Case Study: Education

Best-in-class lecture recording at the Harvard Division of Continuing Education

July 10, 2017

Best-in-class lecture recording at the Harvard Division of Continuing Education image

At Ivy League schools like Harvard, excellence is more than a reputation – it’s a way of life. With 10 years of experience in lecture capture and live streaming, the Harvard Division of Continuing Education (DCE) was looking to improve how the institution makes Harvard’s distinctive on-campus experience available outside the classroom.

The DCE wanted simultaneous high-definition capture of both lecturer and their presentation for continuing education projects such as:

  • Live streaming to students across the globe
  • Video-on-demand content (VOD)
  • After-class review by students in hybrid courses

The institution met these goals by making an Epiphan Pearl all-in-one streaming and recording solution a key component in their next-generation Opencast lecture capture system.

Pearl Mini

Pearl was the right choice for Harvard DCE

Pearl’s small footprint made it a perfect fit for the DCE’s already crowded AV closet. Its nearly silent operation meant there was no added noise to worry about. Setup was simple. Installing and testing Pearl took the AV team less than an hour per classroom, and only a few minutes more to configure a video layout combining sources from the diverse classroom equipment. In no time, the team was ready to capture and record.

Like most educational facilities, the school already had a lot of AV equipment installed. Some classrooms were quite high-tech with four robotic cameras (SDI and HDMI outputs) and more than 40 on-desk microphones connected to an audio mixer. Others had a single camera on a tripod and several ceiling-based microphones. For classrooms with lots of existing AV hardware, Pearl’s multiple video and professional audio inputs gave the AV team the needed flexibility. Pearl also offered the school lots of capacity to support future equipment upgrades to less high-tech spaces.

Ready for seamless lecture capture

The Harvard DCE had deployed Opencast in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud as its video content management system. The lecture capture and live streaming solution the institution was searching for had to integrate with this existing system. Here, too, Pearl proved a great fit.

As a result of the integration, Opencast can control recording start and stop times on Pearl according to the timetable loaded into the system. After each lecture, Pearl automatically transfers recordings to the Opencast server over the campus network. Following an editing and transcoding workflow, the recorded lectures are available for students within 24 hours.

After evaluating many different solutions for lecture capture, we found Pearl’s flexibility, reliability, and open model made it the right choice for our program. I’m very happy with our decision to use Pearl; it’s now our lecture capture standard. Gabe Russell, Harvard Division of Continuing Education.

World-class hardware for world-class schools

Pearl’s flexibility made the Harvard DCE deployment a success. With Pearl-equipped spaces, the world-class institution has access to powerful features for video production.

Live streaming and simulcasting

Schools often organize events with premier guest speakers who draw more attendees than can fit in even the school’s largest lecture halls. For maximum reach, universities can live stream these events to make them accessible to a bigger crowd. With a single Pearl in a lecture hall podium, AV engineers can simultaneously stream to YouTube (for off-campus viewers) and the school’s streaming media server (for on-campus viewers and overflow rooms) while recording to a platform like Opencast.

Simplified video production solution

Epiphan Pearl is easy to use and easy to train others how to use. Instructors can connect document cameras to share additional materials with students, specialized equipment like microscopes and oscilloscopes, or their personal tablet. Even better, Pearl can capture these devices as part of the lecture recording that’s shared with the remote audience.

Flexible recording for fast distribution

Some visiting speakers ask for a recording of their lecture soon after the event, which can be a challenging request to meet. With Pearl, this task is simple. Staff can configure Pearl to automatically or manually copy recordings in AVI, MP4, or MOV format to a connected USB flash drive.

A better custom solution for less

Many schools deploy highly customized systems to meet the needs of their students, faculty, staff, and learning environments. Pearl is an open platform lecture capture appliance that institutions can pair with a highly customizable open-source software solution like Opencast. With free lifetime support and firmware updates and no recurring fees, schools get a tailored solution for less.

Webinar Pearl Mini FB

Pearl gets results

Epiphan Pearl gives schools what they need to achieve Ivy League results.


  • Higher course completion rates
  • Easy access to materials in cases of illness
  • Higher average course grades
  • Easy access to lectures from other programs


  • Ability to share diverse teaching materials
  • Better content for students’ self-guided study
  • Improved quality of online sessions with HD

AV / IT teams

  • Increased functionality
  • Easy and fast LMS and hardware infrastructure integration
  • Reliable solution with extensive support (on Epiphan’s support plan)

School administration

  • Higher student satisfaction rates
  • Increased faculty loyalty and satisfaction
  • Classroom lecture quality and faculty monitoring via HD recordings
  • Budget savings (other solutions are typically three to four times more expensive than Pearl)
  • New profit opportunities via selling more courses online on edX and Coursera (previous video quality made this less feasible)