Academic Media Production Services
Academic Media Production Services (AMPS) was formed in July 2001, by merging three groups—Educational Media Creation Center (EMCC), MIT Video Productions (MVP), and Streaming Media and Compression Services (SMCS)—with the intention of creating a single production and service department to support academic educational initiatives at MIT. With a view to providing greater direction to its efforts and to clarify its role in the fabric of educational IT services at MIT, AMPS undertook efforts to formulate its vision, through an extensive process that involved the entire organization. The vision is articulated below:
Academic Media Production Services is recognized as the vendor of choice for MIT's educational technology projects, in support of MIT's strategic goals.
- Services—AMPS offers an extensive suite of cost competitive services ranging from a single camera video shoot to the design, production, and delivery of complex educational programs.
- Customers—Our mission at AMPS is to serve the faculty, staff, departments, laboratories, centers, and schools at MIT, as well as mission-critical Institute initiatives. We engage with our customers in ways that make it easy for them to interact with us.
- Organization—AMPS is a professional organization, with a clarity defined and unified by the services we provide. As an MIT service provider, we are in close proximity to our customers.
- Technology—AMPS delivers reliable and sustainable high-value solutions, through its understanding of the user experience at MIT, through its leadership in the application of multimedia technology and distance education methodologies, and through dedicated, knowledgeable technology experts.
- People—We believe that respect for others and taking pride and responsibility in our work serve as the foundations for service excellence.
AMPS strives to be the exemplar services organization at MIT in support of MIT's educational technology efforts through delivering a rich complement of services that include:
- Production (videography), coding/programming, web site building, media coordination, file compression, teleconferencing and videoconferencing, video editing, audio processing, webcasting, CD-ROM and DVD authoring and duplication
- Graphic and instructional design, as well as design of classroom facilities
- Project management, including scope planning and cost analysis
- Pedagogical consulting and outreach including educational assessment (formative and summative)
- Testing for quality assurance, usability, and accessibility
- Support planning, deployment, and educational assessment (formative and summative)
To meet its goal, AMPS employs a professional staff of web and graphic designers, instructional designers, educators, pedagogical consultants, videographers, video editors, streaming media specialists, project managers, programmers, teleconferencing specialists, and writers.
An Advisory Board, chaired by Professor Steven R. Lerman and appointed by the provost, provides strategic guidance to AMPS and assesses its value in supporting MIT's educational technology initiatives. The Advisory Board met twice. In addition to general progress reporting, there were focused discussions on the areas of digital technology and streaming media services, course/learning management systems, and the service business model.
AMPS undertook a restructuring effort during the final months of the previous fiscal year in order to align its organization with its service mission. The restructuring was based on feedback from existing and potential customers, on imperatives from its cost-recovery mandate, on the need to develop and deliver reliable technologies, and on aspirations and development objectives of its nearly 40 staff members. This restructuring was consolidated during the current year, and aligned closer with service delivery through initiatives such as the development of the AMPS vision. The operational units that emerged were:
- Web Tools and Operations
- Digital Technologies and Streaming Operations
- MIT Video Productions and DE Facilities
- Educational Design and Development
- Project Management
- Financial Operations and Administrative Support
In its second year of operation as a unified department, AMPS has also continued to extend its reach and increase its visibility to the MIT community, and has taken steps in shaping the organization as a cost efficient and competitive service provider. These include:
- Developing a high-performance team with competencies in multimedia, project management, distance education operations, video acquisition, digital and streaming technologies, and web content, and adding leadership and depth to its business team
- Implementing improved business processes and systems, e.g., billing systems, project management database, and an activity-based accounting system
- Standardizing services offered (services, price lists, outreach, and support)
- Aligning client-facing and back-end activities with other service organizations, i.e. Academic Computing, Web Communication Services, the Libraries, and OCW
- Building partnerships with other support organizations, i.e. IS for infrastructure (storage, backup, recovery); Libraries for archiving (Dspace) and Academic Computing for support
- Communicating internally to AMPS and externally to the MIT community.
AMPS has designed and operates cutting edge facilities for a variety of functions including video production, streaming media and compression, distance learning classrooms, and also the New Media Center for the MIT community.
AMPS provides services to the entire MIT community. StellarTM and Distance Education classrooms support MIT education across departments, laboratories, and centers. Some of the specific initiatives supported by AMPS include the following: SMA (Singapore-MIT Alliance), Technology and Development Program for their project with the Malaysian University of Science and Technology (MUST), Sloan School of Management, Cambridge-MIT Institute, Museum Loan Network, Pfizer (online teaching tools) through CAES and HST, Open Knowledge Initiative, OpenCourseWare, TEAL (Technology Enabled Active Learning; Physics 8.02), Center for Advanced Educational Services (CAES), and, iCampus (TEAL, Collaboration Toolbox).
Sample Metrics: Deliverables by AMPS
The Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA) has evolved from an innovative distance learning experiment to a mature and stable program. As the technology production partner to SMA, AMPS has facilitated that transformation through improved production and service processes, technology innovation, and cost efficiencies. SMA continues to be the largest strategic client for AMPS, and business from this project covers nearly 40 percent of the AMPS budget.
AMPS' scope was to deliver high-quality and robust production services in support of 5 programs, 50 courses, 100 faculty members, and 190 students, including over 1,500 hours of live beaming for classes taught by MIT faculty. Wherever possible, AMPS has leveraged its relationship with other educational technology initiatives at MIT to accrue tangible benefits to the SMA program. For example, AMPS facilitated the collaborative development of a state of the art Research Interaction Station (RIS) between SMA, the Department of Chemical Engineering, and the MIT-Dupont Alliance.
AMPS has introduced innovations in the SMA project that have both increased efficiencies and added value to the program. As examples, AMPS has:
- Reduced lecture delivery set-up and testing time from 60 to 30 minutes
- Implemented Stellar interface to vastly simplify course account administration, and eliminate platform support service
- Created a calendar for centralized display of all synchronous event information, resulting in increased coordination of MIT and Singapore production teams, as well as direct SMA administrative control over scheduling operations
- Completed the latest generation of Research Interaction Station (RIS). This state-of-the-art meeting room can be used for lecture origination, research interactions, multi-media presentations, and one-to-one videoconferencing.
- Cooperatively developed and deployed a customized secure web-accessible network monitoring system for detecting network issues before initiating a connection; allows reversion to ISDN without any disruption of class
- Developed and implemented a user interface and back-end system for rapid, low-cost indexed access to lectures
- Implemented survey tool (beta) for paperless questionnaires to students and faculty, with shared development charges
- Developed and implemented a custom locker system for the Room 8-404 laptop lab
AMPS has demonstrated its agility in handling unexpected circumstances: the Summer 2002 Immersion production requirements, and the Computer Science curriculum shift towards field production, were two such instances. Ongoing enhancements include investigating and prototyping a graphic input interface for lecture annotation for enhanced asynchronous delivery, and integrating an on-demand video server lecture listing with Stellar for consistent access control and security, and enhanced lecture access.
MIT Video Productions (MVP), headed by Lawrence Gallagher, is MIT's on-campus resource for the production of educational, promotional, and research video programs; distance learning delivery, video conferencing, videobridging, multi-media production, and live broadcasting.
During the past year MVP met an increased demand for lecture delivery and acquisition, in support of MIT's growing distance education initiatives. During the spring term MVP supported the content acquisition and delivery of an unprecedented 36 courses. Our course delivery clients include SMA, SDM, MUST, CMI, OCW, WHOI, and the Departments of Math and Physics. To meet this demand MVP created two portable remote controlled "rapid deployment systems" that allow us to make multicamera recordings in classrooms throughout the Institute with minimal set up time and technical support. Clayton Hainsworth joined the team as a videoconferencing assistant.
MVP's production team produced many new programs including an orientation video for MIT's Human Resources Department, a CD ROM highlighting research at the Institute for the Alumni Association, an interactive CD to increase student awareness and risk management of date rape, and an overview of the Arts at MIT that has been widely distributed on DVD.
The production team also provided ongoing video documentation of MIT special events including several lecture series, Commencement, Tech Day events, Enterprise Forum, etc. Many of these programs were produced for and distributed by MIT World, and viewed by MIT alumni and friends around the globe.
MVP continues to improve its production and delivery infrastructure in order to capitalize on advancements in video compression and delivery. Programs can be simultaneously delivered via high bandwidth broadcast satellite, point to point fiber, local cable, compressed video teleconferencing, or webcast directly to the desktop. Our Commencement exercises are enjoyed by thousands of viewers locally and throughout the world via any one or combinations of these technologies.
MVP remains committed to supporting MIT's pubic relations and outreach efforts. We produced several new video "research briefs" in partnership with the News Office and the School of Engineering. Media outlets and electronic journalists continue to access MIT faculty and researchers for interviews via our studio medialink technology.
MVP also provides significant support to high profile press events, building dedications, ground breakings, research center dedications, retirement celebrations, etc. Examples include the Broad Institute press event, the Zesiger Center and Simmons Hall dedications, and the Institute of Soldier Nanotechnologies opening. We provide support in staging and documenting these events and often produce programming that is shown at the events.
Digital Technologies and Streaming Operations
Under the direction of David Mycue, Digital Technologies and Streaming Operations (DTSO) (formerly known as Streaming Media and Compression Services or SMCS) continued to address its mission to support efficient, high-quality production of cutting-edge, rich media for MIT faculty and academic programs. DTSO also provided support for MIT clients using video and audio digitization; compression and hosting in a variety of formats such as MPEG-2, MPEG-1, RealMedia, Windows Media and QuickTime; as well as production and distribution of digital video content over the Internet. DTSO will also explore digital multimedia technology options to find innovative service choices. Robert Sikkema, an experienced technical manager, joined towards the end of this year.
DTSO continues to develop and implement sophisticated, new multimedia features of metadata-tagging, segmentation, and automated media linking and synchronization in parallel with increasing the efficiency and scalability of existing operations.
The Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA) remains the most resource-intensive project, requiring coordination with staff in Singapore to ensure smooth operation. AMPS provides support for Internet2-based videoconferencing, physical infrastructure renovations, and development of new systems for synchronous and asynchronous access to course materials.
Similar work for the Technology and Development Program project with the Malaysian University of Science and Technology has grown to an average of 10 complete courses per semester.
Mid-sized projects that require 10–100 hours of content continue to represent the fastest growing segment of our work. OpenCourseWare is notable among these in scale, internal, and external visibility, and ongoing service requirements, which are expected to grow. Other projects include ongoing work on the Good Clinical Practices and Fungal Infections projects with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals; the VLSI seminar series, the ILP conference series and increasing work with the Whitehead Institute in both on-demand streaming and multimedia projects. The number of smaller projects from I-Campus, the Sloan school, LCS and other departments also continues to increase.
Webcasting has grown to an average of nearly one event per week, ranging from small audiences (10 to 100 viewers) to large (2000+ viewers). This includes the Technology and Culture Forum series and such annual events as the Sloan 50k contest, the Mission 200X series, and the 2.007 finals. The webcast of MIT's Commencement exercises remains the largest and most complex event of the year, requiring substantial preparation and coordination. Considerable savings were realized for this year's commencement webcast by utilizing only MIT resources, and leveraging technology to successfully reach the geographically disparate audience.
Web Tools and Operations
Headed by Craig Counterman, the Web Tools and Operations (WTO) group provides the technical and operational assistance for the development and deployment of a range of web-based tools that provide learning management functionality such as Stellar, MIT's online web-based course management system. These tools include collaboration as well as capabilities for version control and web site administration. This group, which provides technical integration with MIT infrastructure services, quality assurance and testing as well as technical support, was augmented this year with the addition of two experienced programmers, Gongqin Li and Dana Lashway.
Course/Learning Management Systems
Stellar usage quadrupled over the previous year, with over 189 courses on Stellar for the fall 2002 semester, and over 260 courses on Stellar for the spring 2003 semester. WTO working in conjunction with Academic Computing/IS released Stellar version 1.4 in January 2003. Stellar 1.4 incorporated critical features such as a mechanism for homework submission and management, tools for customizing navigation and an enhanced user interface, features that faculty had asked for and have found useful. A tool for electronic dissemination of reserved reading material, e-Reserves was released in version 1.4 in collaboration with MIT Libraries. Additionally, Stellar is the core academic and administrative delivery platform for key educational programs such as the Singapore/MIT Alliance and the Technology Development Program's support to the Malaysia University for Science and Technology. MIT's investment in efforts to move Stellar from a development project, to a product to a sustainable service—including investments in quality assurance, testing, infrastructure, support systems, usability, and documentation—have insured a reliable production, delivery and support environment for Stellar users.
Stellar 1.5 now being readied for fall 2003, will include a number of features and enhancements, based on feedback from users of versions 1.3 and 1.4: these will include a utility to copy materials between Stellar sites; the pilot for a tool to manage sections within large classes; the ability to email individuals or an entire class from within Stellar sites; and improved access to world-readable materials. In the year ahead, Stellar's ability to provide a tightly integrated and sustainable platform for supporting MIT education will be extended through incorporation of new tools built at MIT or borrowed from collaborating institutions, improved links to SIS and through more modular design. Many of these enhancements and extensions will be enabled as a consequence of the architecture and work products of the Open Knowledge Initiative.
Stellar continues to evolve, and will provide services to a growing number of classes during the coming year. There is a release schedule defined till the end of 2004, including version 1.6 to be released for spring 2004, and version 2.0 to be released for fall 2004.
Stellar support has changed with the transition of Stellar from a development project to a production service. FY2003 saw significant unification of support team processes across AMPS and IS led by the Academic Computing Support Team (ACST). Active exploration to integrate Stellar course information with the Registrar's SIS system to Stellar is being piloted. Collaboration to insure adherence with MIT student privacy regulations is ongoing.
Unified strategy with OpenCourseWare
The unified approach has catalyzed the AMPS-OCW relationship, and given it renewed vigor and focus. Consequently, the teams have been encouraged by the very positive joint meetings with faculty and department heads. Stellar has become a key content acquisition vehicle for OCW. Work was completed on a tool to export Stellar content to OCW's content management system format. Faculty members can build course material interactively with Stellar and have their work moved as a batch to the input workflow of OCW's web publication process.
Educational Design and Development Group
The Educational Design and Development Group (EDDG) develops and customizes software solutions to suit particular models of learning and instruction, including integration with enterprise-wide solutions. Its approach is to assist faculty in determining the most appropriate technology to serve instructional goals, without trying to fit teaching around a particular product. Services include the following:
- Instructional design
- Web Site design including graphic, conceptual, interaction, information, and user interface design
- HTML coding
- Multimedia programming (Flash, Macromedia Director)
- Technical writing and copy editing
EDDG works with other educational technology support personnel at MIT to align and leverage services wherever possible. It collaborates with OCW, the MIT Libraries, and the Academic Computing Support Team, and is an integral part of the Educational Technology Partners group. It also assists faculty in evaluating different instructional multimedia packages and resources, including those provided by AMPS or other organizations. Margaret Meehan joined this team as web content writer and content editor. This group is principally guided by Katie Livingston Vale and Nishikant Sonwalkar.
Web Site and Multimedia Development
This group has worked on a variety of projects over the past year, including the Stellar system; the SMA, OKI, Museum Loan Network, and EdTech Fair web sites; a web-based course on Chemical Hygiene for EHS; illustrations and animations for faculty from several academic and research departments; a CD-ROM-based version of the 2002 Reports to the President for the Reference Publications Office; and ongoing support of the New Media Center, a self-service multimedia creation facility open to the entire MIT community.
Project Management Group
The Project Management Group (PMG) builds client relationships, helps allocate resources, and acts as the single point of client contact. The group also works on implementing project management best practices within AMPS units, and building and deploying a project management database. The PGM is principally guided by Mark Brown.
Other Support for Distance Learning
The PGM and the EDDG continue to provide significant coordination for the broadening needs of the Singapore-MIT Alliance, while continuing to identify and implement new technologies for the delivery of educational content. The SMA website has grown from an informational marketing site into a platform integrated with operational activities and program information management. These two groups have assisted this transition through continued refinement of web site architecture, and the custom development of administrative tools for centralized information management. In addition to providing training and support for the participating faculty, Help Desk functions were provided for all, including Singaporean faculty and the MIT-SMA Office. AMPS continues to improve the quality of the distance learning experience for both professors and students in MIT and Singapore through focused attention on the various elements of synchronous and asynchronous delivery of material, as well as faculty support.
Financial Operations and Administrative Liaison Unit
Headed by William Fitzgerald, this unit has continued to provide strong financial and accounting support to AMPS operational units.
Financial and Business Support
The focus this year was completing the implementation of an activity-based costing and accounting system, leading to a better understanding of the financial impact of business decisions. Operational enhancements included monthly financial meetings with unit managers, new business models for videoconferencing SLA's, revised tracking and billing databases for all business units, and an asset management tracking system. In addition, the team worked on a new service catalogue, which is expected to be published during fall 2003. The team was augmented by the addition of Jennifer Silvey, who transferred to this team as the financial assistant.
Administrative Support and Facilities Management
This unit implemented a new Human Resources vacation tracking database, supported a streamlined hiring process, and made further refinements to the facilities support model, including developing AMPS backup resources for response to standard and emergency building issues. Corinne Butler joined this year as a senior office assistant.
Space Planning and Utilization
This unit initiated space and facility projects to improve space utilization. It assumed responsibility for supervision of desktop support and coordinated services coverage with IS and AMPS resources at no cost to AMPS. This unit convened meetings around shared facilities with other building occupants (i.e. 9-045 server room, storage areas, etc.), and led efforts to share other building resources and formalized the accounting and chargeback of common building expenses. It led the effort to relocate AMPS staff as part of a larger Ed Tech space management effort.
In FY2004, AMPS will continue to strengthen its position at MIT as the vendor of choice for MIT's educational technology projects, in support of MIT's strategic goals. The prime connection to the Institute's strategic plan is to intelligently demonstrate to clients how their engagement with AMPS is a solid investment in getting their work done more efficiently through the use of IT and educational technology.
Key initiatives for FY2004 and beyond continue to be as follows:
- Develop and implement Stellar as MIT's platform for online educational resources. AMPS will continue to direct its efforts towards moving Stellar from a development project to a mature product and sustainable service. This entails providing quality assurance and testing for performance and usability; wiring to OKI services for integration with enterprise systems such as SIS and DSpace, as well as interoperability with other educational tools created at MIT and elsewhere. AMPS will continue to collaborate with Academic Computing and OCW to advance information about and implementation of Stellar.
- Identify, develop, and acquire solution and service options to meet the programmatic needs of customers. AMPS sees three types of clients: the large Institute-wide initiatives, the Schools and departments, and individual faculty members. The department's approach to offering solution and service options includes partnering with other key infrastructure organizations such as IS and the Libraries. AMPS will also promote usage, knowledge sharing and transfer across clients such as SMA, MUST, and CMI.
- Develop, operate and manage media-enabled teaching and learning spaces. With the goal of improved support of innovative educational practices, AMPS continues to consult on and provide responsive, flexible technology solutions. AMPS will deploy new video capture methods such as rapid deployment systems through MVP, as well as provide assistance in designing and building state-of-the-art videoconferencing facility such as the one created in 66-319 and support requirements of the Stata Center.
- Identify the appropriate service model and metrics. This involves clarity and communication on services offered as well as benchmarking AMPS' processes against industry standards, such as the ISO 9001, SEI-CMM, and Malcolm Baldridge models.
- Advance the unified strategy for supporting faculty's educational technology needs. AMPS will continue to promote alignment with partner organizations for providing support as well as for investing in performance monitoring systems and improvement tools and processes.
More information about the Academic Media Production Services can be found at http://web.mit.edu/amps/.