Future Proofing Your Video Platform: A Cautionary Tale About Obsolescence

Opinion | Higher Education

Future Proofing Your Video Platform: A Cautionary Tale About Obsolescence

By Frederick Singer     Dec 23, 2016

Future Proofing Your Video Platform: A Cautionary Tale About Obsolescence

Colleges and universities are awash in digital video. Chief information officers (CIOs) are tasked with organizing, sharing and providing on-demand access to terabytes of video for a panoply of stakeholders. Yet most of the content management and storage solutions are woefully equipped to support teaching and learning. Even as learning sciences offer stronger evidence of how video can support learners, CIOs continue to invest in commercial video platforms that solve for yesterday’s use case—often without a clear picture of how demand will evolve in the coming years.

For CIOs, future proofing is about guarding against obsolescence and extending the useful life of technology investments. Famous failures abound: Blackberry remained committed to the physical keyboard as its competitors leapfrogged them with smartphones and mobile apps. In the 1980’s, AT&T was slow to architect a billing infrastructure around consumer behavior at a time when MCI’s revolutionary “Friends and Family” program dominated the long distance wars. Newspaper executives ignored the shift as multi-modal “readers” gravitated toward sites that blended text, video and social media.

In each case, IT executives were neither incompetent nor clueless – they simply prioritized short term features and functionality, rather than connecting the dots between today’s needs and the trends that would define their industry for years to come.

So how will the role of video on campus evolve? How can institutions make investments today that anticipate the role that video will play tomorrow?

The Architecture of Convenience

Understanding the limitations of today’s video platforms requires an understanding of how they evolved. The dominant technology platforms (SIS and LMS) used on campus were never architected to make effective use of live media. As video use exploded on campus, educational institutions were forced to scramble and purchase existing solutions designed for corporations to handle storage and media syndication. While not a perfect strategic fit for an educational institution, these solutions addressed an immediate need and were convenient.

I was recently at a higher education conference where an enthusiastic vendor proclaimed that “video was the centerpiece of a new education movement.” The speaker went on to weave a compelling economic argument about the benefits of using video for everything—from athletics to school admissions.

There is nothing illogical about the “convenience” argument for video. But it misses the reality that these platforms were never designed for pedagogy and that may have big implications as video becomes more central to instruction and facilitates the capture of data critical to analytics and IR efforts.

Academic Priorities for Video

Video is already playing a more central role in teaching and learning as a new generation of students (many of whom were born after Google was founded) approach learning differently. Faculty understand that video is a natural part of their learning process. Used effectively, it can extend instructional time beyond the classroom and enable interactive learning as students effortlessly review class recordings, collaborate with peers, and record insights via their mobile device. Passive video linked from an LMS no longer cuts it.

CIOs that recognize this shift in student behavior can empower instructors to teach in more flexible and interesting ways without extra training, cost, or angst. The key is making sure that your video platform is architected to support instructional strategy with connections to student response systems, open educational resources, collaboration tools, and/or the LMS – as opposed to a more singular focus on technical video storage and management.

Architecture vs. Features

At the institutional level, committee-driven purchasing invariably leads to a focus on features. As a result, “horizontal” video platforms developed for industries other than higher education are often feature rich—but rarely focus on the key academic use cases. Meanwhile, instructional demands on video platforms are evolving at a breakneck pace.

With technology and education evolving rapidly, today’s features are less important than whether the architecture of the platform can scale to tackle tomorrow’s needs. How can a flipped classroom improve retention for large lectures? Can video convey abstract concepts to better engage learners? Does your video platform utilize agile process for quick changes, or is it locked into enterprise software? How old is the technology stack—and does it scale in the cloud? Missing features can be delivered in weeks, but architecture and strategic direction are very difficult to change.

Big Data and Predictive Analytics

The efficacy of any major technology system today will be tied to its role in analytics as well as broader student success. And yet the ability to collect student behavioral data has never been core to horizontal video platforms. What can educators learn from the frequency and duration of student interactions with video? Can your video platform readily export data to inform predictive analytics efforts? If and how video platforms not only present but collect and share data from faculty and students should be of critical consideration.

Colleges and universities today face a series of complex technical decisions as new platforms emerge, converge and intersect with both institutional priorities and the classroom. Tomorrow’s video platform will be tightly coupled with the instructional technology stack. There may be multiple paths that work in the short term, however, connecting dots in the wrong way can have serious implications as demand and opportunity evolves.

Frederick Singer (@FredSinger) is the CEO and founder of Echo360, a video and engagement platform which helps faculty capture and extend learning moments to improve student engagement before, during and after class.

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