Silly Season Survived


Having set a record for the implementation and deployment of a new VLE, it seems as though we have gotten through the start of the new academic year pretty unscathed. I still fear that there are parts of the integration of Canvas not working as they should, and the integration we do have with SITS is far from complete – doesn’t do updates or removals yet – but we are coping, and our academic community for the most part seem to be very pleased with the new system.

My team has expanded to the tune of two new interns who are here for six months to help us get over the implementation phase and the managed discontinuation of SunSpace; I finally got to do a shift with our live streaming service during graduations at the Stadium of Light in July; and I finished off another Storyline presentation for Pharmacy students – an online induction to a specific ePortfolio template they have to use.

Clearing Live Chat Training (LiveLeader)

It’s that time of year again, clearing will be upon us soon, and this time I’ve volunteered to do some shifts covering live chats. LiveLeader was installed on our website earlier on in the year and has proven very popular and, with high demand anticipated when clearing starts, a call went out for extra bodies to help provide cover. The software itself doesn’t have a lot to it, it’s very similar to what I was using for chat support at Northumbria. The actual training on clearing procedures will be next week.

Summer Graduation Ceremonies


We had our summer graduation ceremonies a couple of weeks ago which we in Web and Learning Technology Services live streamed. The live streaming service is something that we developed in-house at the back end of last year and was first piloted at the winter graduation ceremonies in December. The system was put together by members of the Web Team, who did all the back-end work, and the AV specialist in Learning Technology who arranged the hardware and helped to get the integration with our streaming media server working.

As well as being streamed live the cameras also record to their memory cards for us to edit and post to the media server after the event. This is normally done by our AV guy, but, immediately following graduation week, he went off work for nearly a month to get married. The priorities of some people, eh? So I volunteered to do the editing and uploading. A bit of a mundane task, but I actually enjoyed watching the little bits of the ceremonies I did and I got to get some hands-on experience with Adobe Premiere Pro. To date all of the movie editing I have done has been in iMovie, basically because I am a Mac user and it’s just there, and it has always done what I needed of it. It wasn’t good enough for this job however, as I wanted to manually specify the file format, the size and the bit rate used for encoding for compatibility with Helix and to control file sizes, features that Apple has simplified out of existence in the latest versions of iMovie. I almost wrote ‘inexplicably’ there to describe Apple’s foolishness, but the reason is perfectly clear, to make it easy for end users. There is no getting away from the complexity of export options in Premiere, but sometimes you need that complexity and Apple don’t seem to be interested in that segment anymore. It’s not just iMovie, they haven’t been getting the balance right between ease of use and power features in their software for a number of years now and I don’t see that trend getting better.

But I digress. As well as trimming the videos I also had to flatten the audio to make them mono as the left sound channel picked up almost nothing for some reason. I don’t know if this is something I can do in iMovie, I’ve never had the need before, but it was simple to do in Premiere. All of the recordings are now available here and you can see more videos and photos by following the Twitter hashtag #hawaythegrads.

In a separate query, while I was busy doing this work I picked up a job for a customer who wanted a colleague at a partner institution in Malaysia to share some recorded lectures with them and of course I recommended the streaming server as the best tool for the job. Normally we would get people in to the office to give them a quick run-through of how the system works, but Malaysia is a long way to travel, so I ended up having to put together a short help guide on how to do this as we didn’t have any documentation.