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KAUST Exemplifies How Universities Can Benefit from Proactive Technological Adaptation

May 31, 2022

The decade-plus partnership between Sonic Foundry and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) exemplifies the value that forward-thinking organizations can derive from consistent and collaborative technological adaptation.

KAUST’s extensive application of Sonic Foundry’s Mediasite video management platform as well as its creative integration of Mediasite with other state-of-the-art video and LMS systems is helping to set a new global standard for video technology in research and academic institutions.

Founded in 2009 and located north of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast, KAUST is among the top science and technology research centers in the world. With nearly 100 classrooms, 250 conference rooms, and a variety of specialized lecture theatres, auditoriums, and media studios, the university possesses an impressive and highly versatile infrastructure, the vast majority of which is equipped with Mediasite video capture and management technology.

The university’s extensive implementation of Mediasite reflects a top-down organizational commitment to excellence, progress, and adaptation that goes back to its founding era.

KAUST was an early leader in the use of online video capture technology. Nearly a year prior to its opening – and while much of the university’s physical infrastructure was still under construction – KAUST invested in a large bundle of Mediasite equipment to enable video capture in over 75 classrooms and conference rooms. At the time, this deployment was among the most extensive academic video projects in the world and helped to set a new standard for video technology in academic institutions in the region and around the world.

As with most forward-thinking organizations, KAUST’s utilization of video has evolved considerably since 2009. Originally reliant on mobile media centers that moved from location to location as needed, KAUST has installed permanent video capture technology and accessory systems including video walls, instructor control stations, and digital whiteboards in most of its classrooms. As digital flipboards became more popular, KAUST utilized Mediasite recorders’ multi-input system to simultaneously capture both live lectures and any associated presentation content, which allowed remote students to access the exact same content as students attending lectures in person.

The university has also integrated its Mediasite platform with a variety of other products and systems, including Zoom, DaVinci, Blackboard, and AI-enabled camera tracking to create a seamless and multi-dimensional technology experience for students and faculty.

For instance, the Mediasite/Blackboard integration has provided students with easy, on-demand access to video-based course materials and classroom sessions that they can access through the university’s single sign-on portal.

Successful implementation of these system enhancements and integrations was facilitated by close collaboration between KAUST’s IT team and Sonic Foundry’s customer service team.

KAUST’s Classroom and Collaboration Team helped to drive the evolution of the university’s technological infrastructure and its implementation of Mediasite video capture systems. In a recent interview, Nishad Muhammed (Classroom and Collaboration Lead) and Raymundo Macaraya (Mediasite Subject Matter Expert) offered more details: “When we started back in 2009, it was a standalone server that was handling all this functionality. But when we moved to Mediasite 7, we decided to go for high availability.”

Today, KAUST’s server system includes a load balancer, separate media and web servers, a transcoding server, and network access storage capabilities.

The hosting capacity of this system has enabled KAUST to offer on-demand access to more than 4,000 high-quality classroom session videos. In 2021, the university took another important step forward by outfitting over twenty classrooms with Mediasite pro recorders.

KAUST’s emphasis on forward-thinking adaptation also helped to pave the way for effective responses to changing conditions and unexpected challenges.

When the COVID-19 pandemic compelled universities and other organizations around the world to rapidly implement remote communication systems, KAUST had a plan in place to leverage Mediasite as part of its response to the pandemic environment.

In early 2020, the Classroom and Collaboration team worked with Academic Department to develop detailed plans for a transition to online and remote learning, which proved crucial when the KAUST community’s consumption of video content skyrocketed from 1TB per year to nearly 1TB per month over the course of 2020-21.

“KAUST was among the first universities in the region to adopt Mediasite for the recording of lectures and meetings,” explains KAUST’s IT Services Manager Larry G. Fayad. “As Covid-19 hit around 2 years ago, this technology helped us to record lectures and classroom sessions, and share the content with remote students, hence avoiding disruption to one of the core functions of KAUST.”

As the community’s video usage continued to climb, KAUST’s IT Department and Provost Office encouraged the Classroom and Collaboration Team to develop ideas for how to maximize the value of the university’s video technology systems. Based on the team’s recommendations, the university elected to capture video of all classrooms by default – and the community was thrilled with the new level of freedom and flexibility enabled by on-demand access to all classroom sessions.

Throughout its history, KAUST has embraced a set of core values that have integrated effectively with the pace of technological progress and evolution.

At every opportunity, the university has moved quickly to upgrade its technological infrastructure and to integrate new technologies as they hit the market. KAUST’s application of the Mediasite platform as the core component of this infrastructure exemplifies the visionary and highly adaptive application of learning technologies that many modern universities and research institutions are striving to achieve.

 


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