UNINETT, a non-profit division of Norway’s Ministry of Education, develops and operates the country’s National Research and Education Network (NREN). The network connects more than 300,00 users across nearly 200 educational and research institutions in Norway, including all universities and most public colleges. The eCampus program within UNINETT was officially launched in 2012 due to demand from institutions and as an effort to better manage resources for both the Ministry of Education and the schools it supported. UNINETT eCampus provides many centralized services including Mediasite, Matterhorn, Adobe Connect, Box, FileSender and Camtasia Relay.
While UNINETT was founded in 1993 under the Ministry of Education, eCampus is a very new development. The program was influenced by demand from Norwegian institutions. UNINETT already provided the physical network and a division for centralized administrative systems for academic institutions among other services, but its reach was limited to the outer brinks of education— it was time to delve into the classroom.
“An important point of eCampus is preparation for the inevitable change that is happening in the global education landscape,” said Simon Skrødal, Senior Engineer, UNINETT eCampus. “Norway does not want to be left behind, but rather provide world class ICT infrastructure and services for the promotion of research and higher education in Norway. While institutions do compete for students, there is also a strong push for cross-collaboration and sharing. Centralized tools and services are important mechanisms to achieve this.”
Inclusion of Camtasia Relay
Prior to the eCampus pilot program of Camtasia Relay, some institutions were already running their own licenses of Camtasia Relay while others were using Camtasia Studio. Some institutions had neither program but still wanted to publish their educational content.
“Camtasia Relay is a great service that serves a great purpose,” said Simon. “It is very easy to get up and running quickly and at a relatively low cost. It was an easy decision to provide the service.”
According to eCampus, the pilot program of Camtasia Relay was amazingly popular among more than 30 institutions. UNINETT did not actively advertise the new program, yet were contacted directly by more than 800 individual lecturers and students asking for an account. They have experienced more than 500,000 hits on lecture recordings in less than a year.
Most of those using Camtasia Relay have been faculty members that are keen on sharing information. They make use of Relay to record their lectures and many use the accompanying mobile app Fuse, which allows faculty and students to create content outside of the classroom.
“Its simplicity opens up so many opportunities,” said Simon. “The faculty loves it because it is so simple to get started and use. The students love it because the quality is superb yet the file size is low, not to mention it works on mobile devices. We love it because it puts us in touch with a completely different user base than most other tools.”
By centralizing the services that UNINETT offers, the Ministry of Education, and thus the institutions save money. Some institutions, for example, are saving up to 75 percent of their running costs of Mediasite by moving over to the central solution. Aside from saving the institutions money, eCampus saves them time. The program makes it easier for institutions to get started with technology in the classroom, as a number of them don’t have the knowledge, capacity or budgets to start these by themselves. Even students are campaigning for more lecture capture around the country, and UNINETT is ready with several feasible solutions, catered to specific needs.
“A few weeks back, the principal at one of the largest universities in the country was challenged by students in a campaign for recorded lectures,” said Simon. “The next day, we were contacted by said university and asked to speed up the process of getting the Relay production service ready as a matter of urgency. It goes to show that students very rapidly embrace these types of services and, in turn, they become mission critical to the institutions.”
Norway’s activities are being observed by their Nordic neighboring NRENs who are now approaching them for information on how their respective higher education sectors can start using the services that UNINETT provides with eCampus.
In regard to Camtasia, eCampus has opened for the very first test users on the Camtasia Relay production service. The permanent installation will replace the pilot and is implemented on a technology platform that offers a more robust, scalable and secure service. A number of “spin-off” services around Camtasia Relay are also being developed by eCampus, e.g. self-service account registration for staff and students that utilizes their federated identity. While the pilot was 100 percent sponsored by eCampus funds, the production service will require institutions to share the cost for hosting and storage.
“We’re in the early stages of rolling out the production services of Relay,” said Simon. “And we’re bracing ourselves for a huge uptake now that access and sharing hours of education information can be done with the click of a button.”