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360 Video and Ed Tech: What Are the Best Use Cases for Distance Learning?

360 video is a fun and engaging format in many applications, but its use in distance learning has not been as well received as it has been in other verticals. So far, there are limited use cases that have proven the practicality of 360 video, and this has stopped the education field from more widely adopting the technology. But this does not mean that there are no impactful uses of the technology for distance learning. To date, the effectiveness of 360 video for eLearning situations has proven very dependent on specific factors, such as its use in disciplines where training works best not just in ordinary classrooms, but instead requires real-world environments that involve more student interaction and demonstrated examples.

“We thought this would be fantastic for education because you can completely duplicate the classroom experience,” says Rich Mavrogeanes, the CEO of DiscoverVideo. DiscoverVideo uses Insta360, a Chinese company that makes a spherical camera which creates 360 live video and records it in crisp 8K. Despite that, feedback from students and instructors has been mostly negative, as the ability to follow the instructor around the room and look at other attending students proved to add very little to the user experience. “As the students and the instructors ultimately told us, the experience sucks if you're there in person,” Mavrogeanes says. “So doing it electronically, remotely, why would I want that?”

Where 360 video did prove much more useful was in settings such as courtrooms. “The lawyers really like the 360 camera in the courtroom because the bailiff can look at what they want to look at,” Mavrogeanes says. “The judge wants to look at the defense, the prosecution, to zoom in. You're capturing a 360 experience and for evidence and for security, that's great. I wish it were stronger in education, but so far, it doesn't seem to add to the mission.”

Scott Nelson, the Director of Instructional Media, Office of Distance Education and eLearning at The Ohio State University, agrees. “Just sticking a 360 camera in a classroom doesn't add to the experience. It's a distraction,” he says. “The cases where we're finding a lot of success are in colleges where environment is key, like the College of Nursing. What's it like to be in an emergency room? You're seeing the panic going on. Those are the unique experiences. Engineering--we can't take people into data centers, they're high security. But if we capture a 360 environment of it, students can experience that and walk through it.”

The current challenge for effective use of 360 video in Ed Tech ultimately rests in better collaboration between the streaming and education industries. There should be more concrete examples of cases where interactivity makes the best use of the technology. “I would love to collaborate and connect with people to figure out what that looks like moving forward,” Nelson says. “And the interactive part--how do you track what people are looking at and what they're engaging with? And what kind of feedback does it get? So it's not just passively spinning around in your chair, but really engaging with what's in the room.”

Learn more about ed tech and immersive video at Streaming Media West 2022.

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