By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

Simultaneous convocations for all the schools and colleges at Syracuse University, as well as SU’s main graduation event, were beamed live to all corners of the world this past weekend thanks to the state of information technology and to the work of a crack team of professors, staff and students at the School of Information Studies (iSchool).

The iSchool was asked by the University to coordinate the streams, connections and bandwidth needed to digitize and stream videos of 15 graduation events taking place this weekend to reach the home and mobile screens of users anywhere there is signal.  The assignment meant no less than this: assuring that the proud moments of many thousands of undergrads and graduate students from all of SU’s schools could be witnessed, as their graduations unfolded, over individual screens of all sizes and types, no matter where viewers were located.

A team led by Associate Professor of Practice Jeffrey Rubin worked diligently to assure that audio and video could be sent and received on screens ranging from wide-screen HD TVs in the living room, to desktops and laptops, to mobile devices.  That meant multi bit-rate streaming of every graduation event.  Particularly challenging was the task of making sure that connections were successfully completed to iOS devices (iPads and iPhones), Rubin said. “That was important to me.”

Planning took several weeks. The iOS connections were not an easy technological feat, given how those systems are configured, Rubin said. “It’s very difficult to get streams these days to be able to hit every device,” Rubin admitted.  It took coding and recoding transmissions. “We were working up until 6 p.m. the evening before to assure that we could pull it off,” he noted. 

The live-streaming management of all 15 events is a first for the iSchool, for Syracuse University, and even perhaps across American college campuses, according to Rubin. While the iSchool had assisted in making sure that SU’s main graduation event was live-streamed in previous years, 2012 is the first time that iSchool teams streamed all the convocation and graduation ceremonies as they happened, he said.

There were significant challenges to such a multi-level and multi-platform achievement, but much gratification as well, Rubin said. “It’s great to hear that people literally around the globe” were able to tune in and watch, he said, after hearing how an iSchool student tweeted that his in-laws in Australia were able to view the occasion as he received his diploma. 

Particularly challenging was the need to multi-bit rate the streamed videos, and having to do so from each school ‘s ceremony, Rubin said. Doing so meant that users everywhere, whether on their home computers or on mobile phones in their cars, would be able to receive the signal and to tune in, he said. 

There were logistical challenges, too, including making sure there were teams stationed at every convocation venue to manage the technology and the on-site live feeds as users tuned in at the same time from around the world.  An added factor for Sunday’s University-wide telecast was having a live Twitter stream tuned in to accompany the event’s broadcast, Rubin added.

All client-side and host-side aspects were considered in putting the plan together, Rubin said. That included having a team in place to handle tech support for those tying into the system, a “help squad” available to remotely assist anyone having difficulties, Rubin said. Several students were hired for the occasion to assure that aspect of client service was well-managed.