Electrical and computer engineering professor Roger Haggard could be revolutionizing the way Tennessee Tech University delivers its classroom instruction to students both on and off campus.
That’s because Haggard recently became the first TTU professor to use the relatively new concept of "streaming" video and audio in Internet applications. Students in his Fundamentals of Computer Design and Computer Architecture I courses, for instance, have Internet access to multimedia presentations of his classes only a few hours after each session’s conclusion.
"Streaming works by downloading only pieces of digital audio or video information at a time," he explained. "For example, a person can watch the beginning of a video file on his or her computer as a later segment of that same video is being downloaded. You don’t have to wait for 15 minutes or longer until your computer has downloaded the entire file."
And TTU may be the only school in the state currently using that technology.
"I don’t know of any other university in Tennessee that’s doing it right now," Haggard said.
Until he made the change, though, the ECE – like other university departments – delivered all its distance education classes by recording them in the Extended Education video recording classroom and mailing videotapes to the off-campus students.
But Haggard said he noticed a number of disadvantages in that method, including the delay and cost of having to mail videotapes to off-campus students and the inconvenience to on-campus students of having to share a limited quantity of videotapes.
Plus, detailed information – such as dry-erase whiteboard notes and projected images – was nearly impossible to present because "the resolution of VHS videotape is relatively poor compared to the standard video on a computer monitor," he said.
Because audio and video files are so large, however, Haggard said he felt that it would be too time-consuming for his students to download them in the conventional manner. That’s when he began to consider the concept of streaming.
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With specialized equipment to record Haggard’s classroom writings and projection slides, streaming offers off-campus students video and audio resolution so good it’s comparable to that seen by students in the classroom.
In addition to providing more rapid access with better quality, the concept is also relatively inexpensive to implement, Haggard said. The cost for his entire project, for example, was only around $1,200.
"I only needed a few pieces of equipment added to the classroom to make this concept work – a document camera to digitally record printed images, audio recording software and a wireless microphone to record my voice, screen capture software to record video from the computer screen and a Mimio device to electronically read my whiteboard drawings," Haggard said.
And thanks to his pioneering, a greater number of instructors here might soon be using the concept in web sites for their own classes.
"The university is in the process of setting up a system-wide server for this kind of application. It should be up and running later this semester," Haggard said.
Anyone who has a computer with high-speed Internet access and a RealPlayer application can view a streaming video and audio sample presentation by Haggard at http://www.ece.tntech.edu/RealContent/411f01/Class3/www2.smi.