Using Open Frameworks to Bridge the Technology Divide

I participated in a webinar the other day where one of the speakers was talking about the lack of interoperability between video conferencing, web conferencing and other technology commonly used in the classroom. I’ve been in the industry more than 25 years and while we’ve made a good deal of progress with respect to interoperability, there are still pockets of technology divide that need to be bridged. One pathway is custom development, for which I’m currently leading a project that is bringing video conferencing more tightly into the Learning tech-divideManagement System (LMS) world using open API’s. Open APIs are the true key to increasing interop in K-12 and higher education, allowing programmers to manipulate sometimes rigid off-the-shelf frameworks to fit into more natural instructional workflows. While there are several products out there with API support, the two products I’m integrating are Vidyo on the video conferencing side and Canvas for the LMS. Both have a solid set of well-defined APIs and frameworks for creating custom applications.

Everywhere you look today the use of video in the classroom is growing rapidly – lecture capture, open office hours and MOOCs just to name a few. But the predominant content access point for students (and growing for instructors) is the LMS. Students access it for their assignments, notes and submitting completed homework. Instructors use it for publishing coursework, communicating with enrolled students and grading completed work. But what happens when an instructor records a class session and wants to distribute to the class? How about offering an open office hour to the class using video conferencing? It’s not always a question of whether it’s possible, it’s more a question of workflow and ease of accomplishing the task.

Custom development allows us to bring these 2 worlds together, providing the ability to publish previously recorded lectures automatically to the proper LMS course and allowing instructors to create a live virtual open office hour with the click of a button for all students registered in their course. If you make it easy for both the instructor and student you’ll achieve broad adoption, if it’s difficult it will remain a niche application. It might just be a small step forward, but it’s progress towards greater interoperability nonetheless and demonstrates the power of products with open frameworks for custom development.