The State of Education Video 2012
This article appears in the February/March 2012 issue of Streaming Media magazine, our annual Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook.
Most years, the world of educational technology doesn't experience too many utterly disruptive moments. Certainly, the disruptive technologies that affect our lives also have an impact on education. Schools are figuring out how to integrate mobile apps, tablets, and cloud services into their technology strategies just like business and government. While some schools may be early adopters, the education sector as a whole moves more cautiously. That's because capital is often more dear, and making an investment in a platform that doesn't have legs can be difficult to bounce back from.
That all goes to say that change in the education sector tends to be incremental, and that is certainly true for online video in education. But incremental change doesn't necessarily mean that progress is plodding. Two years ago I declared that 2009 was the year video had reached the tipping point in the academy. As we move from 2011 into 2012, I'd argue that overall growth is accelerating.
Mobile Video Becomes Mainstream
Like the streaming industry as a whole, mobile video has become a mainstream technology for education, and 2011 was the milestone year. Mobile video is becoming ubiquitous. Lecture capture is a backbone application for educational video. And this past year all the major platforms began seriously supporting playback on mobile devices in some way.
Echo360, Inc. released version 4.0 of its EchoSystem, which debuted an iPad-specific player, in addition to support for Android and other iOS devices. At the end of the year, Sonic Foundry, Inc. shipped version 6 of Mediasite, which streams to iOS and BlackBerry devices. Android devices can view Mediasite presentations that use the platform's new HTML5 player. Panopto, Inc.'s Focus 3.1 added enhanced picture-in-picture viewing options for iOS devices using mobile Safari on top of the MP4 video streaming features in version 3.0.
Tegrity, Inc., which was acquired by The McGraw-Hill Cos. at the end of 2010, was one of the first lecture capture platforms to release an iOS player app. In 2011 the company added an Android app for video viewing.
Video conferencing and telepresence giant Polycom, Inc. acquired Accordent Technologies, Inc. and its lecture capture and media management products in March. The most recent versions of what are now called RealPresence Capture Station
and RealPresence Broadcast Producer support playback on iOS devices, although there is no Android-specific support.
Opencast Matterhorn is the open source player in the lecture capture game. Version 1.0 of the platform was released in 2010, and 2011 saw two version upgrades to 1.2. As an open source project, extensions and innovations don't necessarily have to come as part of a standard release cycle, as typically seen in commercial platforms. In October the University of Osnabrück in Germany released the Matterhorn2Go app, which relies on Adobe AIR for Android and is currently available in the Android Market. An iOS version is in development but not yet available in Apple's App Store.
Mobile is supported with pretty much all the major video platforms used in education. Whether it's a new breed open video player (OVP) such as Kaltura, Ensemble Video, or Ooyala or stalwarts such as YouTube and iTunes U, schools have multiple options for making video available to students and faculty on-the-go.
Still, up to now, educators have largely considered mobile accessibility to be a desirable, but not essential, feature. The first-generation iPhone had only just been released when today's seniors in the class of 2012 started their freshman year, and it was probably still too expensive for parents to bestow upon their budding scholars. But the class of 2016 has almost grown up with smartphones. A great many of them will spend far more time using their smartphones than any computer. For them, mobile internet access is an expectation, not a fancy novelty. These students will expect their course materials to be available on their Android devices or iPhones, and administrators will have to deal with their complaints and excuses when legacy videos aren't mobile-ready.
Mobile, then, will be one of the key features putting increased pressure on schools to adopt video management platforms or, as I'll discuss shortly, lecture capture platforms with enhanced import and management features. Simply put, the demands of serving video to HTML5 mobile browsers, while also serving legacy desktops and laptops with outdated browsers or Flash are creating a bigger problem than most DIY solutions can solve easily.
Big Year for Lecture Capture
Looking again at the lecture capture space, 2011 was probably the most active year in recent memory. Polycom's Accordent acquisition wasn't the only shuffling of the deck in the market. In June the control and automation systems provider Crestron Electronics, Inc. jumped into the market with its new CAPTURE-HD device. Any instructor who uses a smart classroom has a very good chance of bumping into a Crestron system, with the company's name emblazoned on the room's touch-panel control. The CAPTURE-HD device combines computer video and camera video with audio into a single full-motion 720p or 1080p H.264 video stream that can be saved directly to a USB thumb drive or uploaded to a networked server.
Smaller companies are moving out, and big companies are muscling into their old space. Look for monolithic learning management systems to give way to more agile solutions.
Both inside and outside the classroom, video is as essential to students as email and Wi-Fi. Look for live streaming to increase in higher-ed, especially for popular events.
SUNY and NY6 schools have adopted similar measures for sharing digital media and controlling costs.
Video is transforming how college students learn, but creating a video strategy takes careful planning.