U.C. Berkeley Goes Wide on YouTube

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Situation: Back in the infancy of the Internet in 1995, the University of California at Berkley started a service through its Berkeley Multimedia Research Center to make many of its courses available online to students. Today, those efforts generate Webcasts of 53 classes.

That evolution began with a project that used RealNetworks; Real Player video player and a handful of computers. The center began taping lectures to post on the Internet as a study tool for students and in 2001, that program moved into the educational technology services division at the university as more teachers requested for their courses to be shot and offered online.

Since then the technology services division under Ben Hubbard, co-manager for Webcast Berkeley, has built technology to capture the video and audio for the Webcasts of the classes and has steadily expanded the number of classrooms that are equipped to capture lectures on video.

His division sends out invitations by mail to teachers who are using classrooms that have the Webcasting equipment. Those lecture halls are covered by cameras including a number of Sony DSR-250 (DVCAM), Sony DSR-300, Sony DSR-390, Sony DSR-400, and Panasonic HVX-200 (HD) and nNovia HDD DV Recorders. To edit, Berkeley, uses Apple Final Cut Studio, Canopus Procoder, Sorensen Squeeze, and Real Producer. Sound and images are processed through computers, video encoding equipment, servers and other essential hardware co-located at the school’s data center.

For each lecture, a camera operator shoots the lecture, sends it to a central computer database and posts it as a Webcast for live and archival viewing.

The school also includes more than 150 full courses in video available via the archives. Mr. Hubbard relies on a course administrator, Richard Bloom, to handle the daily activities of the management of the program.

“His job is to make sure all the Web casts work each week and to provide outreach and training to the faculty,” Mr. Hubbard said.

The school relies on students as camera operators, who set up the equipment at the start of the class and break it down at the end.

Problem: This fall, Berkley wanted to offer the courses to a wider audience. While anyone can access the lectures on http://www.webcast.berkley.edu, Mr. Hubbard believed the university reach impact more people with broader Web distribution.

Solution: Berkeley has been offering the lectures on iTunes since April 2006 and started offering classes on YouTube in early October.

“YouTube is a better platform for our content than other sites. We have more control over the environment and it’s easier for people to access,” Mr. Hubbard said.

The production costs for a single course per semester are about $4,300 to post online video across the university site, iTunes and YouTube. That includes the student labor, the cost of the computers, cameras and equipment and the staff that works to produce the Webcasts.

Mr. Hubbard’s division charges $2,000 per department to participate to help cover costs.

Evaluation: Because the University of California is a public university, it doesn’t evaluate return on investment in the same way a corporation does.

“We feel it is an outstanding study tool. If you are ill and miss a class you can catch up and watch it online. If you are a non-native English speaker you can go back and watch it over again,” Mr. Hubbard said.

In 2006, Berkeley logged 4.3 million views for the 53 classes on its site and in its archives. In the first two-plus weeks on YouTube, Berkeley content attracted 900,000 views.

“We really felt as a public institution this is sort of our mission,” he said. “As a program we can’t quite reach as many people as we could with YouTube. That says something about our mission–to make our content accessible.”
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