Managing Videos Effectively To Avoid Media Meltdown

Dr. Shay David, Co-Founder, Kaltura
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Dr. Shay David, Co-Founder, Kaltura

As they prioritize their To-Dos for 2014, CIOs at educational institutions around the country and further afield put the planning and deployment of a central media strategy and rich media repository at the top of the list. While video is permeating almost every aspect of campus life – from teaching and learning to marketing, development, communications and admissions - the approach has generally been haphazard, resulting in silos of content that lack a coherent framework for Security, Access Control, Rights Management, Discoverability, Accessibility and Search.

For many, a potential rich-media management crisis is looming on campus, and this impending crisis is only exacerbated by today’s ed-tech trends, which all rely heavily on video to thrive – flipped classrooms, personalised learning, blended learning, social learning, and of course MOOCs. Add the complexity of allowing (and supporting) students and faculty to Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD), and you have a recipe for an IT nightmare.

According to Kenneth C. Green of The Campus Computing Project: “Fewer than 30 percent of CIOs and senior campus IT officers representing some 540-plus U.S. colleges and universities surveyed by Campus Computing in fall 2012 report that their institution had a strategic plan for content management. For most campuses, a video management strategy is an ‘after the fact’ initiative as opposed to an ‘ahead of the curve’ strategy.”

But why should CIOs care about video so much? Because of a few compounding factors:
1. Video is the foundation of the two most important trends in EDU right now
a. flipped classroom
b. distance education

By setting the foundation for video on campus, CIOs can make sure they have solid grounds to expand on these two.

2 .Video is the new PPT. The availability of video cameras in every cell phone and the dramatic drop in prices for both cameras and screens indicates that the means of producing and consuming video is now in everyone’s pocket (and soon, with devices like Google Glass, in everyone’s line of sight, quite literally). But more content does not necessarily mean good content.

3. The YouTube generation is now going to college. Students use video first, text second, for both their learning needs and any other type of information needs on campus. Video, as professor Larry Lessig of Harvard calls it, is the new Lingua Franca.

4. We live in a media culture. Video and media are everywhere on campus, well beyond teaching and learning. From clubs, activities, athletics, research and all the way to alumni
relationships, development, and admissions -- video is the most effective means of communication available today.

5. Video does not replace existing systems; it builds on top of them. Video is one of the four pillars of the data architecture of the future that includes:
a. the SIS
b. the LMS
c. the object repository / preservation system
d. the media management system and all of these need to work like clockwork.

So CIOs that want to outdo the pendulum, and think ‘ahead of the curve’ in 2014, can use the following checklist to help set up an environment that enables students, faculty, administrators and other stakeholders to create, connect, share and communicate via video securely, reliably and cost-effectively.

1. Review current costs: a centralized media management platform can often save you money
Video silos on campus are eating up network resources, storage, and computing power. Before looking at a centralized management system, look into how much your campus is spending right now on storing and trans coding ever-larger volumes of rich media, as well as the IT management costs associated with processing and managing video content. This total expenditure likely costs more than a new, centralized solution – and for an inferior user experience. (A simple thought experiment: how much does it ‘cost’ when a faculty member asks students to take short videos during a field trip, and email to their classmates? Short answer: potentially 50-100 times more than it should, due to storage costs alone, as the video becomes a heavy attachment that clogs the inboxes with multiple copies of the same file over and over and over again).

2. Integrate with your existing infrastructure.
Many campus departments and research centers have already invested time, money and resources in the development or the procurement of technologies to manage users’ content and curriculum (e.g. LMS, lecture capture, live events streaming, CMS etc). Ensure that a centralized media solution can recognize and integrate with existing systems, policies, procedures and resources already in place. Instead of retraining lecturers, students and others to use a complicated video platform, ensure that your video solution can adapt to existing workflows – both now and into the future.

3. Plan for measurement and analytics
Measuring the ongoing effectiveness of your investment in media is important. Back-end analytics and audience measurement tools can help to identify how effective your content is at reaching and engaging users. Individual analytics which can go down to the individual student level can help particularly in the context of teaching and learning - to establish correlation between media usage and learning results. Integration into third-party systems like Google Analytics can offer insights into how stakeholders are using media on campus, and where this powerful mode of communication can push results further.

4. Make sure to support ‘any device, anywhere, anytime’
The need to deliver a high-quality video experience across an increasingly complex range of devices and platforms –from PCs and tablets to smart phones and set-top-boxes and digital signage–makes opting for home-grown applications or a consumer-based video hosting strategy untenable. Look for a platform provider that gives you the flexibility to host the applications on premise or on the cloud and whose trans coding solutions deliver the most effective video formats and provide the best user experience across all platforms and devices for the foreseeable future.

5. Launch a Campus Tube initiative
Encourage use, re-use and customization of video resources by deploying a ‘Campus YouTube’ that features intuitive authoring, upload, moderation, publishing, search, browsing, and sharing of videos across devices. Make it easy for individuals and groups to create and access secure content channels that enable students to reengage with their learning experience (e.g. a lecture, demonstration or simulation), or that allow alumni to keep in touch. And make it easy for users to create videos (e.g. via webcam recordings, screen recordings), edit and clip videos and to create ongoing engagement around the videos in the form of in-video quizzes, comments, and the grading of video assignments.

6. Determine the role that your Library will play
Thoughtful media management really calls for a significant role for the campus library, making it important that both the academic and administrative organizations work together to guarantee both access and preservation of digital content. The library team has expertise in cataloguing and curating of content – skills which are essential for the management of these campus-wide rich media assets. Also, libraries are typically more accessible to students than are campus IT helpdesks, and naturally have a role to play in this transition from text only to rich media.

7. Put in place the right levels of security and governance
Protecting third-party licensed content, or content that students, lecturers and others create and share, while still making it easy enough for authorized users to use the platform is a balancing act. Check that your security, access control and entitlement system covers varying levels of access, digital rights management, different methods of user authentication, and appropriate moderation of uploaded content and publishing.

8. Ensure that content is fully accessible for the visually and hearing-impaired
You must ensure that your videos are fully accessible and 508-complaint to reach all users. This is the law in the US under the American with Disabilities Act. But it’s also the law of attraction. Video that is presented in an accessible manner, with high contrast players, transcripts, keyboard shortcuts, multiple audio tracks – is more engaging and enables better viewing experience and higher levels of engagement.

9. Search, Search, Search – if users can’t find it, it doesn’t exist
Disorganized content is a turn off for viewers and administrators. Video content should be fully navigable, searchable and viewable from all campus applications and sites, such as learning management systems and other applications. Your solution should allow you to organize content into meaningful categories, with a serviceable search function that extends to custom metadata tags, full text transcripts, synchronized slides (where applicable), and any other contextual metadata (for example, international subtitles). As your content library grows, organization, metadata and search will be key. The ability to perform in-video search across the asset base of transcribed content is of particular value.

For today’s YouTube generation, video is not gravy. It’s the main dish. Video is destined to permeate onto campuses in greater and greater volumes and needs to be managed effectively in order to avoid a media meltdown. Putting video at the heart of the campus in 2014 and acknowledging its place as a vital fourth pillar in the data architecture of the future will pay dividends for years to come. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Video is that, at 30 frames per second.

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