we write about the things we build and the things we consume
bridging the online and broadcast worlds could be educational
In my last blog post I talked a bit about how Atlas can help when working with online video metadata and our plans for the near future in this area. Here I would like to expand some of these ideas and think about ways in which Atlas could be developed to meet some exciting new challenges. A powerful feature of Atlas is that it can provide information about resources in both the broadcast and online worlds. One area where this could work especially well is education. Many television and radio stations provide educational programming and online you can find rich resources on many subjects. You can even watch university lectures for free!
Before working at MetaBroadcast I worked at the Open University, an institution famous for its work with the BBC to bring educational programmes to television such as Frozen Planet, Bang Goes the Theory, The Money Programme and of course Coast. They have also been hugely successful at producing online content with over fifty million downloads through iTunesU and also have a popular YouTube presence. The OU is one of many organisations make audiovisual educational content available on the web. Other examples include MIT which has made video recording of many lectures available on its MIT OpenCourseWare site. The web is enabling new educational institutions to spring up too a great example being the Khan Academy which has published over 3,300 videos on a huge variety of subjects. Many other organisations produce educational content for broadcast and for online use. So how could Atlas help?
One thing you will have noticed is that already I have mentioned quite a few places where you can look for content that might help you with your learning goals. Atlas was designed from the ground up to work with multiple data sources. An added advantage it gives is that the data you get out of it is in the same format regardless of the source. Without Atlas if you were working with multiple video sources you would need to work with a collection of different APIs each with their own ways of finding out about content and presenting results. When a new video source is added to Atlas you can make use of the results without necessarily having to change your code. This can mean that it is quicker and cheaper to work with new data sources.
Recently we have been looking into some new data sources that we could bring in to Atlas that might be useful for educational purposes. We already import data from iTunes into Atlas so we have been looking at what would be involved in importing data from iTunesU. Preliminary investigations look good, it may even be possible to import the subjects as topics in the Atlas data model to make finding content by subject relatively straightforward. We also looked at YouTube EDU but this looks slightly more complicated as it is difficult to get a summary of participating accounts from their API.
It would be really exciting to bring in content from lots of other sources too such as the Khan Academy, the OpenCourseWare sites or numerous others. Atlas could then be used to discover content for your favourite subject. It could tell you that a related programme is on television tonight, that a series of lectures is available online or a great podcast can be found on iTunesU. All of this information would be available in one place and in a unified format which is a pretty exciting idea.
Atlas is open source so if you discovered a great source of educational content for example you could write an adapter to bring this data to the platform. You would not need to wait for us to write one. Atlas could be a bridge between the online and broadcast worlds for educational content creating exciting opportunities for new applications and services built on top of it. What would you build?