Leeds Beckett and Planet eStream

Planet eStream Strengthens University Connections

Based in the vibrant city of Leeds, the biggest financial district outside of London, Leeds Beckett’s vision is to be acknowledged for its commitment to student success, innovation and enterprise, global reach, and strong local impact. The university spans two campuses: one in the city centre and one in Headingley, on the outskirts of Leeds.

With a 190-year history of education, which began with the founding of the Leeds Mechanics Institute in 1824, Leeds Beckett has around 2,900 staff and more than 28,000 students from almost 100 countries around the world and contributes an estimated £520 million to the economy every year.

Leeds Beckett offers a broad range of undergraduate, postgraduate, full time and part time courses, as well as flexible and online courses across 13 academic schools and their research outputs continue to grow focused around four institutes. Leeds Beckett’s aspiration is to help create great graduates, exceptional employees, dynamic citizens and enterprising leaders and they work closely with employers and partners to ensure that their graduates are ready for work, ready for life, and ready to seize the opportunities that lie ahead.

The university originally purchased the Planet eStream Core Solution and Freeview TV Scheduler in 2006, soon after its launch, and has been a continuous user of the solution ever since. Its original key requirement was for a live streaming solution to cover its graduation ceremonies and other major events and to identify a solution for off-air TV recording to replace its in-house manual process. It was also looking for a solution that would record keynote speakers and visiting lecturers and allow them to upload these to the Planet eStream system for on demand access.

Gareth Pipe, Senior IT/AV Support Specialist in the university’s IT Services department, is responsible for the overall management and implementation of the Planet eStream system. He says, "Staff identified the need to provide on-line access to material that could be used on demand for learning resources. The university chose Planet eStream because of its seamless live streaming capabilities and fully featured TV and radio recording capability. It works well with our online support systems and integrated nicely into our web-based content."

Sharing Knowledge

Gareth attended the Planet eStream Masterclass held at Oldham Sixth Form College where a number of FEs, HEs and Schools from the Planet eStream user community met for a day of training and seminars. He says, "The event was a great eye opener. It showed us how the college has been utilising the Planet eStream functions and I could see immediately how our Performing Arts and Sports courses could use the system in similar ways. "In particular, Planet eStream allows coaches and tutors alike to watch performances live, interact with students if required and then carry out the assessments later, using embedded footage. It just takes the immediate assessment pressure out of the situation, knowing that the performance is easily accessible in future."

eSign of the Times

Leeds Beckett University utilises the ever-popular Planet eSign system to communicate across faculties and campuses. The launch of the integrated HTML digital signage interface, Planet eSign, in 2012 has enabled Leeds Beckett University to roll out engaging signage content to in excess of 50 screens across the campus. This has delivered a slick workflow, giving them the ability to incorporate the excellent digital assets in their Planet eStream system.

Gareth says, "Planet eSign has been extremely useful in many ways. For example, our broadcasting students use Planet eSign to broadcast ‘Student Union TV’ to give them practice of airing their material to an internal audience. We mainly use Planet eSign for inter-university marketing and individual faculty communications. Planet eSign is particularly useful for highlighting activities at our fresher’s fair as well as promoting our own-branded merchandise at end of year events and displaying information about graduation tickets.

"Planet eSign also supports the live streaming of our graduation ceremonies to a larger audience. It enabled us to present the full day’s schedule on large displays to facilitate the smooth running of the day. Content is changed as the day unfolds, giving useful information and instructions about what to do and where to go next, as well as details of how graduates can keep in touch after graduation.

"Planet eSign’s content and style is currently controlled by our marketing department, setting consistent design across all faculties and both campuses. The marketing team plans to roll out responsibility to faculties once guidelines for branding and message consistency have been finalised. They have found the signage designer to be very intuitive and easy to use, finding that it flows well, with staff picking up the functionality almost immediately, with no challenges for non-technical staff.

When Style Matters

"Planet eStream’s new theming and branding tools could not have come at a better time for the university as it enters an exciting phase of academic restructuring. The tools are a big plus point and will support our move to develop individual identities for each school."

Leeds Beckett University launched the new look and feel of its Planet eStream Media Server in May, to a positive reception. Gareth says, "All who have used it have fed back that it is very intuitive. Our library team use it the most out of all departments, making daily requests for recorded material to add to their archives."

A Lecturer’s View

Hugo Smith, senior lecturer in Broadcast Media Technologies in the Faculty of Arts, Environment and Technology, began using Planet eStream in 2013. He says,

"We use Planet eStream in various ways to enhance teaching and learning and find it particularly useful to archive student work effectively and securely. For example, students on our Journalism BA (Hons) degree course created magazine programmes and uploaded them to Planet eStream, giving them access whenever they needed it but the confidence that they were kept secure, which was important to protect the content.

"My main use of Planet eStream, and where I see its widest benefits, is to create a Leeds Beckett-controlled archive of useful broadcast content. When I see any important broadcast content which I think is educationally relevant, I am able to record it to allow students now and in the future to study the format and execution of the shows. For example, I was watching BBC2’s ‘Who’s the Boss’ and thought a particular episode was interesting for teaching purposes. I was able to use Planet eStream to easily archive the show at the university by simply finding the date and rough time and clicking on the name of the programme, scheduling the recording and included tags so we’re able to find it in the future and also so students can easily find it when they search for subject areas.

"I am exploring the option to use Planet eStream to establish intra-university broadcasts such as an in-house daily current events show to showcase some of the students’ and staff’s excellent work. It would be a great platform to allow us to demonstrate collaborations we’re engaged with and share some of the good work from across the university.

Distance Learning

Jakki Sheridan-Ross, Academic Instructional Designer in Leeds Beckett University’s distance learning Unit explains how Planet eStream enables the university’s distance learning students to seamlessly access course content. "Planet eStream is particularly useful for our distance learning courses and I use the TV recording function regularly. We offer distance learning to countries all over the world and Planet eStream is instrumental in us offering such courses, which are well received by our students.

"I am really pleased with the chapter function that Planet eStream delivers. Being able to add chapters into documentaries means that we can pinpoint the exact section of a programme and embed a link for that section into our Blackboard VLE for students to view. It’s an incredibly valuable function, saving staff and students’ time in finding the precise section we are referring to in our course. We can also now embed YouTube footage into our VLE with Planet eStream’s Blackboard building block. This sets the footage firmly in the context of the subject being taught and reduces potential distractions for our students."

What Next?

Gareth says, "We know that Planet eStream can support far more usage than we currently undertake and we plan to further extend our use of existing and upcoming services in due course. For example, we are in the process of launching Planet eStream Connect which we see as a really useful service, giving us access to BBC Digital and Shakespeare Archives and much more. It represents terrific value for the university and is a feature which will add greatly to the teaching and learning experience.

"We are also interested in being able to create our own interactive quizzes as an additional way to engage our distance learning students. It will help students and staff know if they are ready to move on with the course as well as presenting a more engaging study programme.

"Planet eStream has been extremely supportive throughout my time working with them – they are great to work with, very responsive and always go the extra mile. It’s like talking to a member of my own team, such is their strong partnership approach."