With the emergence of an environment like YouTube, the ability to create and share rich media has gotten really very simple. I've written here and elsewhere about the notion of simple creation and even simpler embedding and I think for the most part people are really starting to get it. The idea that I can sit down, point my iSight at my face, and instantly record and encode video straight to the web is really powerful. But if you want to do that as part of the Academy in an official sense the process is much more complicated because we don't offer the same level of simplicity as they do. Granted anyone with a browser, a relatively fast Internet connection, and a video camera can get video online quickly, but if I am doing this for class (teaching or taking) it can be more complicated. If I go outside our walls I am relying on a third party platform that does not really provide any sort of institutional identity assurances -- in other words, it isn't tied to my institution's authentication system. Is that a big deal? That is up to you (and a thousand differing opinions on the matter).
I am of the mind that we can't be building clones of spaces like YouTube ... we just can't afford it and we certainly can't keep up. But where does that leave us when it comes to letting faculty and students explore rich media creation and sharing within the campus walls? That is the question that torments me as I promote digital media as artifacts of learning -- if we can't really support it, can we really promote it? I find it amazing that over a third of Penn State students reported creating at least one digital media piece last year and I find it even more amazing that about a third of Penn State faculty report using YouTube as a classroom teaching tool. Why then would we want to reinvent something that is working so well? I don't have a quick or snarky answer to that one ... like I said, I am tormented by what to do. If you have the time or the interest I spent a few minutes exploring these ideas a little deeper by using the Quick Capture feature on YouTube.
It isn't just digital video that I am talking about. Over the weekend I got an email from a student that is relatively typical ...
Hi, I need to make a podcast in my class and my teammates and I have never done it. Can you send us information on where to go to get help and where we can go to get equipment?
That to me is frustrating. Even after the progress of the last several years it is still a real process to record, compress, upload, embed, and share a simple recording of a group of students sitting around and talking. Why can't we just have something like YouTube (or if you remember back in the day, Odeo) to help us do it? We do ... right? But then that old question comes back, why in the world would we build it?
With all that in mind, we are thinking about what infrastructure needs to be in place to make this happen inside the walls of the Academy. Like I mentioned yesterday, we are rethinking the whole podcasting eco-system and are currently investigating Apple's Podcast Producer. We've been testing it and it makes the creation of digital media artifacts (audio, video, screencasts, file sharing) extremely simple. From a single interface a person can authenticate, create, and post a rich media file to a whole host of services -- iTunes U, Blogs, YouTube, etc. It enables an Apple user (no idea on the PC side yet) to launch a very simple client application, select from 4 choices, and record. Very basic stuff, but all the heavy lifting -- editing, encoding, and posting -- is handled behind the scenes on the server. It would be an exceptional tool for so much more than podcasting ... things like screencasts, recording presentations, practicing music, and so much more come to mind instantly. Would us having our own environment to do this raise the level of participation?
But even with the simplicity I am still left wondering if we even need to go down this path ... doesn't YouTube do this already? Damn voices! Thoughts?