Project Stream

In 2009, because of accidental over-recruitment, we had to put in place a system to allow streaming of material from the main biology lecture theatre to an overflow room. There were two phases to the project: first, developing and setting up the solution and then delivering the solution over the course of the academic year.

The stakeholders were the students who attended the lectures and the staff who delivered the lectures. We had to ensure that the lecture experience was acceptable for all students, both those in the lecture theatre and those in the overflow room. For staff we had to make sure that they were able to focus on delivering their lectures, minimising the disruption caused by the need for streaming.

The technical solution used LiveMeeting (a previous version of Microsoft Lync software) to stream voice and data from the lecture theatre to the overflow room. All video content which appeared on the PC was streamed; this included Powerpoint, web pages, etc. eBeam software was used to display material written on the whiteboard and ELMO software routed the visualiser image via the PC. Dedicated admin sign-ins were needed for the transmitting and receiving PCs. The local ICT support team was very helpful in helping to set up the systems and test the functionality and I delivered training and prepared all the documentation.

The most troublesome part of resourcing the project was the requirement for ongoing support on a daily basis. My time was already fully committed, and I had to make it clear that I was unable to provide support myself. This is hard to do, especially in the ‘matrix management’ situation which often applies for learning technologists – i.e. everyone thinks they are your boss and most important customer! 

In the end we recruited a part-time Streaming Assistant, who set up the equipment before each lecture and monitored the streaming in the overflow room, and an Undergraduate IT Assistant (a volunteer student from the class), who acted as a back-up and provided assistance to the lecturer if required.  I felt it was vital to have this level of support in situ because of the serious consequences if there were problems with the streaming; we would have had to cancel and rearrange the lecture, causing serious disruption to all the students and the lecturer, and a logistical and timetabling headache.

The project plan was clear and achievable, but it was very important to secure adequate resources to deliver a reliable service.

The evaluation of the project was straightforward: was the lecture available and acceptable for the students in the overflow room? It was a reliable solution and the students were happy with the quality of the presentation in the overflow. In fact, some students preferred to watch the lecture there because there was more space (especially if students were using a laptop for notetaking), better sound and video quality than at the back of the main lecture theatre and less chance of being asked a question by the lecturer.  

The results of the project were disseminated at a college Education Day. In my view, the technical details of the project were less significant that the importance of:

  • thinking about the consequences of failure and putting appropriate backup plans in place
  • making sure that staffing resources were adequate

I didn’t use any particular tools for this project, but I can see the value of tools such as a risk register or timesheets. Following a proper project planning process, with appropriate tools and techniques, would make sure that nothing was missed, and would provide documentation of the thinking behind the project plan.


2 thoughts on “Project Stream

  1. Thanks for an interesting account Moira, not least because you’ve described a real-world situation that I’m sure many of us could identify with i.e. the project arose in response to an unanticipated situation – because of over-recruitment in this case (a nice problem to have in some respects!).

    I joined my college a year ago and, to be honest, there are too many ‘reactive’ projects, some ‘tactical’ and not enough ‘strategic’. Most of us aspire to the ideal of properly planned, resourced and executed projects but I suspect the reality is often quite different.

    In my experience (drawn from perhaps too many years in education management) a common situation might be that a (very well-intended) staff member succeeds in a grant application without adequate prior consultation with their stakeholders. Subsequently it might become apparent that the underlying technology hasn’t been thoroughly evaluated or costed for example, rendering the project difficult to deliver within an overly optimistic budget. The responsibility for such an unfortunate situation lies with both the unwitting applicant and the funding body as, frankly, there is no excuse for funding poorly defined projects.

    I found the VLE review included in this weeks ‘If you only do one thing …’ coursework interesting and useful and have recommended it to colleagues who are not actively participating in the #ocTEL MOOC.

    In this respect may I ask what lessons you learned and has the project left a legacy i.e. are you still supporting teaching and learning in this way despite not having the original pressing need?

    • Thanks for your comments, Brian.

      The unfortunately all-too-common situation you describe is nicely illustrated in the Dilbert video which forms part of this week’s ocTEL readings.

      We now use different software (Panopto) for streaming, but many of the lessons learnt are still applicable, both in terms of technical details, such as using the mouse as a pointer when streaming, and operational aspects.

      The use of PG and UG students to support IT or other aspects of course delivery has become quite common around college. This provides a flexible ‘workforce’ and the students gain valuable work experience.

      The project highlighted the need to consider long-term support when introducing new technologies or new ways of working, and this is a very valuable lesson.

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