Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Titanfiles-not a bad little video server

Titanfiles is a system which provides not only networked storage which is available on-line from anywhere, but it also allows you to control with whom you want to share either a single document or a whole directory. It also turns out that it's not a bad little video server.

Digital video files have many useful purposes in education. You can provide a more personal message to on-line students or demonstrate a procedure that students are sure to have to review when they actually have to do it weeks after it was demonstrated in lecture. It's also been common practice to record students giving presentations or sample lessons to give them feedback and critique on their performance.

One big problem is video files are HUUUUGE! The quality of file you see on YouTube can be a megabyte a minute, and DVD quality about 7MB a minute. Exchanging these things via email can create problems. The limit on attachment size with Titanmail is 10MB. I guess you could fit some video under that limit, but if you were sending that file to multiple people, you could put some serious strain on the email system.

Instead, you could put the file in your Titanfiles account. You've got a gigabyte available. Then create a ticket, which is just a specially encoded URL, and send that to whomever you wanted to watch the file.

Try this link https://titanfiles.uwosh.edu/xythoswfs/webui/_xy-403380_1-t_eXwZu1dW (It will probably go to a new window, just click the back button to get back to the blog.)

You can also put files stored on Titanfiles in D2L, but it's a little more complicated. For reasons I don't yet understand, when the ticket link in D2L is clicked in some browsers (Internet Explorer), it sends you to the authorization page. Logging in won't help you at all because the people you want to watch the file only have authority through the link.

However, you can insert files stored on Titanfiles in a D2L topic, embedded right on the web.page, which is cool, because you can still have the rest of the information on the page displayed.

It looks like this.

You have to edit some HTML (the language the web is written in). That sounds scary, but it's really just a matter of a little copy and paste. The complete directions are on my web site.

A special use of Titanfiles as a video server is to record in-class student presentations. With a $35 web cam and some free software, you can record directly to a Titanfiles account. In the past you would probably have required the student to provide a VHS tape, which at the end of the presentation, you would pop out of the camcorder and hand to the student for them to review. Where's the student going to watch that VHS tape now? Although I'm sure the Library would appreciate the turnstyle numbers, that's about the only place a 21st century student could watch VHS. And then, they have to keep track of the darn thing, and bring it to you if you're going to review it, and then you have to keep track of it.

Instead, the presentation can be recorded directly to the student's Titanfiles account. (At higher resolution than the examples above, by the way.) They can watch it from anywhere and can share a ticket with you to review.

In this case, Titanfiles is mounted as a lettered drive on the classroom computer. Before their presentation, each student logs on to their Titanfiles account, and then one click in a video recording program (that I'll install for you) starts the recording, and a second click at the end stops it. That's it. All the other settings are stored in a file that I provide that you use to launch the video recording software. Detailed directions are on my website.

If you're using a lot, or very long, video files, it would probably be better to contact Brian Ledwell about our dedicated video servers, but for special applications and sharing the occasional video file, Titanfiles is a pretty cool solution.

Contact Sarah Bradway in the IT office for more information about Titanfiles, and for more about the details about the rest, I am The Audiovisualist.

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