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High Quality Video Enhances Online Education

Chalkboard with extensive math equations

Thanks to high-quality and inexpensive video production, long-distance learning has come a long way in the past few decades.

In the 1980s, expensive installations of video, transmission, and satellite equipment shared courses via televised broadcasts. While effective, the financial and technical overhead limited implementations and required high selectivity to determine broadcast-worthiness.

In the 1990s, with the low cost of video cassettes, completing college coursework from home very much felt like "long-distance learning." Students might receive a cardboard box filled with a syllabus, semester's-worth of VHS tapes, textbook, and a "send-us-your-term-paper-to-be-graded" benediction.

Now, to borrow a term from yesteryear: fast forward to today. With the incredibly reduced complexity and economy of video recording and playback, individuals and universities have made their resources widely available. Many students are familiar with better understanding discrete bits of information. Sites such as the Khan Academy provide screencast tutorials to explain a variety of topics—ranging from graphing parabolas to understanding monetary inflation. Students and job-seekers now increasingly seek a competitive advantage by participating in systemized online courses. Thus, the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) has emerged.


As an example, this summer a computer science class was provided through a partnership between the University of London and Coursera. The high-quality video lectures covered a cutting-edge programming language. Multiple camera angles and screencasts were edited to convey an individual and conversational teaching style. This belied the reality that thousands of other students around the world were also participating in this MOOC. Students shared their completed programming projects and peer reviewed each other’s work using screen capture videos shared on YouTube.

As another example, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers materials from more than 2,100 courses through the OpenCourseWare project. The university’s egalitarian mission is both humbling and a disruptive innovation. Many of the courses contain video from classes held in MIT’s lecture halls. Time magazine quipped that the MOOCs offer the: “Ivy League for the Masses.” 


For the present, most students of a MOOC are offered the reward of increased knowledge or a certificate of completion. However as the industry and students’ expectations mature, universities are adapting to how educational degrees will be attained. For example, the University of Georgia asserts: "An online UGA degree is a UGA degree."


As universities expand MOOC offerings, there is an expansion of job opportunities for video producers and associated positions. Karen Head, an assistant professor at Georgia Tech notes: “The preparation of a MOOC, unlike that of a traditional course, requires working with videographers, instructional designers, IT specialists, and platform specialists...Even with our team of 19, we still needed several other people to provide support. We now also have an internal project manager to coordinate our videography needs.”


As the ancient proverb goes: "You have a thirst for knowledge that can only be quenched by the Gatorade of education." Cheers to the refreshing blend of high-quality video and technology that has made education more accessible throughout our world.


Tom Urbanowicz is Videomaker's chief operating officer.

August 29th, 2013