Buyer's Guide to Education Video Platforms 2016
Ask about how video assets are secured, and if storage and delivery are compliant with applicable regulations. In the U.S., compliance with health information rules (HIPAA) and student privacy regulations (FERPA) should be front and center.
OVPs are much more than streaming video servers. In order to provide a seamless, user-friendly experience alongside effective security, your OVP will need to integrate with existing enterprise systems and applications. These are the top ones to consider.
INTEGRATION: IDENTITY MANAGEMENT
Integrating with your organization’s identity management platform (IdM) is one of the best ways to manage permissions, in particular because it doesn’t require users to memorize yet another login and password. Having your OVP in sync with your IdM also means your video assets will be that much secure, making it much less likely that the wrong people will access sensitive content.
In the interest of both security and ease of administration, you might want to use the security groups in your IdM to manage permissions in your video platform; if groups exist to manage permissions for particular courses or departments on other systems, it can be useful to use those same groups to manage access to video assets. That said, you also might want finer-grained permissions in your OVP, where only particular users or a unique set of users has access. The ability to manage both group- and user-level permissions can be an important feature.
INTEGRATION: CMS AND LMS
Most learners access instructional content through a content management system (CMS) or a learning management system (LMS). Regardless of which your organization uses, you’ll want to be sure that your OVP integrates in a way that does not unnecessarily complicate users’ workflow.
At the very least, you want it to be easy for an instructor to share a video with a particular class or set of students. This can be as simple as using an embed code, similar to YouTube. The problem with this approach is that the asset itself might not be secured, or if it is, that security is based in the player, requiring the student to authenticate again.
Many OVPs offer plug-ins and extensions that permit video access and management within the CMS or LMS. With popular platforms such as WordPress, Drupal, Moodle, or Blackboard, a user often can ingest assets, browse content, and share it all within the already familiar interface. Permissions should be similarly integrated, so that an instructor won’t have to worry that a video ingested and embedded in one course site will be unexpectedly accessible to a different course.
Due to any number of factors, you might have systems that are not supported directly by any single OVP. Though you will be called upon to pick and choose which of your existing platforms is most important, OVPs that have a well-specified application program interface (API) provide the option to customize for those that aren’t supported.
If your organization doesn’t have the in-house staff and expertise to create these integrations, ask if the OVP vendor provides this service or has relationships with preferred vendors. If you already have these vendor relationships, ask them for an assessment of the OVP’s API.
Whether the OVP vendor officially supports specific integrations or the company agrees to a custom integration, be sure all the terms are crystal clear. Know who bears responsibility to smooth things out if and when you encounter wrinkles. Problems making your OVP work with a mission-critical system can create headaches and delays that have ripple effects on instruction and administration.
It’s easy to get distracted by a flashy player or editing features. But there are other core features that will determine your OVP’s overall utility and therefore your return on investment.
FEATURE: METADATA AND SEARCH
Having an OVP means having a rich catalog of your organization’s video assets. Making that catalog useful requires good metadata. That search should be available to all users, preferably through whatever interface or application they use. However, you should understand how search results work and are managed. What fields—author, topic, record date—can be searched, and how powerful is that search?
Consider how permissions work with search. Do you want a student to accidentally find internal video and metadata for an important administrative meeting, even if she can’t actually view it?
Pretty much every OVP supports some set of metadata, but your organization might benefit from having more control over what information that includes. If your organization has another digital asset or knowledge management system, you may want to allow users to search across these and your video catalog. You might want to include video assets in your library’s catalog searches.
Some OVPs integrate directly with SharePoint and other popular systems out of the box, or at least offer several metadata standards. If not, being able to customize your video platform’s metadata standard so that it matches other systems can give you the option to make these integrations down the line.
FEATURE: LECTURE CAPTURE
For many organizations—especially colleges and universities—lecture capture was online video’s first foot in the door. Over time, some of these platforms have become full-fledged OVPs, while others support ingest into OVPs. If your organization has a lecture capture solution already, see if it has management features, or what OVPs are supported.
If you’re in the market for lecture capture as well as an OVP you may want a platform that already has that feature. However, be advised that lecture capture is itself a pretty broad market, from desktop capture tools on one end to multicamera automated classroom installations on the other. A full consideration of these options is beyond the scope of this article, but it’s good to have an idea of what your needs will be.
FEATURE: STATISTICS AND ANALYTICS
Knowing who watched, and when, increases the value of your video platform, because it provides vital feedback to instructors and administrators alike. With rich analytics you can understand not just the return on your investment with regard to raw usage, but also how video contributes to learning outcomes.
To do this it’s useful to track how individual and aggregated users watch video, seeing if a particular asset was viewed, and for how long. Many OVPs offer an analytics panel that makes this kind of reporting straightforward. However, you should also look for the ability to export raw usage data for more sophisticated number crunching.
It’s for the Future
While there are many factors to consider, keep in mind that choosing an OVP is like choosing a long-term relationship. A thoughtful assessment of your organization’s current and future needs will help you enormously in sorting through your options.
This article appears in the 2016 Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook.
Your school's video has value, not just for learning and assessment, but for training, promotion, publicity, recruitment, and more. Make sure you choose an education video platform that helps you maximize that value while keeping your video secure and well-managed.