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December 9, 2013

New high-quality, low-cost video studios results from campus innovation, collaboration

Krannert studio

Jeff Ello, associate director of client services for Krannert Computing Center, tests equipment in the Krannert video studio. (Photo by Clayton Jewell) 
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Producing professional-quality video content for online instruction traditionally requires expensive studio equipment, control room staff and a post-production process, but not at Purdue.

To aid a new online program, the Krannert Computing Center (KCC) developed a self-service, automated studio at a cost of about $15,000. Instructors can record lectures while incorporating PowerPoint presentations or whiteboard examples, all with the push of a button. Completed videos are ready to post online within minutes of creation.

Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP) is using Krannert's studio as a model for the Video Express studios being built across campus. The first one opened in November in Stewart Center. "Thirteen other departments, including all three regional campuses, have expressed interest in having a similar facility," says Julie Kercher-Updike, associate vice president of customer relations at ITaP.

Collaboration across campus

To implement the self-service studio concept, the KCC drew upon expertise in the College of Technology Distance Learning Center as well as ITaP.

"Technology pioneered the low-cost video switching equipment that makes Video Express possible. ITaP added several of the environmental components and creature comforts. The Krannert innovation was developing the processes and custom software that transforms the many components into a single, turnkey package," says Jeff Ello, associate director of client services for KCC.

Kercher-Updike is pleased with the finished product. "It's exciting to take innovative solutions created in the academy and then take those designs -- replicate, support and build them across the Purdue system for the benefit of the entire University."

Green Screen Room at Krannert

When Krannert faculty members began developing the online Master of Science in Economics Program, it was clear they needed an easy way to record lectures for distance learners. Responding to this need, KCC built a do-it-yourself recording studio in Rawls Hall, nicknamed "the Green Screen Room."

"We're a top-tier business school offering online academics; the quality of our online content needed to reflect this," Ello says. Since no all-in-one solution was available, the KCC designed one.

By combining standard video equipment and KCC-developed software, Video Express developers were able to achieve a professional, easy-to-use system for about $15,000. The green screen allows content accessed through a Windows 8 touch-screen computer to be presented onscreen while recording. There are no post-production labor costs, which results in huge savings.

This solution attracted the interest of IT directors from Top 20 business schools when they visited Krannert in May. Directors from the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Chicago; and the University of Virginia were given a tour and a demonstration of the room's capabilities.

Purdue Video Express studios

ITaP took the Krannert concept and offered it to others across campus. "Lights, camera and audio are preset so faculty are able to record lecture modules with no or minimal technical assistance because of the simple nature of the interface," Kercher-Updike says.

"When the recording ends, it is sent to a central storage repository where it can be recovered from the Video Express website at the instructor's convenience," she explains. "It's an easy way for faculty to record course modules for online and distance learning."

ITaP currently has plans to build four Video Express studios by the beginning of spring semester, three on campus and one at Purdue's College of Technology site in Anderson. Two additional studios are slated to be built later in the spring. Other departments and all three regional campuses have expressed interest as well.

Professor pleased with quality

Kevin Mumford, assistant professor of economics, has used Krannert's Green Screen Room extensively preparing materials for his econometrics course, part of the online MS in economics program.

"The videos created in the Krannert production studio are the key component of the program. The production studio has a high-quality touch-screen monitor that I use like a whiteboard to work examples by hand. For a math-heavy course like mine, the touch screen is really essential," Mumford says. "The quality of the final product is high without the need for postproduction editing.

"I've also made these videos available to my in-class sections and they enhance student learning. The video clips have substantially replaced the need for me to go back and review course material. Students ask fewer review questions, which allows me to use class time to work more examples and push them towards a deeper understanding of the concepts."

Adam Lawson, senior associate director of the Krannert Computing Center, says the collaboration was special because it was among campus departments populated with talent developed at Purdue.

"This solution is powered by Purdue innovation, right down to the project's principals, who are all Purdue alumni from Technology and Management. We're not just giving Purdue an edge in the online world,; we're creating the experience we wished for when we were students," Lawson says.

"This collaboration represents the best elements of why I enjoy working at Purdue."