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Houston Community College: Reaching the Wider Community through Digital Storytelling with Video

Does a school’s mission end at the edge of campus? Houston Community College doesn’t think so. They have long been using video as a major teaching and learning tool, for online, flipped and conventional classrooms, but when they wanted to serve more than their student body, looking to build stronger ties to their surrounding community, could video help bridge that gap?

The Institution

Since opening in 1971, Houston Community College (HCC) has helped more than 2.2 million students improve their lives. Today, they have about 71,000 students pursuing associate degrees, certificates in academic studies, career and technology programs, or adult education. HCC is ranked first nationally for the number of international students for a two-year institution, with 145 countries represented in its student body.

Houston Community College is one of Kaltura’s longest-standing clients. They were one of the first higher education institutions to start using Kaltura, downloading the Community Edition in 2009. They were also one of the very first organizations to start using the Kaltura MediaSpace video portal to create an attractive, easy to use, centralized media repository that could be accessed from both within and outside the community college.

The Challenge

Houston Community College is an ambitious institution with deep roots. They believe they have a responsibility not just to their student body, but also to the community around them. “Community colleges are in a unique position to engage their community,” says Rubén Durán,
Senior Media Developer at the Center for Learning Innovation at Houston Community College.

The Center for Learning Innovation wanted to go farther, and find new ways not only to make the knowledge on their campus available to the wider community, but to get students to go out and engage with their communities themselves.

At a Glance - In the Fall 2017 Semester
  • 6,493
    media entries were played 67,029 times
  • 3,700
    new media entries were contributed by 767 contributors
  • 2,019,999
    player impressions for top content in the calendar year
  • 48%
    faculty media contributors
  • 50%
    student media contributors

The Solution

Houston Community College chose to leverage their extensive Kaltura video solutions to engage their community. Through Kaltura, video is deeply integrated into their Learning Management System, with the Kaltura Canvas Video App. Kaltura REACH provides captions for accessibility and search. The crown jewel may be, the gorgeous public-facing video portal HCC built using Kaltura MediaSpace. Using these tools, HCC has developed a rich outreach program that benefits both students and their surrounding community through a number of different initiatives.

Digital Storytelling

Digital Storytelling Stats
  • Over 400 students contributing
  • Started 4 years ago. 15 faculty and librarians initially trained. Now 87 faculty, staff and librarians have been trained!
  • Over 15 classes and over 40 faculty actively using Digital Storytelling
  • Range of disciplines, from Humanities to Digital Imaging and Art

One of the most exciting initiatives is the Digital Storytelling project. Students are provided with training and tools, and then sent out into the community to collect stories for a wide variety of projects. HCC is partnering with, who train faculty and librarians, who in turn train their students.

From English students doing research papers to history classes collecting oral histories, the students not only learn from primary sources (as well as picking up valuable technology skills), they build social ties to their subjects and build community pride. Students bring their interview subjects into learning spaces that are available to do recordings with professional microphones. This semester, they began going out into the community to record as well. Students can collaborate and publish their results to their ‘My Media’ in Canvas. “We don’t have a link to YouTube, Vimeo, any of that,” Durán explains. “The link is to Kaltura.” Many stay private, as part of the LMS Media Gallery. But many are also featured on HCC’s EduTube for everyone to enjoy and learn from. The archives are also part of the Houston Public Library system.

Librarians also promote the initiative to the wider community. “Anyone can walk into the library and become a storyteller,” says Durán. “And as part of a new initiative, we’ve also put a listening station in the counseling officeand in student services.”

Lecture Recordings

Many lectures from across campus are recorded and shared with the community at large. On the public EduTube, one can find lectures on topics as diverse as Aristotle on intellectual and moral values, civil rights overviews, flats in the key signature, and lower extremity amputations and prosthetic management.

HCC is currently piloting the Kaltura Lecture Capture system. With it, lectures are all automatically recorded and placed inside the course in Canvas. But the school has gone one step further, putting many lectures outside so other people in the community can benefit. “That would be the way we are building a community with Kaltura,” says Durán.

Media Gallery

The Kaltura Media Gallery in canvas is populated by the work that the students are doing. There, other students are encouraged to watch and comment on each others’ work, building a sense of community within the student body as well.

Guest Speakers

HCC has a strong program of guest speakers—poets, leaders, science researchers, photographers, and more, including big names like Junot Díaz and the Secretary of Education. These, too, are published on EduTube where everyone can view them. “This is a thing I’m really proud of. This is creating community,” says Durán. “This is recording people who are very important to the communities they belong to, and making that recording available to the faculty and students and community, to teach and learn from. That’s important to me.”


Student recitals and faculty performances are recorded and shared with the community as well.

Requests for Captions

HCC wants all this amazing content to be easily accessible to all. They’ve given faculty and even students in some cases the ability to order captions for videos through Kaltura REACH, the automatic captioning service that provides the human transcriptions required for fully compliant captions. In addition, students have the option to flag videos that need captions ordered. But here, too, HCC thinks about their community. They created a workflow so that members of the community can report an issue when they need media to be captioned.

More Forward - Thinking Initiatives at HCC

Digital storytelling is not the only way HCC is pushing the envelope.

Interactive Video Quizzing

Using Kaltura Interactive Video Quizzing, faculty have increasingly been adding quizzes directly within videos. The quiz is connected to the gradebook in Canvas, so grading is automatic. Many professors are pulling in videos from YouTube, such as TED talks, and placing quizzes on top. But some are now starting to push the envelope and create their own recordings to use as quizzes.

Faculty are using IVQ in every core class – history, government, workforce programs like nursing. It’s especially popular for how-tos and tutorials in the health sciences college. Every faculty member at HCC has an editor account.

While metrics aren’t currently available, faculty “say that it’s a powerful tool,” reports Durán.

Virtual Reality Lab

Students can use an amazing virtual reality lab not only to explore material but to create their own work. For example, a student in an art class can design graphics in Adobe Illustrator, and then play with it in VR. In chemistry, students create and interact with molecules in three dimensions. Architects can walk through the buildings they design. Data conceptualization, construction, interior design – the possibilities are endless.

Not only are their creations saved, video of them in the VR lab itself is recorded because all of this is partof the instructional process for these students. These “mixed reality” recordings are sent straight to the LMS, so professors can grade the creation process itself.

Kaltura’s 360 player makes it easy to store and play VR recordings.

The Results

Durán marvels at what his team has been able to build. “It’s just mindboggling. We’ve been trying to build communities for a long time. It’s not just something that’s behind the LMS. It’s something that’s in front and connecting to the community that we serve.”

These video initiatives have allowed them to build connections to other institutions in the area, as well. They now host videos on behalf of the University of Houston, who lack their own portal, as part of community partnership. The Digital Storytelling project has led to partnerships with multiple other organizations as well.

“All of this would have been very difficult and we would have been working in siloes if we didn't have Kaltura”
Rubén Durán, Senior Media Developer, Center for Learning Innovation, Houston Community College

Some of the important Storytelling Community initiatives include:

  • History of Latino war veterans from the Korean and Vietnam Wars
    Students in a class on Mexican American history interviewed Latino veterans from the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Veterans were able to express their pride in their contributions, some for the first time since returning. Students developed insights through discovering personal stories not covered in textbooks.
  • MECA grant for outreach to K-12 students
    A community-based nonprofit organization, MECA reaches underserved populations through arts and academic programs, support services, and community building. K-12 students were able to use HCC resources and training to interview members of their community, building appreciation of their own peers and helping students develop discipline and skills.
  • Harvey Listening Stations
    After Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston in August 2017, HCC provided equipment and opportunities to capture students’ and staff’s personal stories of how the flooding impacted them. The project not only helped the community process their experience, it allowed HCC to determine specific actions the college could take to ensure their population could continue to be successful academically despite the damage to the community.
  • Collaboration with Houston Historical Alliance 2018 Year of the Woman
    Through a partnership with the Texas Historical Association and the Houston Historical Alliance, current classes have been assigned to create short videos as part of research on women in Houston who have influenced the history of the region. The videos will be hosted on EduTube as a reference tool. A peer jury will select from among them for inclusion in the Handbook of Texas Women.


Video has become a major component of classes at Houston Community College, including hybrid courses as well as regular courses with a web component. It’s also become a major feature in campus life, from performances to speakers across campus. But the college has extended its mission well beyond its own walls, building a web of connections that strengthens the entire community. Video has been a key to building these programs, acknowledges Durán, saying “Kaltura is engrained in all of this.”

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