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Higher Education Faces a Storm of Change with Video at the Center
Video is transforming how college students learn, but creating a video strategy takes careful planning.
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I think it’s fair to say that higher education is experiencing a storm of change, battered on one side by economics and by technology on the other. Early this year Jeff Selingo, editorial director of The Chronicle of Higher Education, wrote a piece in which he called the system “disrupted.” He cites several recent innovations in online education that demonstrate how technology is a disrupting force in education.

One thing Selingo points to is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s new MITx program, which aims to offer certificates to students who complete that university’s free online courses. Another is Apple’s relaunched iTunes U, which is fueled by the company’s new—and free—iBooks Author app that enables educators to create integrated online courses that package together audio, video, lecture notes, and interactive materials optimized for iOS devices. Already there are dozens of complete courses available without cost in the iTunes U catalog.

Online video is most definitely one of the core technologies making these disruptive innovations possible. If we see this disruption as a storm, then I think that video is actually at the eye. Video provides a critical lifeline, connecting traditional classroom teaching to the online environment, while also letting instruction escape the bounds of the brick-and-mortar school.

To Streaming Media readers and industry veterans these points might seem obvious, and I may just sound like I’m cheerleading. But boosterism isn’t my point. Rather, I wish to make it clear that this moment of disruption is also one of great opportunity. It is an opportunity to participate in and benefit from the reimagining of education, and it’s also an opportunity to miss out.

At this time, a school or college that doesn’t have a video strategy is not ready for an online learning strategy. It doesn’t matter if your school is using a learning management system (LMS), having students blog, or use online collaboration tools. That’s because your students, and a growing number of your teachers, want to use video. They want to share clips, create demonstrations and lectures, and submit video assignments. Still, odds are that your existing LMS or collaboration tool doesn’t support these uses well, if at all.

Many schools have taken to Google’s collaboration Apps. But have you tried to share video? Sure, Google also owns YouTube, but there’s no real integration with Apps. Users can’t collaboratively work on videos with the same degree of privacy and ease that they can edit a spreadsheet.

Trying to use video in a major LMS platform such as Blackboard simply can be an exercise in frustration. It’s true that online video platforms, such as Kaltura, offer plug-ins and building blocks that integrate with an LMS. Yet that also means a school has to adopt an online video platform in the first place, which is certainly a component to having an actual video strategy.

Nevertheless, having a video strategy is more than selecting a video platform or lecture capture system. Before choosing a platform, the leaders of a school or program really need to figure out what exactly they want to do with video. More specifically, they need to assess how teachers want to use video now and how they might use it in the very near future.

They need to find out what their students’ expectations are and aim not just to meet them, but to exceed them. Let’s face it, the expectations of today’s freshmen— watching, shooting, and editing video on their iPads—seem light-years away from what today’s seniors had available to them just 4 years ago. More importantly, students are the focus, and their needs and expectations should matter more than the needs of administrators and IT directors.

The objective is not just to keep up with the competition and survive the disruption. The objective is to bring education to more students while using the advantages of online technology to control costs and enhance learning. The tools are here. It’s time to use them.

This article was originally published in the April/May 2012 issue of Streaming Media magazine under the title "Video the Disruptor."

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