A large proportion of the use of Blackboard at our institution, and no doubt most others, is content delivery. Handouts, presentations, and supporting work are posted within the content areas of course sites from where learners can access these materials 24/7. With our installation of Blackboard, and introduction of the VLE only starting in April 2003, we have recently found ourselves at the point where we wish to move away from flat content based approaches. We wanted to begin exploring the use of media such as video to enhance content.
Our vision was that by providing academics with easy access to a wealth of relevant media elements, they could build richer content for delivery via Blackboard. This could even transform the way in which content is perceived by the learner, moving from a content delivery approach to a content exploration approach. For instance, imagine a handout in text form explaining the expertise of the Vikings with regard to ship building. Now, imagine the same text wrapped around images of the ships and a video showing related footage. With the flat text, the content is simply delivered to the learner, they can read the information and absorb the facts. With the media rich version of the content the learner can actually see the points raised by the text by seeing the images and video, actually giving them a deeper understanding of the information by exploring the content.
We had identified that a lot of video was already being used within courses, but in an offline manner via video players and VHS cassettes. We also had a lot of archived video (recorded under the ERA license, see http://www.era.org.uk ) that could be accessed by academics from our media department. Also, with access to collections such as the JISC EMOL collection (see http://www.emol.ac.uk ), we needed a method of providing simple access to this media whilst also providing a way of embedding the media within Blackboard course sites.
From this concept of a ‘one stop’ repository, from where media elements could be accessed and embedded into Blackboard, the Media Gateway was born. The Media Gateway is accessed via a web browser and can now provide access to any media elements that we need to provide access to within Blackboard. The Gateway provides access to the three base types of media : video, audio and images. The elements are stored and indexed in a meaningful manner with an attached subject area for base categorisation. The gateway provides a search facility to find elements that could be of use by academics and also provides a preview facility from where the element can be seen in the browser. One simple button is all that an academic needs to worry about when looking to obtain a link for the media element they wish to use. By clicking this button, a link to that element is copied to the clipboard, and this link can then be used within Blackboard to embed the media into a content item via the Visual Text Editor (WYSIWYG editor), or a simple URL link.
When it comes to the administration and population of the Media Gateway, the gateway includes a complete administration area from where elements can be added to the Gateway, existing elements can be removed or indexing can be edited. We are now undertaking the process of obtaining the appropriate hardware to facilitate the digital recording of broadcast video which falls under the ERA licence and also to allow us to convert the existing footage we have. These videos can then be added to the Media Gateway giving us a comprehensive collection of video that can be used within Blackboard.
To see some examples of how media can be used from the Media Gateway within a Blackboard course site click the following link: http://media.mbro.ac.uk/mediagw/bbguest.htm
To take a look at the Media Gateway for a limited period only click the following link: http://media.mbro.ac.uk
If you require any more information on how this type of solution could help your institution or have any general queries on the Gateway and how we have implemented it drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org