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Streaming Video at the Library: Streaming Documentaries

Use this guide to learn more about the streaming videos in the Library's collection and how to use them, including terminology, technical requirements, platforms, packages and more.

Simmons Library Streaming Documentary Platforms








The Simmons Library provides access to thousands of streaming documentaries on a variety of platforms. On this page, you'll find links and brief descriptions for the major documentary collections as well as information about the streaming titles the library makes available through Films on Demand, New Day Digital, Media Education Foundation and other providers. For information on other sources of streaming documentaries, including both free and pay options, see the Finding Media guide.

Other Streaming Documentary Platforms

Getting Started with Streaming

To get you started, below is a glossary of some of the key terms that it might be helpful to understand:

  • Platform - A platform is often defined as "the underlying hardware or software for a system."  In this case, platform refers to the specific software used by an individual vendor (such as Alexander Street Press/Filmakers Library Online) to deliver streaming files to the Simmons community.  Each vendor platform includes different features and has somewhat different, if similar, functionality.
  • Browser - A browser is "a software application used to locate, retrieve and also display content on the World Wide Web, including Web pages, images, video and other files."  In this case, by browser we mean Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari or other software that you're using to open a web page. It's important to understand that some browsers work better than others to display streaming video content. So if you're having trouble playing a streaming video file, you might want to try it using another browser!

  • Plug-In - A plug-in is a "hardware or software module that adds a specific feature or service to a larger system."  In this case, plug-ins can include modules such as Adobe Flash, Silverlight and Quicktime that allow you to view a video from within a web browser.
  • Permalink or Permanent Link - A permalink or permanent link "is a direct link to a single entry or content," such as a journal article or individual film, within a larger resource, such as a database, online reference book or streaming media platform. As the resource is updated with new material, that specific material "will get its own page with a URL that can be used rather than linking to the main URL" of the resource. In this case, the permanent link to the resource can be included in Moodle so that students have direct access to a streaming documentary on their course page.
  • Embed - An embedded file "refers to any type of multimedia file that you might insert, or embed into the Web page. This includes files like graphics and sound files" as well as videos.  YouTube is probably the most common type of embedded video you might see on a website.  Embedding video is more complicated than linking to it and, while some of the platforms in the library's collection offer an option to embed, linking to the resource is simpler and more reliable.

If there's another term you don't understand, find confusing in this context or think might be helpful to others, please let us know and we'll add it to this glossary!

Source: Key terms adapted from the Webopedia.