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Summary: The transcoder project set out to develop and trial a cloud based service that can change one type of educational content package into another (i.e. transcode). Such a capability would help overcome the current proliferation of incompatible content packaging formats, which can be an obstacle to the dissemination and re-use of packaged learning content.
The aim was to both test the technical feasibility of such a transcoder, as well as explore the business case for deploying it as cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS). In that regard, both the initial set-up phase as well as potential future business models were explored. Possible further developments of the service were also considered.
The transcoder software was developed after a pattern established by a similar, advertising supported service for other kinds of file formats. The pattern is centred around a manual upload and download of packages, in order to facilitate maximal transcoding capacity without bottlenecks. The software itself was developed to be hosted on Amazon web services, for a variety of reasons that include flexibility of deployment, price and sustainability.
In the event, demand for the service turned out to be low, which may have something to do with limited usage of packaged content in the JISC community, exacerbated by limitations of the design of the transcoder’s interface, and possibly also the range of conversions that were developed and are currently available. As a consequence, the low start-up investment costs as well as the scalable exploitation costs of cloud computing offered clear advantages for this type of service. Also, at this, or even much higher levels of usage the ongoing costs required to keep the service going are low. Finally, feedback from stakeholders indicate that a few simple extensions to the software could make the service more useful.