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5 ways to work video into the learning system

Approaches to supporting an effective institution-wide strategy for incorporating video into the LMS
University Business, October 2014
At Grand Valley State University, faculty are asked to write a script before using the video-hosting platform to record a lecture.
At Grand Valley State University, faculty are asked to write a script before using the video-hosting platform to record a lecture.

While video’s presence in higher learning is undoubtedly expanding, the frequency and extent to which it is being used varies widely—even within institutions.

At the Western University of Health Sciences in California, every lecture within the College of Osteopathic Medicine is recorded and posted to its learning management system, while in other colleges at the institution, video capture isn’t used at all, says Miary Andriamiarisoa, director of institutional technology.

Video will account for 80 to 90 percent of global consumer internet traffic by 2018, according to the 2014 Cisco Visual Networking Index. The effect on higher education will be “a major transformation that is going to hit any institution sooner or later,” says Andriamiarisoa. “The sooner universities embrace using videos, the better adapted they will be.”

A large part of implementing an institution-wide video strategy is creating procedures for incorporating the medium into courses—specifically, into learning management systems that can serve as a campus video repository for video and other course material. But some faculty and administrators are much more comfortable with, or interested in, using the technology than are their colleagues.

So although there are LMS features and add-on tools to make integrating video into the course system simpler, there are still challenges to ensuring faculty are using video.

The following are five best practices for effectively integrating video into course collections at the campuswide level.

1. Provide adequate training.

One of the biggest hurdles in launching a video strategy is getting resistant faculty on board, says Don Lane, manager of technical operations at The University of Texas at Arlington. But offering frequent training can help convert the reluctant.

Next phase in video: Automated upload

In an era when instant communication has become the norm in many venues, users are beginning to expect it everywhere. Learning management systems are no exception.

LMS vendors are now incorporating features such as “seamless logon” and webcam plugins that enable instructors to capture lectures or students to record themeslves and automatically post their videos to the LMS.

But there are “still too many clicks” in the process of creating and uploading video, says Jared Marcum, director of online learning at Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

“The easier it is to make, upload and view the video, the better it is for everyone,” adds Paul Beaudoin, an online learning specialist at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. “But given the various formats—AVI, MP4, FLV, etc.—there won’t be an easy solution for this anytime soon.”

Creating and hosting regular one-on-one and large-group workshops helped drum up so much interest in video at his university, there are now more than 60 recording devices across campus—up from five in 2008. More than 100 instructors have signed on to use the system for at least 220 courses, he says.

Part of convincing instructors to use the technology is educating them about its importance. This can be accomplished by showcasing pedagogical success stories, and by providing data that demonstrate the widespread use of video.

Through training, typically handled in-house by IT, faculty can get hands-on instruction selecting or creating videos most relevant to their learning objectives. Training should also help faculty navigate privacy, accessibility and copyright issues by explaining what content can be used and how it should be shared.

“We encourage the use of captioning, describing tables and images, or providing alternate text,” says Duncan McBogg, an IT service manager at the University of Colorado-Boulder. “We also ask faculty to be cautious of copyright, fair use and student privacy laws.”

In the case of lecture capture, faculty should storyboard their content by writing a script, says Eric Kunnen, associate director of e-learning and emerging technologies at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. This helps create a more seamless, polished production and can also provide a transcript that can be uploaded, with the video, into the LMS to meet ADA requirements.

2. Offer enough—but not too many—options.

To support faculty comfort, provide a range of options for recording and posting video, says Andriamiarisoa of WesternU. Faculty there can post videos into the LMS in several ways, most commonly through the university’s main lecture capture software, which automatically deposits recordings into the system.

An enterprise-wide license allows faculty to record videos in their own homes or they can work in a studio with support from IT. An alternative lecture capture program can be used if preferred. Externally-created videos also can be encoded for posting in the LMS.

Just be careful not to create additional confusion and cost. “It’s best to leverage the tools already being used by the institution,” says Andriamiarisoa. Too many platforms can also make it tough to track usage data—needed to assess and refine the overall video strategy.

3. Ensure adequate bandwidth, tech support and resources.

As video creation and usage increases, so does the need for bandwidth and storage space. Bandwidth is especially an issue at schools with large commuter or distance-learning populations, where student access to high-speed internet is not guaranteed.

Students with slower connections may not be able to access directly-uploaded videos that must be downloaded to view. To deal with this issue, Torria Bond, an instructional designer at California Baptist University, suggests faculty link video to the LMS through free video hosting services such as YouTube.

At Brigham Young University-Hawaii, where many students in island nations in the South Pacific take online courses, director of online learning Jared Marcum says the nearly 35 percent drop-out rate is 10 to 15 percent higher than the average. That’s due, in large part, to poor internet connectivity. To help deal with this, the school relies most heavily on asynchronous recordings, rather than real-time interaction.

Providing adequate resources to faculty also includes technicians who can help with everything from arranging the lighting in a recording studio to formatting videos for the LMS. At WesternU, video has become such an integral part of the institutional strategy that every college now has a dedicated support person to manage the scheduling of recordings. Previously, a single administrator handled the task for the entire university.

Every recorded lecture is captured in duplicate, through software installed on the desktop and through an external camera and microphone in the classroom.

“One of these appliances died in the middle of a class and it was a major disaster,” says Andriamiarisoa. “After that, we said, ‘OK, we cannot allow this to happen again; we are going to go the extra mile and do double recording.’ ”

But Andriamiarisoa says this double-recording might not be a best practice unless video is “the lifeblood of your curriculum”—as it has become for his school. “Because we are a medical school and the terminologies and concepts are really dense, students need to go back often and review,” he says. “It’s almost like the students can no longer perform their studies without these videos.”

4. Reinforce pedagogical goals.

Viewing instructional videos multiple times has become common among users. At Grand Valley State, 100 percent of students who watched instructor-made videos viewed the same video several times throughout the semester—often many times per week, an analysis of LMS usage statistics found.

In addition to reinforcing concepts, video can help increase student engagement by providing a new medium for communication and creativity. “Novelty combats boredom from overly-used strategies,” says Bond of California Baptist.

It can also help create community, especially in an online course. Faculty and students can communicate “face-to-face” by posting videos of themselves speaking, which creates a more personal experience.

The LMS provides a centralized portal for accessing and storing the content—and collecting it in one place increases the likelihood that students will engage with the material.

But the most important part of any video strategy is ensuring pedagogical usefulness. That involves helping students make connections between video content and course objectives. “Tie it back into what’s being discussed in class,” McBogg says.

At BYU-Hawaii, internationals comprise almost half of the student population and many are online English-language learners. Marcum says video gives these students a more immersive experience. They can participate in tutoring sessions through Skype and post presentation videos in which they explain a concept in English.

5. Consider video-based assessments.

Video can also be useful as an assessment tool. Paul Beaudoin, an online learning specialist and art instructor at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts, says video assessments further develop the creative, digital storytelling skills students display on social media.

In a recent course, a group of students created a radio documentary featuring musical selections, interviews, images and a mock narrative. Projects like these, Beaudoin says, often yield results that far surpass the minimum requirements of the assignment.

Learning management systems can simplify the process of grading videos by providing faculty with a centralized access point. Faculty create designated assignments asking students to incorporate video, which students upload and submit, allowing faculty to review them through one source.

Even still, video used for assessment purposes can be prohibitively time-consuming. “It can be death for grading purposes,” says Marcum of BYU-Hawaii. “There are some technologies that speed up the video so you can listen to it more quickly, but the reality is, you can’t use video for everything.”

According to Marcum, promoting video use is important, but balance is key. Video should be used in ways that enhance learning, instruction and engagement without distracting from course objectives or creating too much of a burden on teacher and student.

Ioanna Opidee is a Milford, Conn.-based writer.

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