Jan 14 2015

What Devices Students Are Using to Consume Course Lectures?

Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:38 AM General

Lectures in online, blended and flipped courses at the School are delivered via Amazon’s CloudFront content delivery network. This allows the CTL team to push large video files closer to students no matter where they are in the world, rather than making them travel all the way around the world to servers in Baltimore to grab the files.

Until recently, Amazon really did not provide to its customers any metrics about who was accessing the files and what kind of devices they were using to do so. That changed recetly when Amazon released a set of reporting tools for CloudFront. The tools are limited, but they do provide some insight.

One of the reports available is a report on what kind of devices are being used when making requests to course lecture videos on CloudFront. The results from the second term are below:

Graph of devices used to request course lecture files in the second term, AY 2014-2015

It's striking to see that 22% of all requests for course lectures are coming from iOS devices. This validates the significant investment the School made in the past year to move all course lectures from a Flash Player-based format, which does not play back on mobile devices, to the MP4 format, which plays back on a wide range of mobile devices. It's little surprise that many students prefer the flexibility and freedom that consuming content on a mobile device provides.

It's also interesting to see that so few requests came from Android devices, despite the fact that more mobile devices are shipped around the world with Android than iOS devices. One explanation is that a majority of requests for course lectures come from the U.S., and iOS is more dominant than Android in the U.S. (that is absolutely not the case outside the U.S.). However, the School has a significant international student population, and one would expect that with Android's dominance outside of the U.S., we would see many more requests coming from Android devices.

The data also shows that, in spite of the emphasis on mobile technology in the last few years, the desktop/laptop environment still dominates. This may be the result of difficulty in taking notes while watching lectures on a mobile device (especially the single tasking environment of iOS), or it may be that most students are still simply more comfortable doing class work on their desktops and laptops.

Finally, it's surprising that 62% of all requests came from Mac OS devices. Imagine saying that just five years ago!

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