Case Study: Education

Making video production accessible at Belgium’s Thomas More University

July 6, 2020

Making video production accessible at Belgium’s Thomas More University

Thomas More University of Applied Sciences is the largest of its kind in Belgium’s Flanders region, with 14 campuses across the province of Antwerp. To enhance its world-class programs and make them more accessible to people with disabilities, the institution needed video production hardware that was versatile, compact, and easy to use for students and faculty alike.

Epiphan’s Pearl Mini hardware encoder proved a perfect fit.

The need: A portable, powerful video production solution

Video is an integral part of the student experience at Thomas More University – and not only for those enrolled in video production or multimedia courses. From lecture capture and remote education to blended learning and flipped classrooms, video content is ubiquitous across the institution’s dozens of programs.

It’s in our mission that we provide videos of courses to students with disabilities. That way, if a student has to spend a day in the hospital, they can still see the lesson. Tom Segers, Program Manager at Thomas More
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To maximize access to the institution’s AV gear, the IT team at Thomas More needed a mobile video production that system staff could easily move between rooms. That solution also had to work well with the university’s already deployed video content management system (CMS) and learning management system (LMS).

“There wasn’t anything like that on the market at the time,” Segers says, “so we built our own.”

Thomas More’s custom-built solution was serviceable, but not without its drawbacks.

Functional but impractical

“It was very big, very large,” says Nico Beckers, a project manager at Thomas More. “For setup, you needed to go back and forth for the camera, tripod, recording device… When a teacher would ask to record 10 minutes before a lecture, it wasn’t enough time. It was stressful.”

Faculty also found Thomas More’s mobile video production solution bulky and hard to use. “It took a lot of space, and you had to really look at which button to click on,” Deceuninck says. “Sometimes you’d just push the wrong button, so that at the end of the day you didn’t have your video. That was really sad.”

In the end, Thomas More’s AV behemoth wasn’t worth its weight, Segers says. Happily, a new device hit the market that satisfied the university’s key criteria of portability, simplicity, reliability, and flexibility: Epiphan Video’s Pearl Mini hardware encoder.

The solution: Pearl Mini all-in-one video production system

Computer hardware distributor Intronics Belgium recognized Pearl Mini as the solution to its customer’s video production woes.

“Pearl Mini could do everything they wanted with a much smaller box,” says Intronics technical sales engineer Mikis Goos. “It also offered other possibilities for streamlining their video production even more.”

Pearl Mini could do everything they wanted with a much smaller box. It also offered other possibilities for streamlining their video production even more. Mikis Goos, Technical Sales Engineer at Intronics

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Thomas More’s IT team concluded the same. “It was small, it was mobile,” Segers says, “so we did some tests with it and it was great.”

Pearl Mini’s portability and all-in-one design were key to simplifying the AV setup process at Thomas More. But the benefits the system brought the school go well beyond its compact form factor.Comprehensive integration with Kaltura

Comprehensive integration with Kaltura

All Pearl systems feature comprehensive integration with industry-leading video platforms Kaltura and Panopto. In the case of Thomas More, Pearl’s direct integration with Kaltura helped streamline the video production process for faculty and staff.

Instructors simply enter their Kaltura credentials through Pearl Mini’s built-in touch screen to authenticate to the platform. Pearl will then automatically upload recordings to the user’s Kaltura folder, saving administration time after lectures and other streaming or recording events.

Adding to this benefit is the fact that Kaltura also features tight integration with Canvas, Thomas More’s LMS. “Students don’t even realize they are in Kaltura when they access it through Canvas,” Segers says.

Accessible for faculty and students

For Thomas More, ease of use was another major point in Pearl Mini’s favor. Pearl systems are powerful and versatile enough to support a broad range of use cases in education. At the same time, Pearl’s user interface is easy to grasp even for instructors, students, and staff with little instruction or technical background.

This level of accessibility is a need many educational institutions share, says Yves Van Hullebusch, a project and account manager for Intronics Belgium. “What a lot of universities are looking for is a machine that can do it all, but it has to be simple to use. With Pearl Mini, there’s just one button to push and the device will record, stream, and do everything you’ve preconfigured it to do.”

Pearl Mini earns top marks at Thomas More University

Thomas More’s adoption of Pearl Mini has earned positive feedback from every corner.

IT: Simple to set up and support

For IT staff, the system’s all-in-one design greatly reduced lecture recording setup times. “I can set up a web lecture recording session in less than five minutes,” Beckers says.

Pearl Mini’s portability also enabled the team to maximize the institution’s AV budget with a permanent and accessible on-campus studio available to faculty and students.IT: Simple to setup and support

Faculty: No-hassle lecture recording

Instructors have found lecture capture and other video applications in education far easier with Pearl Mini than with the institution’s homegrown solution. “I just walked into the classroom, put in my credentials, pushed start, and immediately I could start teaching,” Deceuninck says. “And when I pushed stop after I was done teaching, some minutes later the device sent me the recordings so I could make it available to students.”

Everything works very fast, very quickly. You get in the studio, you log in. You make a video clip and it is transmitted immediately to the Kaltura platform. And when you get home, or even in the studio, you can go and check it out. Piet Lamberts Van Assche, Professor of Law, Philosophy, and Economics at Thomas More

Students: Easy to grasp for video production

Pearl Mini is a hit among students, too. “Every year we ask the students what they think of the course,” Lamberts Van Assche says. “Last year and this year, those reactions were very positive.”

“The fact that it’s easy to use is amazing,” says Sam Sheenan, who studies international media and entertainment business at the university. “It means we can get on with our projects faster.”

That simplicity is essential especially in education, video production student Carolien Porrez explains. “[The equipment] has to be up to date and it has to be easy to use so everyone can learn it.”

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