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Colleges Need to Teach the Teachers to Produce Quality Video

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When I started writing this column seven years ago, a smartphone was called a Blackberry, most educational video producers were shooting standard def to tape, and YouTube had just gone from scrappy start-up to part of the Googleplex. While video had strong foothold in daily life, it still didn’t have the kind of ubiquity it does today.

Now most people carry around mobile devices that shoot video easily. Sharing that video has become as simple as texting or posting to Facebook, Vine, Instagram, or any number of social networks. So it becomes natural to take for granted that everyone -- especially teachers and students -- knows how to make useful video content.

As Streaming Media readers know too well, it’s one thing to shoot video. But it’s quite another to shoot video that looks and sounds good, or at least good enough. It’s even more difficult to find a workflow for making good video consistently, without major hassles.

Any educational or training program that uses video needs to consider how instructors and students will learn to use this technology effectively. The reasons behind this are twofold.

The first is practical. You want to make sure technical glitches don’t get in the way of instruction. By itself, teaching is a specialized skill, and adding new technology threatens to complicate an instructor’s well-honed practice.

I’ve experienced this myself when teaching my own college-level courses. While I’ve been in educational technology for almost two decades, when the classroom projection system doesn’t function properly or my browser crashed in the middle of class, it takes a disruptive mental shift for me to move from my “teaching brain” to my “IT support brain.” I’ve learned firsthand why it’s so critical that instructors receive both training and practice time when any technology is introduced into their classes.

The second, and perhaps most important reason is that you want your instructional video to be useful, effective, and sustainable over the long term. An instructor who has a difficult and frustrating time creating a class video may decide it’s not worth the inconvenience. There’s a good chance that a student who is forced to watch boring or poorly produced lecture recordings will complain, give negative evaluations, or avoid them altogether. These aren’t ideal outcomes, particularly for students.

When I talk to production and support professionals who are running successful instructional video efforts, the most common unifying factor is that their institutions have put some kind of training in place. For instance, I talked to instructional technology experts from public schools in Alberta and New Jersey for this year’s “State of Educational Video” in the Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook. They give hands-on assistance to teachers who shoot video in class to support their lessons and help teachers plan out how to use video and get them oriented and comfortable with the workflow.

At the Rochester Institute of Technology, interested faculty have the opportunity to learn together in a community of interest, where instructors from different disciplines meet to share tips and discuss different approaches for flipping their classrooms. This not only lets faculty come up with their own best practices, it also helps them become more self-sufficient, permitting scarce support time to be allocated more efficiently.

Of course, you can also use videos to provide self-guided training for those who prefer it. What’s best is to make sure a few different modes are available so that nobody who wants to use video is left behind. It’s an investment that pays off with every new class of teachers and students.

This article appears in the May 2014 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "Teach the Teachers."

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