IT seeks Median replacement

by Celia Carbone / Beacon Correspondent • April 13, 2017

Information Technology is looking to replace Median, the college’s in-house online video streaming service, with software developed elsewhere.

The department narrowed its search to three platforms: Kaltura, Ensemble Video, and Panopto, said Jennifer Stevens, Instructional Technology Group director. Each vendor offers an online webpage and a Canvas classroom, but they differ in online appearance and interactive experience.

Stevens said the IT department is looking for a system with an external data center outside of the Emerson campus because there have been problems with international streaming.

“The software needs to evolve with new technology and new security,” Stevens said.

Larger service providers have data centers across the country to service different regions whereas the only data center Emerson has is located in Boston, Stevens said.

“We are looking for a content delivery network with the ability to service around the world,” Stevens said.

Freshman journalism major Alexandria Fean works on the Journalism Channel, which uses Median to publish videos.

“Median isn't user-friendly and it can be difficult to get things to upload,” Fean said. “It's such a process and if the tiniest little detail goes wrong, you have to start all over.”

Fean said she is looking forward to the broader audience a new streaming system could reach, including viewers beyond Emerson, like her friends and family. She hopes that a different system will be simpler to use for those who do not frequent the site.

Stevens said there have been problems in the past servicing other countries, including China. If another vendor was responsible for international streaming, this issue will be less prevalent, Stevens said.

Median was created by two Emerson graduates in 2008, Cyle Gage and John Richards, Stevens said. Since then, both developers have left the IT department to pursue jobs in different areas. Gage now works for Tumblr and Richards is working for the Emerson Engagement Lab. As a result of their departure, Stevens said, the code is no longer being updated to improve the streaming service.

Median was preferred over other streaming services, like YouTube, because the content creators will own the rights to their work, Stevens said.

IT held user testing of the three potential vendors in the Walker Building last week to get student and faculty feedback on the three top contenders. The testers rated each vendor individually on upload speed, interactiveness, and whether or not they would prefer to use each vendor in the classroom.

The next steps include comparing the service fees for each, Stevens said. The college will pay for a streaming service in the next fiscal year beginning in July.

Median will still work once a new streaming service is selected, but from then on all new content will be uploaded to the new system.