Monday, December 04, 2006

My uncle's name is Nelson

Over the past few days some thoughts about content and what on earth we're going to do with it have been winging their way into my brain. Unaccustomed as I am to their presence, I've been swatting them away but now they've come to rest and are starting to make some sense.
Some of this started due to some work I'm doing with Shane C, our secondary Science consultant. Shane has shedloads of resources for secondary science on video, and he's just recently started enthusiastically putting them onto his own Moodle server (running on his own laptop) ready to share in schools by zipping up the courses (using Backup within Moodle) and then having schools Restore them to place on their own learning environments. Activities, quizzes, forums, etc. within a Moodle course don't take up too much space, but it'll be the course files that do - if there are megabytes and gigabytes of video and other files in each Moodle installation then we might start to have issues with capacity. Shane's been asking if we've got some sort of content repository which could store this on, but as of yet we don't. We've got our Moodle server(s), our Breeze server, our email serv... what? Hang on...

[somewhere, in a darkened room, a light bulb fizzles on]
I've always (both internally and when I've told other people) associated our dedicated Breeze server (soon to be Adobe Acrobat Connect, for what it's worth) with doing Breeze-specific things - videoconferencing, publishing from within PowerPoint, all the usual yadda, just in a very nice way. Then, when Shane was starting to talk about sharing out gigabytes-worth of video files within essentially identical courses across Bucks a large penny dropped somewhere. Essentially, rather than embedding the videos within the course files structure or each course, we simply host them centrally (duh) and then each course links to them. This came out further today when I worked with Rachael S, who's the PE Consultant for Bucks. She has a CD of videos for Able Gifted & Talented work in PE and is only given one copy - so we either duplicate it for hundreds of schools or host it centrally on our BucksGfL Moodle - better still, on the Breeze server. Fortunately the videos are part of a Flash movie on the CD and come as Flash Video FLV format, so uploading them into our Breeze server this afternoon was a, er, breeze (sorry).
As mentioned, Breeze will shortly become Acrobat Connect - so what does the future hold for it? Could it be a way forward for a content repository for us - a huge saving on shelling out on capacity for something else to add in to the mix of services we're offering. What we'd need to do is settle on formats - converting WMV and MPEG to Flash Video format (very handy with 1.6's addition of .flv files to the Multimedia Plugin) and even using something like Flash Paper (which is available to Content Creators as part of Breeze) for other pieces of content, but how far could that go? I'll be really interested to see how things might be delivered - maybe using Flash (or PDF, less likely & desirable in my opinion) as some sort of lingua franca to deliver content to anything - different devices, locations, systems... could Bob really be our uncle, or will our uncle have a different name?

Oh, and in other news, I'm hoping to meet with people from O2 soon to have a look at Moodle with them and see what we can do. Apologies to Orange, I do love your adverts...

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