FAQ

Here is a list of some common questions about Mediathread. For more detailed information about features, see CCNMTL’s Mediathread help documentation (note some information may be specific to Columbia University). Developers are also welcome to browse and post questions on the Mediathread Google Groups forum.

Q: How do I run Mediathread at my institution?

A: Mediathread is a Django application; its code is open source and published on Github. Institutions are welcome to install and run their own instances. However, this takes local technical support. Those who lack this may wish to consider a software-as-service company for Mediathread hosting services (see Partners for more details).

Q: How can I try Mediathread before deciding whether to run it?

A: Columbia University has set up a sandbox site for persons interested in getting a better sense of Mediathread features. Contact ccnmtl-mediathread@columbia.edu to request login credentials for access.

Q: How does the Mediathread bookmarklet work?

A: The Mediathread bookmarklet is javascript code that seeks content and metadata on external websites and places them into Mediathread. Mediathread does not host or make copies of videos / images / audio brought in by a bookmarklet: it merely embeds these files in a course-specific platform where they can be shared, annotated, clipped, and referenced in compositions and discussions.

Q: Which sites interoperate with the Mediathread bookmarklet?

A: The bookmarklet works with a range of websites, including open sites such as YouTube and Flickr as well as authorized-only sites such as ARTstor and institutional Kaltura collections. Mediathread’s list of supported sites grows when the bookmarklet is custom-developed to find and embed content. When setting up a Mediathread site, an instructor can select from a list of supported sites to recommend to students.

Q: Will the Mediathread bookmarklet work with a website not listed as supported?

A: The bookmarklet’s ability to find content on websites depends on how these site are coded. In general, if a site is structured with standard elements and embedding of its content is not blocked, the bookmarklet stands a chance of working without custom development. More information about media support in Mediathread is on Github.

Q: Is it possible to upload video / images / audio directly into Mediathread?

A: Mediathread has been conceived and developed as an annotation layer that interoperates with content stored elsewhere. At Columbia University, instructors may opt to enable ‘direct upload’ in Mediathread -- essentially an upload utility that feeds media embeds into Mediathread via a CCNMTL media management workflow. Without custom integration with local media management, users must upload content to external services (such as YouTube or Flickr) and then bookmarklet it into Mediathread.

Q: How visible are annotations in Mediathread?

A: Mediathread was conceived as a collective workspace. By default, any collected item and any annotation on an item is visible to all members of a Mediathread course. However, an instructor may opt to toggle this default state off, and restrict visibility of annotations. In that case, a student will only be able to see her own annotations, as well as any made by an instructor in the course.

Q: How visible are compositions in Mediathread?

A: When saving compositions, students may choose between several levels of visibility: Draft (composition is only visible to its editor(s)), Instructor Only, Whole Class. Additionally, an instructor may choose to enable a Publish to the World option, in which case a composition may be saved with a URL that makes it viewable by persons outside a class.

Q: Is it possible to export a Mediathread annotation or composition?

A: Currently, all selections, annotations, compositions, and discussions in Mediathread are not exportable beyond the Mediathread platform. The capacity to export work out of Mediathread, however, is a frequent request, and this functionality is on the development roadmap at Columbia.

Q: What is the difference between an assignment response and a composition?

A: Instructors in Mediathread may choose to save compositions as assignments with due dates; responses to assignments are connected and tracked in Mediathread. Instructor Feedback may also be attached to assignment responses. Aside from such linkage, responses are much like regular Mediathread compositions. Both are written in a WYSIWYG authoring space, with selections of media available to insert at the click of a button.

Q: Can compositions in Mediathread be group authored?

A: Any number of members of a Mediathread site may be added as authors to a composition. Authors have equal editing access to a composition. Note that while Mediathread compositions are automatically saved and versioned, Mediathread does not currently support synchronous collaborative editing ala Google Docs.

Q: Does Mediathread feature a discussion board?

A: Yes. An instructor may create a threaded discussion topic, which will appear on the home page. Once a discussion is created, any member of the site may see and participate in it. Discussion post authoring is similar to composition authoring: a WYSIWYG editing area next to insertable selections of media.

Q: What is a Course Vocabulary?

A: Mediathread supports free-form tagging of items and selections of items. An instructor may also choose to enable a Course Vocabulary for more controlled and regular tagging. A Course Vocabulary consists of concepts (eg. ‘time’) and a list of terms related to that concept (eg. ‘17th century’, ‘18th century’, ‘19th century’ etc). If a Course Vocabulary is created, members of a Mediathread course may browse terms from a dropdown list and attach them to media selections, in addition to free-form tagging.