At Teachscape, the company’s mission is to improve teaching effectiveness through technology. One pillar of their technology platform is Learn, a suite of professional development tools where teachers can access instructional content and interact with peers to improve their skills. With the introduction of the Video Channels system, the company aimed to supercharge professional development with the use of video: with a library of expert PD videos, yes, but also a safe online community for teachers within a school or district to capture and share their own videos of teaching best practices.
Video Channels would provide a powerful set of tools at each point in the video sharing flow—tools to capture, upload, play back, annotate, and circulate—that represented best-in-class functionality, design, and ease of use. A few unique requirements made this project quite challenging: the need to integrate a proprietary 360 degree video format, to create a cloud-based service that would work at schools with inconsistent Internet connectivity, and to integrate the work of multiple external developers each working on different aspects of the solution.
The Video Channels platform included these components:
- Teachscape Mini-Capture App for iOS – An app for phones and tablets that would overcome the native video app’s restrictions on recording length, provide multiple compression options, and support asynchronous background uploading of content directly to a user’s library.
- Video Channels Website – The desktop Web interface for viewing, tagging, and sharing videos from a user’s library. This site needed to support single sign on (SSO) and seamless integration with the larger professional development suite, and automatically assign the proper viewing and sharing permissions based on the user’s role and district settings.
- Video Platform Backend – All video content uploaded or viewed within the platform was served via a Limelight video CDN that supported real-time streaming optimization. A large amount of legacy content needed to be migrated to this new CDN.
- Custom Video Player – Unique video formats and features, including the ability to extract clips from existing videos, required customization of the standard video player.
- Teachscape “Lucy” 360 Degree Video – Many Teachscape Video customers utilized the 360 degree “Lucy” video camera for classroom capture. The capture software for this device had to be updated to work with the new platform while retaining backward compatibility. The video player had to support real-time “de-warping,” panning, and zooming of these video files.
I joined the team after initial work had been completed including the definition of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), selection of the video platform backend, and design of the user experience. The work that remained to bring the product to launch was significant and complex.
- Project Management – Coordinating the work of internal and multiple external development teams scattered across North America, including iOS development teams, video specialists, and individual contractors.
- Requirements Documentation and QA Support – Updating documentation of product features, including the creation of user stories and test cases for QA. Triaging and prioritizing defects for each development team.
- Usability and Beta Testing – Soft launching beta product to early adopters, monitoring usage remotely and in-person, and summarizing observations to feed back into the software development process.
- Marketing and Sales Support – Completing competitive analysis of professional development video products, drafting and presenting product marketing briefs, and training marketing and sales teams in the use of the product.
- Customer Support Training – Training the customer support team in the use of the product and in workarounds for potential issues.
- Backlog Management – Once the product was live, communicating regularly with customers about the platform to determine whether it was meeting their needs and to discover and validate ideas for improvement. Documentation of future features including management of the creation of specifications, user stories, and user experience designs.