Videostreaming offers streamlining and flexibility for Kettering's graduate program

Videostreaming offers streamlining and flexibility for Kettering's graduate program

Mar 15, 2002

Herb Dahn is a kind of historian when reminiscing about Kettering's initial attempts at offering distance education for graduate students through VHS tape.

Herb Dahn is a kind of historian when reminiscing about Kettering's initial attempts at offering distance education for graduate students through VHS tape. His archaic sense of things gone by is not lost on his colleagues in the University's Video and Satellite Operations Dept.

Dahn, a senior video production technician and chief photographer for the University, was in his 16th year at GMI/Kettering in 1982 when his department established a video tape distance learning program for graduate students employed by General Motors Corp. (GM).

"Back then, this was all new to GMI/Kettering," he explained. "We implemented this distance learning program for one class-Accounting-and shipped seven or eight tapes to GM plants for the education of their employees. The GM people were enthused about the program and it has grown from there."

One of the guiding principals and marketing niches behind the development of a video tape distance graduate education program in 1982 was the flexibility it offered students who were employed full-time in engineering, individuals who were unable to attend a tradition program of study. The result: Kettering's distance learning program allowed graduate students to individualize their schedules to accommodate the viewing of taped classes as they worked toward their master's degree.

Today, Kettering's Video and Satellite Operations Dept. still delivers programs through VHS tape for more than 50 graduate courses, uses more than 200 VCRs to record all necessary tapes and produces roughly 600-800 tapes each week. But with the ever-changing world of technology and its impact on the delivery of distance learning opportunities comes newer and more efficient ways of doing things.

To meet the growing needs of graduate students and demands for delivering a high quality education through distance learning mechanisms, a group of faculty and staff formed the Video Streaming Task Force to look into the idea of streaming courses through the Internet and compact disc.

WANT TO SEE A SAMPLE class by Atul Agarwal, associate professor of Operations Management/Information Systems and director of Kettering's GM/Delphi Program, CLICK ON:

WON'T WORK? Download a free RealOne Player link at: is a free option - at the bottom of the page, in the center)

This task force includes Dahn, Donna Wicks, course delivery technologies specialist, Atul Agarwal, associate professor of Operations Management/Information Systems and director of Kettering's GM/Delphi Program, Video Production Specialists Nick Ondusky and Brian Beck, Tracey Rodgerson, assistant manager, and Ann Snyder, senior video technician. These individuals, working in concert with Kettering's Graduate Office, believe the latest enhancements to the distance learning graduate program will help define Kettering's efforts and prepare the department for new and improved ways of delivering courses in the future.

Two of Kettering's biggest proponents for these efforts are Tony Hain, vice president of Graduate Studies and Extension Services at Kettering, and Don Guthrie, a 1966 graduate of the institution and the current chief information officer. For Guthrie, video streaming represents an important element of Kettering's information technology strategic initiatives the University is currently pursuing.

Last year, on the suggestion of Hain, Atul Agarwal, who teaches graduate courses to GM and Delphi employees, attended what is called the GM TEP Education Program 2001 Academic Partnership Conference in June 2001 to learn how to better use technology for course delivery. Agarwal was thrilled to participate.

"We spent several years researching the use of the Internet for delivering course material before we adopted the use of Blackboard (a web-based course delivery software)," he said. "Every institution that attended the GM conference was well ahead of Kettering in terms of online delivery. It made me realize that Kettering needed to do video streaming on the web.

This, along with the support of Tony Hain and Don Guthrie, made it easier for the task group to brainstorm how to implement the use of new technology, such as the ability to record or 'burn' class sessions on CD." Agarwal also said that based on the GM conference and a visit to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the task force realized that they could conduct online education programs at a cost that is less expensive than they first believed. "We're very surprised at how quickly and economically we were able to begin online video streaming and recording classes on CD," he said.

Donna Wicks, who is also a member of the team and in charge of the software and hardware applications of Kettering's new online video streaming, agrees with Agarwal. Wicks was hired in 2001 to oversee the use of Blackboard. Some of her new responsibilities included working closely with Nick Ondusky and Brian Beck to make sure video streaming was technically feasible. This required Tracey Rodgerson to schedule Video Operations staff creatively to provide enough time for Ondusky and Beck to assist Wicks with video streaming activities.

As a result, Kettering was able to implement new software and technology in three months instead of the half-year or more many team members presumed it would take to incorporate these new resources. The team purchased an encoder box and storage server, and software called Real Producer and Real Server, which allow Kettering to stream video recorded class sessions onto the Internet or through compact disc.

"We spent roughly $12,000, which is extremely economical when one considers the amount of money used by other schools to do the same thing," Wicks explained. She also added that students "like to receive class sessions on CD, which is a low-cost method for course delivery." Currently, CDs cost .30 cents per disc, compared to $1-$2 for tapes.

The results of the team's work are impressive. Today, the Video and Satellite Operations Dept. streams Agarwal's Statistical Methods for Managerial Decisions (MGT-621) and Regina Greenwood's Management (MGT-631) courses for graduate students onto the Internet. In addition, Video and Satellite Operations burns 36 compact discs each week for Agarwal's Data Analysis for Manufacturing Applications (MFGO-621) for GM/Delphi employees. Thus, students can now receive classes recorded onto CDs each week and view them in the privacy of their own home. These enhancements, coupled with the continued availability of VHS tapes, provide students with greater flexibility and choice when selecting which media they wish to use.

The entire group believes these advancements will pave the way for even greater things in the future. Some of their plans include producing an increased number of CDs, offering more graduate classes through the Internet, conducting real time web casts and live streaming with what Nick Ondusky describes as "synchronized multiple screen presentations for lectures."

And for Agarwal and the rest of the team, these developments help put Kettering on a technological par with leading institutions already in the game. "One of the outcomes of the June 2001 conference of GM Partner schools," he said, "is this: if you want to be in the online education industry, you need multiple methods and modes of course delivery to compete. Now we have even more ways of making sure students can earn a graduate degree at Kettering University from the comfort of their home or office."

To learn more about Kettering's work to enhance Graduate Studies, contact the Office of Graduate Studies at (810) 762-7953, or visit the web site at

A historical look at Kettering's course delivery via the Internet

The use of the Internet and World Wide Web in delivering graduate courses was initiated at Kettering about four years ago. The pioneer was Steven Aylor of Manufacturing Engineering, who first delivered an Internet-based course (MFGE 682: Automation Topics for Management) in 1998. This course was followed in 1999 by Winston Erevelles of Manufacturing Engineering with MFGE 680: Computer Integrated Manufacturing, and Paul Rossler of Industrial Engineering with IE 613: Manufacturing Resource Planning. All three courses were part of the master's of science degree in Manufacturing Management.

In 1999, four faculty members shared a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to convert four courses in the masters of science in Engineering-Manufacturing Engineering specialty program to Internet delivery. Stefanka Chukova of the Science and Mathematics Dept. ran MATH 601: Advanced Engineering Mathematics I in the fall of 2000. In addition W.L. Scheller of Manufacturing Engineering, conducted MFGE 601: Fundamentals of Manufacturing Engineering that same term. Srinivas Chakravarthy of the Industrial Engineering Dept. followed these courses during the winter 2001 term with IE 643: Stochastic Models in Operations Research, as did David Clark of Industrial Engineering, who taught IE 562: Safety and Human Factors.

Currently, W.L. Scheller and David Clark are working on a follow-up proposal for Sloan Foundation support to integrate virtual laboratory experiences, including streaming video, into the Internet versions of their respective courses.

Written by Gary J. Erwin
(810) 762-9538



ESTABLISHED:1982; first distance course delivered in 1983/1984
VIDEO TAPES CREATED:600-800 each week
CDS CREATED:36 for Manufacturing Operations 621
Management 621: Statistical Methods for Managerial
Decisions and Management 631: Management
FUTURE GOALS:Increased number of CDs, classes and opportunities
to conduct real time web casts and live streaming with multi screen
presentation for classroom