Learning Decompressed

Bringing video streaming technology into edtech conversations.

GUEST COLUMN | by Jason Thibeault

CREDIT LimelightIt probably doesn’t come as a surprise that I believe the most significant factor  changing education is technology. There is no doubt that technology is revolutionizing education in many ways, but one way that does not often come to the forefront of conversations is video streaming technologies—compressed content sent over the internet and decompressed by a player on the user’s computer. Video streaming technology is making education more accessible, which has been made possible by advancements in access to high-speed internet connections. Several domestic and transnational initiatives have focused on this goal. For example, ConnectED has a lofty goal to connect 99 percent of students in America to high-speed broadband by 2018, and Facebook is attempting to connect remote parts of the developing world to wireless internet.

Perhaps in the future, video streaming will blur the line between “inside the classroom” and “outside the classroom” so well that we will be forced to redefine what it means to be in school.

According to Project Tomorrow’s recent Speak Up survey, forty-six percent of teachers are using video in their classrooms, and one-third of students are accessing videos online to help them with their homework. Twenty-three percent of students are accessing videos created by their teachers, and educational institutions based exclusively on videos are also gaining traction, with non-profits like Khan Academy leading the way.

Why An Increase

There are a number of reasons for the increased use of video streaming technologies in recent years. Online learning has emerged as an effective solution to help combat the high costs of traditional higher education. A Brookings Institution study found that student loans increased by a whopping 77 percent from 2002-2012, and the price tag for attending an in-state, public four-year college grew by nearly 32 percent during the same period. Many students have been rethinking their college plans as a result, and online learning has become a good alternative to traditional higher education for many of them. In addition, video streaming allows students to learn at their own pace and tailored to their unique learning needs. Video streaming enables more “learning by doing,” which is often engaging for students.

Several organizations are innovating in the video streaming space. The nonprofit Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) is working with video streaming technology to increase access and educational opportunities for students with visual and/or hearing impairments. DCMP has an education library that is available instantly with thousands of educational materials for teachers of students who have visual and/or hearing impairments. Through Limelight Networks’ content delivery network, DCMP’s is able to automatically convert their content to the right format for any connected device. Arizona-based Spear Education offers professional development seminars and hands-on workshops, and the organization’s online platform includes over 1,300 research-driven educational videos. Spear Education’s underlying premise is that the convenience of learning via video makes it more convenient for busy dentistry professionals to seek out professional growth opportunities. But higher education is also adopting video streaming to extend their classroom experiences—MIT, Stanford, and the State University of New York just to name a few.

Inside Out

Still, it’s important to note that video streaming will never be a replacement for the traditional classroom. Rather, it should complement other forms of instruction. By leveraging streaming video and supporting technologies (such as social integration, quizzes, and additional content that is synchronized with the video), educators can replicate components of the classroom outside of the school walls and hours, and enhance the quality of students’ learning experiences. Consider the following example—a student could watch an online video of frog dissection at home (interacting with other students through social media while watching, clicking on elements within the video to expand key content, taking quizzes) before coming into class for the real lesson.

A great example of this is the McGraw Hill Virtual Lab which combines live videos with other interactive elements. By using streaming video in this fashion, teachers can use in-person, class time for activities such as project-based learning or class-wide discussions. Video streaming should augment the classroom and enhance learning by empowering students with engaging, interactive, and immersive experiences that work in conjunction with traditional instruction as well as making knowledge sharing feasible for all, no matter a student’s resources, locations, or abilities.

We are seeing the transformative properties of streaming video across a wide range of industries, but no more so than in education. And as streaming video technologies continue to morph—virtual reality, augmented reality, interactivity—educational providers will gain more power and tools to extend and expand the learning experience. Perhaps in the future, video streaming will blur the line between “inside the classroom” and “outside the classroom” so well that we will be forced to redefine what it means to be in school. Without a doubt, traditional learning, as we know it, is in for a wild ride.

Jason Thibeault is Senior Director of Content Marketing at Limelight Networks.

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