VLE and Replay Video Changes

The Coronavirus crisis has dramatically expanded the role of online video in teaching and learning at York. 

Our systems data has shown a vast increase in the use of services such as Panopto self-recording, and over the past year many staff have invested considerable time into preparing effective video learning materials for their students. Feedback from recent student surveys has also shown that students at York, as elsewhere, have valued the flexibility and other benefits online video can bring to their study. 

Although there have been some notable challenges along the way, in general our systems have weathered the rapid and unprecedented expansion in their use remarkably well.   However, there are now several key steps we need to take at York to ensure the ongoing stability of our key platforms, and to enable staff and students to continue to make effective use of video materials in the future.

Phasing-out video uploads to the VLE

The VLE was not designed to deliver streaming video at the scale that is now demanded of it and these demands are now adversely affecting the stability of the learning platform. As a result, the University’s advice has for some time been to use systems that are specifically designed to stream video at scale and provide other benefits such as accessibility — e.g. the Replay/Panopto platform.

Over the past year, the volume of new and legacy video files stored within the VLE and the large scale simultaneous playback of these files has reached a level that presents serious risks to the system’s ongoing stability. To address this, the following steps are planned over the next few months:

  1. In the very short term, the ability to directly upload new video to the VLE will be disabled (date to be announced soon) for all staff and students at York.
  2. Departments and staff with 20/21 modules that currently contain a large volume of media within the VLE will be asked to review and transition video materials to alternative platforms (e.g. Replay and GoogleDrive) before this year’s module rollover.
  3. In the longer term (provisionally by the end of the current academic year) the ability to play or download video which has been directly uploaded to the VLE will also be disabled.

The PDLT will be liaising with VLE coordinators and other department stakeholders to help coordinate this transition. However, if you currently deliver a module that relies upon staff or students being able to upload and/or submit videos to the VLE (not just as content but also as assignment submissions, contributions to discussion boards etc.), you are strongly encouraged to contact us to discuss the alternative approaches that are available.

Expanding Replay support for “ongoing” media within departments

Over the next few months there will be updates to the management of video files in Panopto/Replay. These changes will give staff more options for how they can manage “ongoing” teaching materials, such as self-recorded presentations and other video resources that are re-used from module to module.

Currently in Replay the overwhelming majority of video content is managed in folders directly linked to individual modules. This approach works well for resources such as lecture-captured videos, as it means a new module start will be associated with a new set of video materials, and ensures new students do not have access to older materials. 

However, this approach can present challenges for staff who have invested time producing video teaching materials that are designed to be reused.  In particular, it means staff currently need to either copy these videos within Replay and re-embed them in the VLE, or upload them to other platforms, such as YouTube.

To address these challenges, in the coming weeks the PDLT will work with departments to establish an additional “ongoing” folder structure within Replay/Panopto, alongside the standard module folders.  Cases in which staff may wish to use this additional space could include the following:

  • To provide a space in Replay where videos can be managed and embedded in a module in the VLE, without subsequently needing to copy across videos in Replay each time the module rolls over and re-embed them within the VLE.
  • To provide an alternative to directly uploading videos to the VLE or to spaces such as YouTube or GoogleDrive.
  • To provide a space where videos that are used and embedded across multiple modules can be more conveniently managed: e.g. by allowing a single video to be uploaded and shared/embedded in multiple spaces, rather than requiring videos to be copied and uploaded multiple times.

Implementing this approach over the next few months will facilitate the use of Replay for media management at York, enabling staff to build upon their work over the past year and allowing them to continue to make effective use of video content in their teaching and learning.