Bringing low-latency livestreaming to education with Amazon IVS
With in-person collaboration limited for much of 2020 and the foreseeable future, educational institutions have embraced new virtual means to connect with students and deliver information like classroom lectures, conferences, and dissertation presentations online. Recognizing the value and importance of high quality virtual collaboration, educational technology companies (EdTech) have been working to maintain the benefits of an in-person experience, for speakers as well as audiences, in online environments. Inspired by the increased demand for sophisticated virtual collaboration solutions, EdTech Mosaic Learning built and integrated new Amazon Web Services (AWS) features into its custom platform tailored for delivering dynamic video experiences at scale.
Mosaic Learning creates learning and education experiences for schools, membership organizations, and corporations. The company’s new platform, Combobulate®, uses Amazon Interactive Video Services (Amazon IVS), which enables high-quality, low-latency interactive livestreaming video to a wide audience via multiple channels.
Growing into the cloud
Mosaic Learning began its shift to cloud-based infrastructure with the adoption AWS in 2018. The company built its backend on AWS Lambda, architects solutions around Amazon Chime, records content with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), stores data on Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), relies on Amazon CloudWatch for application monitoring, and deploys other AWS services to deliver its solutions.
“Our strong push into AWS was a strategic one, as I’ve had a lot of success with the reliability of AWS services, and we’ve grown our engineering talent with individuals who are well-versed in it so that we can continue moving more of our offerings to the cloud,” said Mosaic Learning chief operating officer (COO) Matthew Kraft. “We want our users to feel closely connected, even if they are only collaborating online.”
The company’s first large-scale livestream was done for a virtual gathering of marketing professionals. Preparing to accommodate up to 5,000 attendees and 150 speakers, Mosaic Learning software engineer Dan Russell looked for solutions that could easily scale and also allowed the experience to to stay within the Combobulate® platform, instead of having to link out to an alternate video conference application. For this, Russell used Amazon IVS.
Replicating the in-person experience
The low latency of Amazon IVS enabled a near real-time workflow conducive to seamless interactivity, boosting audience engagement in the process. “When there’s noticeable lag time between an audience question being submitted and the presenter’s response, it creates a feeling of awkwardness for everyone,” noted Russell. “The super low latency of Amazon IVS allows presenters to interact in a timely way, leading to a better experience for all.”
For the initial deployment at a customer summit, each presenter was brought into a virtual green room within the Combobulate® platform that provided a familiar interface. From there, stage panelists were able to queue presenters and launch pre-recorded media into the livestream, which was all running on top of Amazon IVS. Interactive question and answer (Q&A) sessions were conducted via chat, with audience members upvoting high-interest questions. Developers are working on using AWS tools to bring in live video of attendees for interactive Q&A sessions in the future.
“We use as much serverless technology as we can,” said Russell.
A new virtual collaboration standard
Pre-pandemic, organizations and educational institutions would host large-scale events and conferences with multiple components including lectures or keynote presentations, breakout sessions, specialized seminars, and networking sessions. Upon shifting to a virtual format with the appropriate tools, many are finding that they can achieve significant cost savings and retain key experience benefits by using livestreaming technologies. Combobulate® powered by Amazon IVS, can help instantly spin up new channels, scaling the number of concurrent broadcasts for greater flexibility and efficiency in reaching the audience through more tailored avenues.
Mosaic Learning is rapidly expanding additional features. Lead full-stack and cloud engineer at Mosaic Learning Ryan Weaver noted, “Being able to extract and offer deep data analytics, all in the one place, really sets us apart from other platforms. As e-learning increases, so does interest from organizers to measure engagement, whether that’s instructors being able to see when students are logged on or which presenters are holding the attention of virtual conference attendees. With AWS, we’re better positioned to work toward capturing that data within event streams and offer it for review in real-time or as post session recap.”