrow.gif (860 bytes)Tools for Creating & Managing Interactive Web-Based Learning
bluarrow.gif (860 bytes)Real Networks Educational Resources

The third application of streaming technology involves converting lecture material into a Web-based presentation that includes an instructor’s voice synchronized with slides. Many instructors are beginning to make portions of lectures available on the Web in this format. Use this method judiciously and in moderation. One option is to create mini-lectures covering small portions of didactic material that will not be presented in class. Students can access these virtual lectures outside of class. This can free up class time for higher level interaction, discussion, and dialog.

Related Resources
Examples of Streamed Lectures

bluarrow.gif (860 bytes)Michigan State University
bluarrow.gif (860 bytes)University of Wisconsin, Madison.
bluarrow.gif (860 bytes)University of Maryland, Baltimore

Points to consider when integrating audio and video streams into your course web site:

  1. Always remember bandwidth limitations. You will likely need to make compromises in audio and video quality. If your students are connected to a LAN, then streaming audio and even streaming video is very feasible. However, when trying to send motion video to students with modems, do not expect video quality to be very good, and in many cases, it is just not worth it. However, when motion is not essential, and if you need both visuals and audio to convey the message, you should consider an illustrated audio format. Several examples use this format quite successfully.

  2. Real media technology is the most widely used streaming media technology on the Web right now with Microsoft’s NetShow a distant second. NetShow works very similar to RealMedia requiring a server and a player. Both these technologies are best used when you have lengthy media clips and large numbers of students hitting your Web site. However, there are other types of streaming format such as Apple’s QuickTime, and Macromedia ShockWave.

  3. If you want to experiment with RealMedia technology, a sample RealMedia Server can be downloaded for free from the RealMedia Website.

In Conclusion....

Set the data rate of your movies slightly lower than the throughput of your user's connection is you want them to be able to watch your movies in real time. For a 28.8 modem that means a data rate somewhere around two KBps, for ISDN around five KBps, and for T1 lines from five to 40 KBps. To deliver true video at these data rates the compromises are great. The image size must be small, the frame rate low, and the sound compressed. As a result of compression the image quality will be less than optimal.

Nonetheless, there is still interesting video and sound that can delivered using the web. If you are creating content for a web site, tailor your multimedia elements for web delivery. Think of creative solutions that may be more modest but will be viewable by your target audience. For example, instead of using true full-motion digital video and audio that will require so much compression and size reduction as to render it useless, use audio and a sequence of still images to add multimedia to your site. Say, for example, you want to use video to show how to cook lasagna. Instead of using video, take a bunch of still images and pair them with a good-quality narration of the recipe.

If you must use true video in your site, be sure to shoot footage that will handle the compression and size reduction required for delivery on the web. Keep away from wide shots; shoot at medium or close range so that the detail of the image will be distinguishable at small sizes. The low frame rates and small viewing size required for web video will not effectively display motion, so don't shoot video that includes much action. The best source video for the web is close-up shots of talking heads.

Pay attention to source. It is especially important that web multimedia be created from excellent source. The processing that must be applied to A/V elements in order to attain web resolution will only emphasize any flaws in your original source. If you begin with bad audio and then reduce its sample rate and depth, and then add compression to further reduce the data rate, any flaws present in the original source material will be exaggerated.


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