SEATTLE, May 21, 2007–Barix AG, a pioneer in IP-based audio, intercom and control/monitoring, today announced that University of Washington has deployed 24 Barix Instreamer IP audio encoding devices for its Coursecasting initiative. The university has equipped 24 classrooms in 13 campus buildings for audio-coursecasting, with plans to expand the project to all new lecture halls, standardizing on Barix products now and well into the future.
"There is simply no other product on the market that is as bulletproof as the Barix Instreamer," said David Aldrich, Assistant Director, Classroom Support Services, and Director of the Coursecasting Pilot Program at University of Washington. "We designed our automated Coursecasting model around the Instreamer after realizing we could stream directly to a capture server using this device. We liked the fact that the Instreamer had no moving parts and was less likely to fail compared to using computers for audio capture and streaming to a central server. Reliability is a big factor when designing a solution to be scalable. It didn?t hurt that the price point was conisderably lower than a computer and the associated installation costs."
One Instreamer is installed in each of the 24 classrooms and connected to a PA system, and captures, encodes and streams the audio to Classroom Support Services? central capture server. The server records the streams based upon a schedule and then processes the audio and uploads it to a Classroom Portal recordings page. The portal runs an RSS-capable blogging software which students can use to access the recordings after they are successfully uploaded. (An example can be viewed at http://www.css.washington.edu/course in the Special Events section of the Classroom Portal.)
The University of Washington is the most recent higher education institution to announce its use of Barix products for automated classroom recording and Podcasting, following Purdue University, Mississippi State University and the University of Minnesota. Aldrich first became aware of Barix after reading about another university using a Barix Instreamer and Exstreamer (an IP audio decoder) combination to expand its hardwired recording system to additional buildings on campus. Aldrich, who is an evangelist for educational coursecasting, new media, and emerging technologies, believes the University of Washington was visionary in using Barix equipment to take educational technology to new places. This is just the latest New Media initiative explored by the university, which also launched a popular on-demand video pilot around the same time as the Coursecasting pilot.
"The reality is we started Coursecasting as a practical response to a problem," he said. "The library was devoting equipment and valuable real estate for students to listen to class lectures recorded on cassettes and then transferred to an enormous audio distribution system. Not only did that system have a big footprint, but it was also inconvenient for students because of access issues. The library is not always open and if you miss classes due to illness, you have a lot of catch up work to do. The Coursecasting initiative using the Barix Instreamer addresses these issues and gives students anywhere/anytime access to lecture recordings. If podcast downloads are any indication of students? desires to consume educational material outside the traditional classroom, then I believe there is a great demand. We logged 110,000 lecture downloads between October 2005 and March 2007."
The Instreamers are normally installed in the PA system rack, located in the projection booth at the back of each classroom. The Instreamer?s line input is connected to the audio output of the PA system, using a single cable and sometimes a small distribution amplifier. The Instreamers then connect directly to the campus network, pointed to the server. The university streams at the lowest encoding quality to keep the recorded files small and manageable and to reduce network congestion. Aldrich added that the produced files are small enough for students and allow them to clearly hear and interpret the recorded content.
Classroom Support Services does not monitor the recording process but has developed a Web tool to alert them of a power loss or network connectivity issue, and are pleased with the audio quality of the Instreamer recordings. "We have never had a recording fail because of an Instreamer failure," said Aldrich. "Our podcast recordings are lectures and you have to think of them as live performances. Whatever the PA system hears is what the end user will hear, and the results are generally very good. The only massaging done is trimming the beginning and end of the recording to address playback issues on some MP3 players, and some additional re-encoding to reduce the file size."
About Barix AG (www.barix.com)
Barix AG, headquartered in Zurich Switzerland, specializes in research and development of state of the art IP based communication and control technology. Barix products are stand-alone and able to remotely connect worldwide over standard networks / Internet offering new and improved solutions to the professional audio distribution, communication and automation industry. Barix products provide solutions in audio over IP (audio distribution and monitoring, communication, security) and automation (remote controlling, monitoring and maintenance).