Open Education Videos around the world: The Making Of

March 16, 2009, [MD]


During the presentation on Open Education around the world at OISE last week, I wanted to really highlight to people the incredible array of resources available, in many different languages. I also discussed three different purposes of openness, direct use (by target audience, usually students), reuse (ie. recontextualized by a teacher or other intermediary before it reaches the target audience) and transparency (open the windows and let people look in - heavily influenced by Mike Caulfield). Thus, I blazed through something like 105 slides, much of it screenshots from OERs in different languages and contexts.

I've in the past wanted to show snippets of video lectures when giving presentations, but never been able to. Although I realize that video lectures are far from the pedagogical (or andragogical) apex, there is something very fascinating about being able to watch a lecture at MIT, or at a Chinese university, that cannot be replaced by a boring looking text, especially from the transparency perspective. However, where I was presenting, I could not trust that the internet would be fast enough, often there were introductory segments that I needed to skip, I just wanted to show little snippets, and I thought it would just become too much of a disruption of the presentation.

For this presentation, I had more time than usual (2 hours is incredibly generous, yet we were still pressed for time, and would have liked more for the Q&A), and more than ever I wanted to impress on the audience the incredibly idea that we could look through the virtual windows of classrooms all around the world. Instead of trying to preload a bunch of clips, and play snippets of them, I decided to try to edit together a quick video showcasing a few seconds from lectures in as many languages as possible. Of course, I decided this around 11PM on the night before the presentation, which didn't leave me much sleep in the end, for a 10AM presentation.

The process

It turned out to be a lot more difficult than I had thought. I decided to use iMovie, since it was preinstalled on my Mac, and I didn't need any kind of advanced editing, just splicing together and perhaps adding some text. First, I had to find the source material of course. MIT was easy, they offer the videos for download, and they provide a license that allows this to happen. In addition, for English-language content, there are sites that collect video lectures, such as, or even iTunes, so it wouldn't have been hard to find good content outside of MIT. As it was, I wasn't trying to showcase the rich world of English-language lectures, so I settled for some clips of MIT's most downloaded course on physics (8.01).

I knew that both Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU, which I have written about before) and the IITs (likewise) had published great videos on Youtube. In addition, IGNOU also provided some lectures in Hindi, so that I could provide both Hindi and English lectures. Given that these were on Youtube, I was able to grab the Flash videos and convert them to a format that iMovie would read using Handbrake.

Next, for the Chinese courses. This is what I've done the most research on (see my previous presentation) and I knew that most of their courses had video components, however these were often streamed and in RealMedia. For some reason, the Internet Archive has a large collection of older courses, and here I was able to find one that was in WMV format, and once again convert it to a format legible by iMovie. I found one in Chinese, and a rare one in English (most Chinese university courses are taught in Chinese, but they are beginning to experiment with some English courses to increase the English level of their graduates).

This was the easy part, but I wanted more. Through Lee Haishuo, I found out about Castalia, which features Japanese lectures. I also found some video lectures through Instituto Tecnologico de Monterey, however these were only available in streaming format. I spent a long time searching for how to download the stream, how to convert from RealMedia to iMovie, etc, and finally I came across a simpler solution. I used SnapZ Pro to do a "screencast" of the area of the screen where the movie was streaming, and then imported the resulting QuickTime file into iMovie. Worked perfectly, but the videos were already quite low quality - not sure how well it would work with higher resolution video.

So, I managed to get it all into iMovie, and then it was easy. Choose a few sections, put on some titles, export it to QuickTime, embed it into the PowerPoint slides, and of course, put it on YouTube. The result was 2,5 minutes long, visits five countries and five languages, and can be seen here:

Lessons learnt

It's kind of ironic, in a talk about Open Education and the ideas of remix, etc, how difficult it was to do this. The first part is finding the material. I wanted a snippet from a Korean lecture, and I know there are Korean video lectures out there. I would go to the OpenCourseWare Consortium site, and get a list of Korean universities (as an aside, I wish all these links went to the OCW page of the institution, not the mainpage - sometimes I would arrive at the mainpage of an institution, search for OCW, and not find anything there). I would visit each university's OCW collection, choose a faculty, choose a course, and say "oh, this course doesn't have any video lectures"... Start again. Not very efficient. Why can't I search for Korean courses that have video lectures about economics, or courses in English, German or Italian (I speak all three) that have exam questions? (I know this is being worked on, and is partly dependent on how much metadata is generated by the sites, etc).

When I had found a file, it was often very hard to reuse it. Streaming video is not easy to reuse, or even just to save offline for distribution to people who don't have internet access etc. An additional problem is that several of these resources didn't actually use open licenses - especially for the Indian and Chinese projects. It's there, but you don't have an explicit license to use it. Some Chinese educators I have spoken with make the point that they haven't used an open license, because they don't see copyright as a problem, not because they don't want people to copy it. But if I am at University of Toronto, and want to translate one of these videos and use it in my classes, the institution might not let me.

Ideally, what I'd like to see happen more is for institutions to not insist so much on hosting everything on their own site, but to share it using existing Web 2.0 platforms. Although the license is still a problem, it was easy for me to find videos for the Indian projects, because they are on YouTube. Just like the Library of Congress posting photos on flickrenables people to tag, link to, embed, etc - having video on Youtube (or somewhere else - it doesn't even have to be a commercial service, it could be, would make reuse and findability a lot easier. Put your pictures on flickr, your slides on SlideShare, your curricula on WikiEducator, etc. But of course, part of the way OCW in particular is financed, or "sold" to the institutions, is that it will be a strong tool for branding and marketing, so institutions might be loth to give up on the specialized sites that you have to visit. (I know this is beginning to happen, with iTunes for example, but I'd like to see much more).

I'd love to expand this video with more language examples, because I think it would be a great fun thing to be able to include in future talks about OCW, etc.


Stian HĂ„klev March 16, 2009 Toronto, Canada
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