Universities have long been humanity’s cultural, societal, and intellectual hubs. Technologies have come and gone in recent history. Like the printing press, the sweeping changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution, or the telegraph, the telephone, and the computer. But the main ways in which colleges and universities produce and distribute information, and how they engage their students, have remained relatively static.
The traditional role of the college or the university campus as a physical asset in our connected society has begun to shift as we’ve harnessed the power of the Internet. Streaming 1080 HD video, for example, is not as taxing on systems today as, say, streaming 480i video 15 years ago, which has led to massive technological disruption across multiple industries; launching the educational world into the online space at breakneck speed. With the rise of streaming video has come the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), an affordable cyberspace alternative to the traditional physical campus.
The Rise of MOOC
In Fall of 2011, Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig were the first professors to pilot a MOOC. Through an open-enrollment course concerning the topic of artificial intelligence offered through Stanford University, Thrun and Norvig led 160,000 students through video lectures, proceeding together as a virtual “classroom” instead of individually. Accompanied by machine-graded assignments and progress tracking, the first MOOC was a massive success. By early 2012 multiple universities including Harvard and MIT were offering MOOCs of their own, with many schools partnering up to create not-for-profit programs such as edX to offer courses together. Pang Wei Koh, head of course operations at Coursera, a Stanford faculty founded company that offers MOOCs, credits streaming video as a primary factor for the success of these courses.
“Video is very important to a Coursera course, being the primary vehicle for teaching class content for virtually all our classes,” say Koh. “Videos allow us to establish a visual connection between the professor and her students,” creating and reinforcing the fact that “their teacher is a real person rather than someone hidden behind text or images.”
Adopting Streaming Video as the New EDTech Norm
In 2016 and beyond, learning organizations of all kinds must face the challenge of figuring out not just how to make video, but how to make it pay, measured by use, return on investment, and student success. A couple of things that higher ed organizations dealing with streaming video MOOCs should keep in mind if they want to remain successful in EDTech:
Advanced AV is an InfoComm CAVSP Diamond Certified firm made up of dedicated personnel who take great care in delivering results for clients. Headquartered in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Advanced AV has evolved with the advancement of technology into a specialized integrator of professional audiovisual systems for business, education, government, and worship facilities, serving the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. Advanced AV and its sister companies, Advanced Staging Productions rental and MC3 creative services.
- Most MOOCs are created by entire teams of digital content creators. There’s a lot of work involved in creating online courses, including clearing copyrights, fact-checking, and professional video and lighting work. Consider enlisting help before you go it alone.
- Keep your videos short and to-the-point. “Unlike lectures in a typical college classroom, we encourage faculty to keep these video lectures to 15 minutes or less,” says Elizabeth A. Evans, production lead for the Duke Digital Initiative at Duke University. “The MOOC videos are designed to be short, not just extracts from a longer lecture.”
- These videos are meant to be interpersonal. Educators should treat these videos more as one-on-one interactions, akin to a professor having office hours.
- Most MOOC student cohorts are international. Avoiding using colloquialisms or slang that might not be familiar to students from different countries and cultural backgrounds.
- All lectures should offer closed-captioning. Not only do non-native speakers of English benefit from having both written and spoken language provided, but students that are hearing impaired will require it.
- Not all students will have great bandwidth. Offering files for download can help mitigate the issue for students with low-bandwidth or who might want to watch the videos on-the-go.
- MOOCs are new, and the learning curve is high. Exploring and experimenting is a must, as is comparing the failures and successes of your experimentation with a community. You’ll never learn more than from those already doing it.
“If you enjoy experimenting and have a little extra time on your hands—make that a lot of extra time—this is a fun time to get started [with MOOCs],” says Marlon Kuzmick, coordinator of the HarvardX Community of Video Practice. “The excitement surrounding MOOCs has enabled us to focus on instructional video with new found intensity,” Kuzmick reports, “and I think that everyone involved in the project is becoming more conscious of what it means to communicate in this new medium.”
While challenges faced by learning institutions and video producers persist, a strong community that believes in the MOOC revolution is making sure that these hiccups are solved quickly and efficiently. Streaming video is here to stay, for better. Not worse.