Discovery Education streaming: The Technical Side
Teachers access files from Discovery Education by two primary methods -- streaming and downloading. It's a little like the difference between watching a movie in a theater and buying one on DVD. At a theater, a projector sends a stream of information to a screen. Your eyes decode this information for you on the fly. Images disappear from the screen after you've seen them. This is basically what happens when a video is streamed to your computer.
If you buy a DVD of the movie, though, it's yours to keep. This is more like what happens when you download a file. With Discovery Education streaming, you can stream videos to a classroom computer on demand. Or, you can download them to a computer to play, insert into a presentation or, in some cases, edit.
To stream or download from Discovery Education streaming, you need a computer that has a Web browser, Acrobat reader, and Windows Media Player or Apple QuickTime. Your school needs a site license, which gives you the right to view and use the material. And, you need a connection to the location where the files are hosted. Depending on how your subscription is set up, this can be:
- Discovery Education streaming servers via the Internet
- A network server owned by your school, district or region
There are pros and cons to each of these setups. Downloading videos from Discovery servers is the least expensive option, but streaming video takes up a lot of bandwidth. A home school can get by with a 56k modem, but public and private schools need a high-speed connection. Even with broadband, if lots of teachers are streaming videos at the same time, playback can stutter or even stop.
Downloading the files to a server owned by the school instead of streaming them from the Web can help resolve this issue. Some schools use Network Manager software to contact Discovery servers during off-peak Internet hours and download the videos teachers have requested. The school's server then streams the files to classrooms upon request.
For school systems that plan to use Discovery Education streaming extensively, the best option can be to set up a local host. This is a server that contains the entire Discovery Education streaming library. This server can be set up behind the school system's firewall, providing extra security. Teachers connect to this network server rather than to the Internet to get their files. For large-scale use, school districts can purchase a media server that contains all the Discovery Education streaming Plus files directly from Discovery.
Each of these upgrades adds some expense to the overall package. Site licenses range from about $1,500 to $3,000, depending on grade level and whether the license is for the base package or Discovery Education streaming Plus. Network Manager software is around $300, and local host packages range from $3,000 to $6,000, depending on the configuration. A 9-terabyte Discovery media server with all the Discovery Education streaming Plus titles included is more than $10,000. Some schools can qualify for grants or other funds to help cover the expenses. One such resource is funding from the Microsoft class-action settlement -- you can read more at Discovery's page on the Microsoft settlement.
To a financially strained school system, this can sound like a lot of money -- so what exactly is the benefit of Discovery Education streaming? We'll answer that question on the next page.