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TLT pioneers new video app for Canvas

The Messier 51 galaxy, roughly 75,000 light years in diameter, is three one-millionths of the sky area imaged by the SDSS. Photo by Sloan Digital Sky SurveyBy Emily Rushton

Video has become an integral part of today’s learning environments, yet few learning management systems are readily able to serve up video in the ways instructors want to use them.

To solve this disconnect, the U’s Teaching and Learning Technologies (TLT) department brought together leading video platform company Kaltura and Instructure, the company behind the Canvas learning management system. Now, Kaltura can integrate into nearly any learning management system at institutions across the globe — and it’s due in large part to the work done here at The University of Utah.

“It’s been a really great partnership,” said Cory Stokes, Executive Director of TLT. “It’s taken a lot of cooperation between Canvas and Kaltura developers, and the University of Utah has been right in the middle as the use case.”

The U will be the first institution in the nation to bring the Video App for Canvas to the classroom.

While Canvas has always had video functionality, it wasn’t particularly easy for faculty or students to use. “It was never easy to re-use and share your videos,” Stokes said. “You put a video on a page, and it had to be on that page. And if you wanted to use it somewhere else, you actually had to upload it again somewhere else.”

When it came time to move campus towards a more centralized system for handling Internet video within Canvas, Kaltura was the obvious choice.

TLT was able to facilitate cooperation and conversation between the two partners as they built the solution together. “We brought the use case, we brought the need, and we helped build the relationship between the two partner vendors,” said Stokes.

The new video app, with an interface resembling YouTube, provides a comprehensive set of tools that will greatly improve the faculty and student experience in classes where media is utilized. Some of the app features include User Generated Content (UGC) tools, such as video upload, webcam capture, screen recording, PowerPoint sync, and mobile device capture. Other features to be offered are full mobile device support, a personal media library, comments on videos, and enhanced video analytics.

“I think the coolest feature is being able to screen record right within the application,” said Adam Stewart, classroom services manager for TLT. Until now, users had to screen record in a separate application and then upload it to Canvas. With the app, it can all be conveniently done directly within Canvas.

Another big feature will be the ability for teachers and students to have “My Media” and “Media Gallery” tabs. Users will be able to share videos through the media gallery to either specific people or to their entire class. “It’s really easy to use,” said Stokes. “It makes video a normal, natural part of Canvas.”

While it’s been a huge team effort from TLT as a whole, one person in particular stands out in Stokes’ mind: Dave Adams, Associate Director for TLT.

“He’s done an extraordinary job deploying Kaltura and working with the vendor,” said Stokes. “He’s been the driving force to make this work. This infrastructure and its success is really due to the hard work of Dave Adams.”

TLT is still doing final verification and testing, but the goal is to make the app available to use for faculty and students by Summer 2014.

“When we turn on a tool, inevitably people use it differently from the way we thought they would,” said Stokes. “So we’re looking forward to finding out how they’ll actually use the tool.”

The University of Utah won’t be the only school using the app. It will be deployed across the entire Utah System of Higher Education as well as be available to any school that uses Canvas and licenses Kaltura.

“We were the ones that brought it up, molded it, and said that this is what it needs to do,” said Stokes. “And now hundreds of universities will benefit from it.”

Last Updated: 5/6/21