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Video Streaming Technology Enables Closer Distance Learning

Video streaming technology from VBrick Systems helps Indian River Community College students utilize IT to attend class remotely.

CIO Paul O'Brien has tens of thousands of remote users who need 24/7 access to information. Indian River Community College (IRCC) in Fort Pierce, Fla., has nearly 30,000 "nontraditional" students, such as stay-at-home parents and working professionals, who need flexible and distance-learning options. So O'Brien's central task is to provide the infrastructure for the kind of virtual campus that educational institutions of all sizes are striving to create. "The majority of our students will never set foot in a campus building," says O'Brien. "So we needed an infrastructure to deliver online and media-based learning."

In 2005, O'Brien learned about VBrick Systems Inc.'s video streaming technology, which allows students to attend a class remotely online or download the class later with video on demand. "The interface reminded me of TiVo," says O'Brien, so he was confident that students would find the technology user-friendly. VBrick also enables students to view classes in chunks of time, where they can watch 15 minutes of a session, then come back to "class" later. Now students are more engaged while attending a session, "instead of being in furious note-taking mode," says O'Brien.

To date, about 5% of courses are available in streaming format, though O'Brien hopes to bring remote classes institution-wide in the future. O'Brien is also considering VBrick as IRCC's emergency alert system to deliver information to students via cell phone and computer.

There are drawbacks, of course; webcasts can be bandwidth hogs, so IRCC may need to lay additional fiber to accommodate expanding online options.

But for now, the technology has helped fulfill a CIO mandate to facilitate access to education according to students' schedules -- and in formats that reinforce true learning. "We've developed courseware that's no longer one-size-fits-all," says O'Brien. "It's much more integrated into a student's life." Problem solved.

Lauren Horwitz, former managing editor, production, for CIO Decisions, is now managing editor for TechTarget's Data Center Media Group. Write to her at

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