One service, many names – a shared video platform for the Federation of Universities of Applied Sciences

In the new video service of the FUAS alliance one can study, for example, searches from library databases.

One service, many names – a shared video platform for the Federation of Universities of Applied Sciences

Tiina Leiponen

The Federation of Universities of Applied Sciences (FUAS), a strategic alliance formed by Häme University of Applied Sciences, Lahti University of Applied Sciences and Laurea University of Applied Sciences, decided to develop a video service to meet the institutions' shared and individual needs by becoming the first pilot users of CSC's Funet Etuubi Kaltura. Now that the project has reached its conclusion, it's time for a brief retrospective: Where did we start, what did we learn, and what did we achieve?

When YouTube is not enough

Videos are an essential part of education and digital learning environments.  All of the universities of applied sciences in the FUAS federation produce a lot of educational videos, and each institution used to have its own practices for distributing them.

Although YouTube was a popular distribution channel, it had several known weaknesses: limited integration potential with other systems, advertisements, and copyright issues. Above all, it was impossible to share videos solely with the other three universities of applied sciences.

"We needed a shared platform for the FUAS virtual campus – a service in which we could collate videos, virtual lessons and learning environments, and easily distribute videos both internally and between Federation members," says CIO Ari Kuusio from Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK), who led the project's technical team.

Ari Kuusio and Kari Kataja participated in the pilot project at Häme University of Applied Sciences. Photo: Tero Keso

The pilot project sought a shared, user-friendly way to create, distribute and administer educational video materials. Other goals included boosting our efficiency and avoiding overlapping work by utilising the video material produced by different units throughout the Federation.

"The Kaltura software package appeared to be a promising solution to video management. It was important for us that NORDUnet administered and supported the cloud service in the Nordic countries. We found it to be a good, secure option. Our project happened to coincide with CSC's pilot, so about a year ago we launched contract negotiations with an open mind. We made use of enterprise architecture work to analyse our shared requirements, and also went over the risks associated with the pilot," says Kuusio.

A service for over 20,000 users

"Initially, it wasn't easy to determine the roles that would be played by the six different actors in the project – CSC, Kaltura, NORDUnet, and the three universities of applied sciences. We also had to wait a while for version updates, and the project's processes still required some polishing. We had to adopt a new approach and create shared schemes and practices. However, there was already a strong sense of mutual trust between the project partners, on which it was easy to build the new system," says Project Manager Kari Kataja from HAMK.

"We also considered how to encourage and train teachers to use the system. NORDUnet provided us with benchmark and cooperation contacts during the course of the project. We received concrete peer support for software introduction from Roskilde University in particular, as they've already been using the Kaltura system for several years," Kataja adds.

The shared system went into production in September 2016. The introduction process itself went well and lasted half a year. All videos are now managed through one administrative user interface.

"All of the 20,000 students and 1,400 staff at the Federation's three institutions can watch and share videos using their own HAKA IDs whenever and wherever they want.  Anyone can, of course, watch public videos. In the Moodle learning environment, you can also watch videos without logging in," says Kataja.

Videos are currently distributed manually at Federation level, but automation will be planned once established practices are in place.

"All of the videos have the same metadata structure, and some of the same software must also be used, as it's determined by the shared administration panel. We have Creative Commons licences, shared terms and conditions, and we're focusing on joint change management practices. Should the need arise, we'll also cooperate on any further developments to the system," says Kataja.

Sharing educational results and best practices

At CSC, the project was led by Funet Development Manager Harri Kuusisto, who had connections to both NORDUnet and Kaltura (the software provider) at his fingertips.

"A pilot project of this size was also a major learning process for us, and was founded on a strong sense of mutual trust and shared goals. Project members openly shared their experiences and discussed the development requirements for both software and practices," says Kuusisto.

"The best practices arising from the project have also been documented and will be shared with a wider user base at, for instance, VideoFunet network meetings. We've made an effort to actively share information throughout the project at, for example, meetings of the AAPA (network of information management directors of universities of applied sciences), Funet technical days, and the Nordic Kaltura workshop held during the NORDUnet conference," says Ari Kuusio.

Digital training for teachers

The introduction of the Kaltura system will lead to changes in both students' and teachers' working methods. Close attention will be paid to users' feedback, which will then be utilised in the development of, for example, study material searches and Moodle integration.

"The Video LAMK service has gotten off to a good start. In the autumn, we launched a one-and-a-half year digital training programme to fine-tune both digital and pedagogical skills. Several hundred videos have now been uploaded to the new system.  We also implemented Kaltura–Moodle integration. Feedback has been really positive. Teachers have been particularly satisfied with how easy it is to save their desktop. They share the most videos with students taking their modules," says Sami Simpanen, who administers Video LAMK.

Sami Simpanen administers the Video LAMK service. Photo: Aino Kupiainen

"Students have mastered the system's basic functions – making, uploading and downloading videos. They've also been asking for a mobile version that would make it easier to upload videos to Moodle directly from mobile devices. There's also been some preliminary talk of webcasts replacing the Adobe Connect video conference service," says Simpanen.

Video assignments for students

Students and teachers have been using Video Laurea since spring 2016.  Videos are used to complete and return assignments, and also to provide guidance on software use. They're also used as study materials. Several features have created added value for teachers: the ability to save their desktop and link exercises to videos.

"The system has not yet been integrated into the Optima learning environment, so we use links to share videos with students. Integration will undoubtedly be part of the next introduction phase," says Laurea's Development Manager Irma Mänty, who worked with FUAS partners to resolve user and pedagogical issues during the pilot.

Irma Mänty helped Laurea's teachers to solve pedagogical issues relating to video teaching. Photo: Tiina Leiponen

"We interviewed teachers that used videos and found that they were already quite proficient with the basic functions. They were satisfied with the genuine user friendliness of the system. The only real challenge faced by teachers that used many videos had been uploading several videos at once and harnessing video channels and playlists for pedagogical purposes. However, teachers still recommended the system to their colleagues," says Mänty.

It's hoped that a wider variety of exercises can be linked to educational videos in the future, for example, free-form questions in addition to multichoice. It's also easy to obtain simple analytical information about videos, such as downloads, viewing duration, and answers to questions. This information can be used when planning future modules, for example, if a teacher notices that a video is too long.

"In practice the law of the instrument holds: people prefer familiar tools and working methods. That's why we're investing in training and personal guidance. Two of the people in our eight-person digital team provide support for teachers creating videos. We also arrange workshops and 'sparring sessions' for teachers. We encourage people to be open about how we can improve – the videos created by teachers are mainly available only to the students taking their modules. We also provide a separate video guidance service for students," says Mänty.

Continued development

Kaltura development work will continue, even though the official introduction project has ended. For example, mobile integration and other new features are expected, as well as some improvements to existing features.

Development Manager Harri Kuusisto acts as a liaison between the universities of applied sciences, NORDUnet, and Kaltura. Photo: Tiina Leiponen

"So far, everything has gone to plan, but we're also seeking to improve the service's support process in NORDUnet. All of the project participants also wanted to create an active Kaltura user community to discuss shared wishes and collate concrete development ideas. This could be done via, for example, the VideoFunet working group," says Kuusisto.


A shared video platform for the Federation of Universities of Applied Sciences (FUAS)

  • The FUAS alliance: Häme University of Applied Sciences, Lahti University of Applied Sciences and Laurea University of Applied Sciences
  • Funet Etuubi Kaltura: A video platform provided by CSC and NORDUnet (a collaboration between Nordic research networks)


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