Preparing Your Campus for the Future of Academic Video

Academic video will soon become an integral part of the higher ed learning experience

“Generation C” is demanding video in all aspects of their lives, including in their learning experiences. Universities ought to harness the power of academic video not only to meet these expectations, but to realize the power of lecture capture, personalized education, and flipped classrooms. In this web seminar, broadcast on August 20, 2013 and hosted by Sonic Foundry vice president Sean Brown, JD Solomon of University Business presented some findings from a new white paper about how academic video is at a tipping point and what its future looks like.

JD Solomon 
Editorial Director
University Business

The genesis for this white paper came from Sean’s presentation at this year’s University Business annual conference, UBTech. He referenced this concept of academic video being at a tipping point. In the white paper, we wanted to address three questions:

  • What do we mean by this concept of academic video being at a tipping point?
  • How did we get here?
  • And what’s on the other side of this tipping point?

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book in which he explains that a tipping point is the phenomenon when something new suddenly becomes ubiquitous, as when a new idea, product, technology, or other trend is pushed over the edge from popular to pervasive. The tipping point for academic video is the point at which video becomes as pervasive a tool for instruction, learning, and research in higher education as text.

In fact, taking it a little further, we foresee a time when it really won’t be seen as searching for “video.” Nobody now searches for information as text, they just search for information and knowledge, text is just the medium. That will be happening soon with video. Let’s talk about how we got to this tipping point. First, let’s talk about the technology barriers that have recently been overcome.

The first of the three landmark technology barriers we’ve broken is the barrier that relates to the physical space and cost that relates to storing and accessing video. We have conquered that barrier with digital video, relatively low cost cloud storage, and fast internet access.

Another broken barrier is the difficulty, time, cost, and expertise associated with producing video. We don’t need bulky, expensive equipment anymore. Platforms such as Mediasite are desktop-oriented, and allow users with relatively little expertise to produce quality video any time and at a relatively lower cost.

A third barrier we have crossed is the difficulty associated with finding relevant video. No longer do we have to read the backs of DVD cases or preview minutes or hours of video to find what we need. There is a voice search option in Mediasite that allows users to index content, for example. Clearly, tackling these technological barriers is an important aspect of getting to the tipping point. Another important aspect is the concept of a “killer app.” In the early days of the consumer internet, communicating with people was a challenge.

Email, particularly ISP-independent email, became the “killer app” that pushed the internet from popular to pervasive. We think that, in lecture capture, we see a killer app in academic video. It’s something that just works well and is so intuitive and useful; it just makes sense. The use model has expanded beyond the original concept of simple time-shifting classroom instruction. It’s now a driving force for online learning, distance learning, MOOCs, and flipped classrooms.

Another force that has driven us to the tipping point is the influence of external factors. External factors like Netflix and YouTube have led to users expecting that video be ever present. And it is. Netflix has 30 million subscribers. YouTube has a billion users a month and over a hundred hours of video a minute being uploaded. These users are known as “Generation C,” a term which Google coined. This generation is focused on creation, curation, connection, and community. It’s a generation that views video as a core medium for engaging with information.

What the future holds

Here’s where we’ve come. We’ve overcome these barriers, we have this killer app, and we have these external factors that have gotten us to this tipping point. Now, we foresee lecture capture will continue to be used as classroom DVR. However, that will not be the leading academic video use model. Similarly, email as foundational to our internet experience is being eclipsed, especially by Generation C, by other tools like instant messaging, Facebook, and Twitter. We think that long video segments designed for a planned linear viewing experience will be supplanted by shorter segments designed for spontaneous viewing that will be discovered purposefully and on an as-needed basis. We see the production of academic video further extended to students. We think term papers are increasingly going to include a “play” button. Even the phrase “term paper” may become obsolete.

That’s what has gotten us to the tipping point and a little bit beyond the tipping point. In the white paper, we also wanted to explore what has to happen to get us even further beyond the tipping point to this next phase when video is as pervasive as text. First, we think there has to be this concept of open access. Just as it doesn’t make sense for knowledge to be confined to a classroom or department or campus, it doesn’t make sense that video would be confined in any way. There will be a way to expand video beyond the boundaries of where it happens to have been created or where it happens to reside.

A second force that will propel video past the tipping point we foresee is the concept of an academic recommendation engine. We’re all familiar with recommendations we get from websites like Amazon. It makes perfect sense to envision a time when someone searching for an academic video will get these kinds of recommendations.

The third force is the need for some kind of command-and-control system. Sean, your team is calling it an enterprise video platform. It captures, creates, and imports video. It manages the publishing and organization process and then delivers video through various platforms. It has to play nicely with any LMS and has to contribute to this concept of an open platform, a so-called interlibrary video loan platform.

Academic video case studies

We also wanted to get a preview of what life may look like in this post-tipping point environment, so we spoke to a few schools. Ten years ago at the University of Florida, different colleges, departments, and faculty each had their own lecture capture systems. This lack of compatibility required students to watch videos in computer labs. Today, the school has a single enterprise video system across the institution. Video can be viewed on any device or operating system. As a result, the amount of recorded video is increasing by nearly 85 percent annually.

At the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering, they use Mediasite for high school dual enrollment students and for engineering students enrolled in co-op programs with engineering firms. They are beginning to move to a flipped classroom model; they are using lecture capture to create additional materials for study outside of the classroom. Seeing what the College of Engineering has been doing has sparked interest in using academic video across the rest of the university.

We also spoke to an administrator at Eastern New Mexico University, a distance learning institution that implemented Mediasite a few years ago. They are rapidly using the platform to record guest speakers, events, concerts, and conferences, and archive videos for future use.

What is this all going to mean? Here are the key takeaways we see:

  • When given the opportunity to create and use video, your users will do so extensively
  • Videos will just have to “work;” the process needs to be simple and easily accessible
  • There is no avoiding the need for centrally managed systems

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to:


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