Streaming Media

 

What’s the Path to Purchase for Video on Campuses?
Video use is growing at colleges and universities, but who makes the call on purchasing systems is often not clear.

Who makes the buying decision, the final call, for a video platform at your school? Or, if you sell to education, who had the final say on your last few sales? Was that person a department director? A principal? Maybe a dean or even a CIO?

The more I talk to educators across different institutions, and the companies that serve them, the more I learn that there are a wide variety of answers. The effect of this variation is that both vendors and educators often do not know the most effective path for bringing video solutions to a campus.

Size is definitely a factor. The bigger an institution, the more decentralized decision making can become. It’s not at all unusual for one department at a college to adopt a technology platform that’s not used elsewhere on campus. In some cases a smaller unit pursues a technology because of the specific needs of a particular discipline, such as statistical packages or software for scientific analysis. But in other cases the connection is less clearly connected to a particular field. When a department chair or technology director hears from her faculty that they need a collaboration platform or file server, she often does not have the luxury of waiting for a central campus office to complete a complex procurement process, forming committees, and doing an RFP.

Video definitely falls into this category, since any survey of its use in education will reveal use in just about every discipline, from the humanities and fine arts to engineering and business administration. While the adoption of campuswide video platforms is growing, when it comes to campus procurement priorities video has a lot of competition from other technologies, such as human resource systems, that administrators are more familiar with.

That does not mean educators who see the need for video solutions have as their only strategy lobbying central administrators, hoping they’ll recognize the value and demand. Most schools are not that top-down. Many campus technologies — from the web server to the learning management system — were developed or adopted first by innovative faculty, students, and staff, taking root in their home departments before spreading. I have spoken to faculty and staff at schools of all sizes who helped evangelize for video technologies, leading to wider adoption at their institutions.

Individual faculty or IT staffers often find success by looking outside their own offices, building coalitions with colleagues in other divisions who share similar needs. I have been involved in these sorts of cooperative efforts, and I’ve observed that they lead to campuswide adoption.

Video platforms tend to benefit from network effects and scale; the more people use them at a school, the more valuable and desirable they become. When an architecture professor finds out that her colleague teaching English literature has his students producing and submitting video essays, she is naturally inclined to ask her department to get her access. For a department chair or IT director, it is easier to buy into a platform already implemented elsewhere on campus, rather than having to start from scratch. Moreover, joining an established effort usually cuts costs for all stakeholders, while often growing the contract with the vendor.

When campus technology and executive officers see a technology platform growing in use across their institution, they take notice. Sometimes they recognize that the whole organization may save money if the service is centralized. In other cases, the administration is forced to respond to the faculty and students who don’t have access to the resources that their peers in other departments enjoy.

I think we can look forward to more central administrations purchasing and implementing video platforms on campus as educational video matures. At the same time, the forward thinking innovators in departments, units, and schools are critical for pioneering new uses for video and introducing the next generation of platforms. There will continue to be many routes to adoption, and many decision makers. But the path needs to become clearer.

This article appears in the December 2012/January 2013 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "What's the Path to Purchase?"