Adventures in Tech: Video Hosting with WMApps

It’s always nice to discover something that you need right in your own backyard.  I was poking around the Web and on the same day found out that there was a product called “Google Video for Education” and that the product was discontinued. Why discontinue such a valuable and needed service? Well, I found that the answer is that Google supports video hosting right out of Google Drive.

Putting two and two together it dawned on me what a boon that is for e-learning at William & Mary, since every student has a WMApps account … which includes Google Drive … with five gigabytes(!) of storage … and every faculty and staff member can get a WMApps account too, on request…

“Holy cow, we have a captured video streaming solution! And it’s been right here all along!” I shouted as I ran down the hall.

OK, maybe not quite that dramatic, but that’s about how I felt.

Using Google Drive Video Hosting — It’s Easy!

Let me share some features with you. One of the best ones is that Google Drive will encode your video with the same technology and play it in the same player that YouTube uses, but without all the ephemera of YouTube clustered around it.

All you have to do is upload it, which is simple enough on the website, and can be made even easier by installing the Google Drive client on your computer: Then all you need to do is drag it into your Google Drive folder (much like Dropbox and other cloud-storage products), and share it. You can get to the sharing settings right from the Drive client, or you can manage them on the Google Drive website.

Video Sharing Options

Capture

Sharing options for Google video hosting.

Either way, there are some features related to sharing which I also think are pretty exciting.  Sure, you can just make the video “Public” — and that’s the most worry-free method of sharing if you don’t care who sees the material — but if you don’t want it completely public, there are some other very handy options:

Note how two of them are “William & Mary!”  That essentially means “anyone who has a WMApps account, and no one else.” I can see that option getting used a lot. And if you want to share the video with an even smaller number of people — say a class of twelve students — then you can select the “Private” option and specify those students by listing their WMApps accounts.  That’s easy to do since you already know these students’ account names; they’re the same as the students’ email addresses, which are listed in Banner and Blackboard.

Working with Google Video Hosting in Blackboard

Speaking of Blackboard, you can embed a video shared via WMApps in a Blackboard course, but I recommend simply linking to the video from Blackboard. For one, the steps to embed a video in a course page are somewhat convoluted. But the real problem I had with it is that unless the video is “Public on the Web,” the viewer has to be logged in to WMApps and Bb at the same time for the video to display properly — in one set of circumstances, neither the embedded video nor any error showed up at all, leaving a confused user looking at something like “Please watch the video below:” with nothing else on the page. Simply providing a link to the video is far easier, will prompt the user to log in if necessary, and shows the video on a clean, white page (unlike YouTube which surrounds everything with links to cat videos and other distracting ephemera).

I’m planning on putting a set of step-by step instructions up on a page on the e-learning community site — but in the meantime, if you’d like to give this a whirl but you feel like you need a hand, contact your ATS or Academic Tech Support Engineer, or just shoot me an email. Or, just play with it! One of the nice things about this solution is that it’s not overly complicated.  And if you don’t have a WMApps account but would like one, you can request it from support@wm.edu.

About John Drummond

John Drummond is the Academic Engineering and eLearning Manager at the College of William & Mary. Originally from Mathews County, VA, John graduated from James Madison University with a BA in English in 1996 and an MS in Technical and Scientific Communication in 2002, and has been with W&M IT since 2007. In addition to working in AIS, John has taught occasionally at W&M and previously at Tidewater Community College, and in other roles has been an author, a musician, a Perl programmer, a UNIX systems engineer, and a network manager. He resides in Toano with his wife Andrea and daughter Rebekah.