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The State of Education Video 2013

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Farber thinks that "allowing students to create explanatory video for other students is a great way to teach." He says, "[A]ccording to research, the ability to teach content shows that the student has a firm grasp of that content." Farber uses the Animoto web and iPad app to let students create video slideshows set to music, such as the mock movie trailers made by his sixth-grade students.

The Rise of the MOOC

Ask just about anyone in higher education and she'll tell you that in terms of hype, if nothing else, 2012 was the year of the MOOC, which is short for "massive open online course." The idea for free online courseware has been around for a while. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology opened its Open Courseware initiative in 2002, sharing course materials from its traditional college and graduate-level courses. Khan Academy got its start in 2006, now providing more than 3,600 short video lessons on a variety of topics, garnering additional attention for free online courseware. While these materials are free to use, students have to bring their own structure and discipline; there are no teachers, no tests, and no grades.

The leap from open courseware to MOOC happened in fall 2011. Stanford kicked off its Stanford Engineering Everywhere project, which began offering full courses, sequenced over a regular semester, to as many students who can enroll; 94,000 students enrolled in Stanford's first machine learning class. MIT announced its MITX initiative -- now renamed edX -- that same fall, also offering massive open courses.

These courses differ from open courseware in that they are designed to be more like a traditional distance class, not just a collection of materials. Students move through the course syllabus together as a cohort. They have the opportunity to collaborate using message boards and social media, where faculty also often participate. However, in order to deal with tens of thousands of students, assessments such as quizzing, testing, and grading are all automated. Students do not yet receive college credit or diplomas, although MOOC providers are working to create a path to certification. This will probably not be free, but it will cost less than typical college tuition.

MOOCs rely heavily on online audio and video materials that take the place of traditional course lectures. Because these courses are designed specifically for the open online environment, much of this content is not just repurposed class lecture videos. Instead, video and multimedia is produced for the online environment, breaking down programs into easily digestible and navigable segments, illustrating complex ideas visually instead of just presenting talking heads.

The rapid popularity and success of MOOCs spurred two new startups to launch at the beginning of 2012, both headed by Stanford faculty. Udacity, Inc. co-founder and CEO Sebastian Thrun was the professor who taught that massively popular artificial intelligence course. Udacity contracts directly with instructors to offer its courses, which number 19 as of December 2012. The company pays for this with more than $15 million in venture capital funding.

Coursera was founded by computer science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller. It is working directly with universities to offer their courses; 33 universities had signed on to offer 208 courses by the end of 2012, including Columbia University, the University of Illinois, and the University of British Columbia. Coursera also secured venture capital funding to the tune of $16 million.

MIT partnered with Harvard University to create a nonprofit entry in the MOOC space, edX. The enterprise has signed up four more schools, including the University of California-Berkeley and Georgetown University. edX offered nine courses in fall 2012.

The interest of students, funders, and the press has put MOOCs at the top of the discussion list for most college campuses. The University of Wisconsin's McNurlen says that "the buzz around MOOCs will likely keep us busy in 2013." Nelson reports that "MOOCs are starting to creep into conversations," at Columbus State Community College, "and video is central to that dialogue."

It is reasonable to expect that Coursera and edX will sign up many more schools in 2013, especially big-name universities that do not want to be perceived as being left behind. This is going to rapidly increase the demand for video production at these new MOOC campuses, along with the attendant need to manage that content.

What's Next?

The maturity of online video in education is obvious in how quickly it has gone from a gee-whiz feature to an integral part of education, from grade school to university. "Our district increased its bandwidth to enable streaming," Farber says, which enables him and his colleagues to make more use of streaming video from Discovery Education and Common Craft in the classroom.

With this maturation, the expectations of students and faculty have progressed. To support this, IT staff have to integrate video into existing infrastructure and make the learning experience as seamless as possible. Bouthillier says his top requirement is "having an online platform with good integration into SSO [single sign-on], LMS [learning management system] and other enterprise technologies." This is vital because "you have to remove as much friction from the creation and publishing process as possible. That will allow faculty and students to start using video as a routine part of their academic toolkit."

Schools will need to form a better understanding of how video serves and enhances learning outcomes. Nelson says, "[A]nalytics will be huge." It needs to move past views, "looking at other data points such as play-through [and] sharing." He also believes that "there will be new measures that will become important." Nelson observes that learning analytics is a current trend in higher education, and he sees video being swept up in it as well.

"The question will be what does it all mean," he concludes. We should be excited to find out.

This article appears in the forthcoming 2013 Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook.

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