Guest post: ReelSurfer co-founder on video in education

A guest post on the current state of video in education from the co-founder of ReelSurfer...Enjoy!
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

I asked Neil Joglekar, one of the co-founders of ReelSurfer, if he'd be willing to write a guest post on video in education. After our conversation last month where he introduced me to ReelSurfer, it was clear that he had a pretty good handle on precisely where video could head in schools and universities. He was kind enough to oblige and his guest post is reprinted in full below.


When I think about the evolution of technology in education, I only have to reflect on how it has changed so drastically during my short lifetime. Just six years ago, I was in high school and did not (gasp!) even have a school email address. Now, I’m a self-diagnosed email-a-holic. I have two different email clients open as I write this article, and my iPhone will sound an alarm every time I get a new message.

During my college years at Stanford University, I witnessed another revolution: online video. In only the past few years, I have seen the rise of video distributors, YouTube, Hulu and Ustream. Simultaneously, video capture migrated from clunky video camcorders to easy-to-use smart phones. These innovations have now combined to create an environment where anyone has the power to become a popular video publisher overnight. Simply put, video has allowed people around the world to express themselves and spread their message in the easiest and most engaging way.

In education, online video has also gained momentum as a learning tool. Now, a student in the Ukraine can take classes at Stanford and communicate with other students in the class without ever stepping foot in Palo Alto. Institutions like MIT have embraced this innovation by providing all of their lectures online for free. The power of video as a communication tool is limitless; video has the ability to transform how students learn by eliminating modern barriers such as geography and possibly, tuition.

Read on to find out why these schools are the exception, not the rule

Unfortunately, these universities are in the minority. While it’s true that video has the potential to become an important complement to traditional teaching and written text, video brings complex issues, such as: recording, post-production, copyright, accessibility, formats, codecs, players, and devices. Do you have a headache yet? These complications discourage other institutions from adopting video as teaching tool.

As one of the co-founders of ReelSurfer, I am now entrenched in the video revolution. Over the last two years, I have spoken to technologists at different schools across the country about their problems, solutions, and ideas regarding the future of video.

From those conversations, I have discovered many differences in how institutions handle video. Some large universities produce videos from a seemingly infinite number of scattered groups across their medical, law, and business schools.  What’s more, each of these groups has built its own individual system to display their video! At the other extreme, some schools produce only three total hours of video per semester. And even this video is wasted as a valuable resource as it is buried on a hard drive and not showcased on the Flash Media Server, which remains unopened because nobody knows how to install it.

The centralization of campus video is a (long) conversation for another time. The point I am trying to make is that all institutions need to make a concerted effort to better utilize video and integrate it into their teaching methods.

Even with all the possibilities available, many institutions currently use video the same way we used to use a VCR, to record and play. Video is not just a tool to re-watch lectures that were missed. That would be analogous to saying that a textbook is meant for looking without touching. Students personalize their books in their own way; they crease pages, highlight sections, quote words in papers, and share with friends. The key is that learning is contextual to each student.  Video can also facilitate these different styles of learning and usage.

Click here to find out how video can be like snack food

To illustrate, when I study, I read a page or two and then try to figure out what the text means. While there may be people that can read a whole textbook and immediately understand everything, I am not one of them. Like many people, I consume information in small snack-size pieces.

A video lets you create these snacks with the best material, a professor’s own words. Video uniquely allows students to take those words and create a personal experience around it. Video annotations, remixes and mashups allow students to provide their own context, making the information more digestible.

So what then, ultimately, is the purpose of video? Incorporating video in teaching is not about recreating the classroom experience. It is impossible to appreciate the sights, smells and sounds of class, while watching a lecture from your dorm room at 3am. There is no way to ask questions, meet classmates, or learn from the non-verbal cues of your professor and friends.

Video is about doing more. It’s about providing a richer learning experience that is beyond what is simply in the classroom. Video is a better way to offer students an engaging and customizable learning experience. Who knows? In another few years, perhaps our iPhone will be ringing with new video messages and we will all be self-diagnosed video-a-holics.

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