Video use in higher education shouldn’t be a one-way experience.

It should be an interactive learning tool, one that can improve student retention, create powerful faculty-student interaction, and empower students to collaborate in ways that take learning in exciting new directions.

TomIrons60x80At least that’s how we see it here. As a global leader for video capture, management and streaming solutions, we’re continually looking for ways to augment the video experience with personalized tools that better engage students and encourage interactivity. By doing this, we’re empowering colleges and universities around the globe to implement bold and effective video initiatives that can transform the learning experience for a video-literate – and video-hungry – generation of students.

In the following Q&A, we talk to Sonic Foundry’s VP of Customer Success, Tom Irons, about the newest student engagement features in Mediasite.

Q: Can you highlight Mediasite’s latest interactivity features? How about from both a student and an instructor perspective?

A: Sure. That’s a good way to get a basic understanding of the exciting capabilities we’re bringing to our higher education customers. For students, the latest tools empower them to do things like:

  • Measure their understanding of subject matter through embedded video quizzes
  • Easily ask questions during live lecture streams or in on-demand video
  • Participate in a video forum that’s dynamic and collaborative thanks to features that encourage discussion
  • Create personalized – and searchable – playlists of video content

And for instructors, they’re able to . . .

  • Conduct viewer polling to gain aggregate information on student opinions, attitudes and comprehension levels
  • Create those quizzes I mentioned for a variety of instructional purposes
  • Call out specific video moments with clickable annotations that can also encourage discussion
  • Conveniently address student questions through innovative Q&A features

And one more thing: The tools we’re talking about can be configured in conjunction with various forms of closed-captioning and screen-reading, as well.

Q: Some might suggest there’s nothing like "the real thing," i.e. actually being in the class in-person. Do these latest Mediasite features challenge that idea? 

A: My short answer is, yes, they definitely do. First, I would say that the general idea of “the real thing” is being transformed thanks to the technologies that have emerged in the digital age. But more specifically, I would suggest that the latest Mediasite features actually enhance the learning environment by providing students tools that encourage them to inquire, discuss, collaborate and generally participate more in their own educational experience. And by doing that, you’re not only getting them more involved; you’re encouraging behavior that ultimately helps in the learning process.

I would also add that the premise of your question may be outdated. College students today have a completely different idea of what it means to be present. They’re mentally prepared to engage with video in ways that previous generations weren’t. That’s why it’s so important to implement tools that encourage more interaction with video – and by extension with classmates and instructors.

Q: Having the ability to ask questions freely and comfortably can be a huge factor in improving learning environments. How does Mediasite help in that regard?

A: Think back, perhaps way back, to sitting in lectures or presentations. Remember when you had a question pop in your head? What did you do?

A lot of people basically ignore the impulse to ask. Or, they tell themselves they’ll ask it later, but ultimately, they never do.

With Mediasite’s latest innovations, specifically the moderated Q&A feature, viewers have what amounts to easy, on-the-fly questioning power. They can submit a question, and even timestamp it, whenever they want while viewing a video – live and on-demand. And if a question is answered during a live stream, that then becomes part of the on-demand video. Note also that a submitted question can go to several places – like the email addresses of the instructor and/or the TA – to make sure that it gets addressed.

It’s possible that some students are more comfortable submitting written questions rather than asking them out loud the way you would in a conventional classroom setting. The Q&A features I’m talking about play right into that; more introverted students can still be active participants.

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Q: Sometimes instructors want to take the temperature of their students, kind of a “raise your hand if . . .” scenario. What does Mediasite offer that can enable an instructor to do the equivalent for online students?

A: We definitely appreciate how important it is for presenters to understand their audience. For instructors, that can be especially helpful, not just to gauge student attitudes or opinions but also to assess overall comprehension levels. That’s exactly why we’re so excited about our latest polling innovation.

Polling in Mediasite is an easy way for instructors to grab aggregate data from a class as they view a lecture or presentation. Instructors also have a number of options in terms of how to configure the polling features – not only in wording polling questions and response choices but also in terms of turning the option off at some point and controlling how the results are viewed.

Q: So, the polling feature can help understand more about students from a big-picture level, but what about assessing each student?

A: That question takes us directly into another tool that is ideal for the virtual classroom environment: the ability to insert quizzes in video.

Think of quizzing as the evolution of polling. Quizzing can be understood as a more granular version of polling because an instructor can indeed measure viewers at the individual level. I want to be clear that the quizzing feature can certainly be used to score – and grade – a student’s performance. But instructors can also use the quizzing feature to conveniently assess individual student comprehension or help students better understand what they need to know, perhaps for some future time when they do take an actual exam.

Note that instructors have a wide range of options in terms of how to structure the quiz, how to handle the quiz results, and, really, how to control the entire experience. This includes strategically timing the quiz so that it pops up at a specific moment within an on-demand video.

Q: Are there other means for instructors to, in a sense, exert influence on their students’ video viewing? For example, do they have ways to underscore video moments or maybe even try to stimulate further analysis and discussion?

A: That’s a great question because we’re true believers in having video help foster a collaborative forum for students and their instructors. Our new annotation tool does just that. This is an optional feature that enables instructors to call out specific moments in the video. Think of it as an opportunity for instructors to say, “Hey, this part is really important to grasp.” They can add further explanation and also invite comments and questions from students. At that point, the annotation can grow into a discussion area, which then can become a permanent part of the video itself. Note that the video can easily be viewed with or without the annotations showing.

Q: Early on, you mentioned creating playlists. Could you explain what you mean?

showcaseA: Having searchable, indexed video libraries is part of the Mediasite experience. As more and more videos are created, it just makes sense that they’re collected and organized in a way that makes them as accessible as possible.

Now, when we turn to our latest innovations, we’ve added an option that lets students (and instructors for that matter) select and organize their own video playlists. They then have the option to make those playlists private or shareable. To put it another way, students can take their involvement with video content to another level by essentially acting as video curators. In turn, those video libraries have all the searchability features that any video would in Mediasite.

Q: If you had to sum up the latest Mediasite innovations, what would you say? What’s the common benefit to users?

A: Not that long ago, “video in education” basically meant wheeling in a TV cart, hitting play on the VCR, and having students passively watch, say, an episode of Nova, a Ken Burns documentary, or maybe a film version of Romeo and Juliet.

Hey, those aren’t bad things to do – even to this day. However, thanks to the amazing technology that’s emerged in video, we can now do so much more, especially at the higher education level. And students today are so video-savvy they not only deserve a more in-depth video experience – they really need it.

The tools we’re delivering bring the benefits of increased immersion and interaction with video. Good things happen when students get more involved with their learning experience. At Sonic Foundry, we want to empower instructors – and especially students – to push the boundaries of video use. Our latest tools are designed to help them do just that.

Tom recently presented a webinar on this topic. Watch "3 Ways Mediasite Enhances Student Engagement" here.

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