Video Conferencing in Education: Addition, Alternative or Future of Education

By: Danielle Chazen

Technology has greatly disrupted traditional education and learning methods. The industry only continues to evolve as more tools to fuel student engagement become available. There has been a substantial increase in implementing online tools and digital media to modernize education and drive the engagement of students.

Video and the need to facilitate distance learning is one of the biggest drivers for innovation in education. Video has evolved from a nice-to-have addition to traditional lectures to become something students in higher education now expect in their learning processes.

Incorporating video clips or materials in traditional lectures is nothing new, but with more courses occurring fully online, video conferencing tools and video platform providers are now providing universities and students with a plethora of options as additions and alternatives to former education models.

Where to begin with video for education

The majority of professors understand the value of incorporating video materials to drive home select points from lectures, but many do not know how to effectively record video themselves or use video technologies available to them and their students.

Resistance to technology is real,” said Rob Lipps of Mediasite, a platform which offers video streaming technology solutions for education and other industries. “That struggle is real. Not every professor likes video, but… there’s more people now that are far more comfortable being on the business end of a camera today than they were three months ago. I think that’s a great thing for adoption.”

More university leaders are adopting video to account for the needs to social distance or teach remotely due to the COVID-19 crisis. However, many advocates of video for education argue that long before the crisis, video helps to provide students with engaging, more accessible materials to help them retain information better.

“If you look at it holistically, video actually can be the solution… In fact, it can be a higher-value solution that contributes more to everyone’s comprehension than other kinds of documents,” said Jeff Rubenstein of Kaltura, a leading video platform being utilized by many universities.

What began as an integration of pre-recorded videos to reference during lectures and enhance them, has now evolved into live lectures fully powered by video platforms and web conferencing tools, such as Zoom. Video conferencing is taking the education sphere by storm.

Classroom video calls

Currently, there are many cases where the physical presence of professors and students isn’t an option. However, video has been facilitating educational opportunities for full-time professionals, parents, international students, and others for years now. Distance learning opportunities are essential in order to provide education to a plethora of student categories.

However, distance learning leaves room for the personalized approach to education to be lost when not offered effectively. This potential issue can be troubleshooted by incorporating more video conferencing in education. Video conferencing provides added cues of facial expressions and intonations which can be missed in audio or recorded lectures alone. It also provides an easy method for students and professors to gain access to each other and is now used as a means of providing office hours to students.

“What we’ve been hearing lately is students don’t want to hear lectures over Zoom. They want to have dialogue with their professor over Zoom,” said Lipps.

Classroom video conferencing also helps students to feel like they are part of a greater community rather than “alone” in their studies when only viewing the screen of the professor. Students can benefit from utilizing classroom video calls to connect with their peers to engage in live discussions and study sessions with them.

Video conferencing to drive global knowledge exchange

Video conferencing also provides an opportunity to facilitate global knowledge exchange of university leadership, foreign or distant lecturers, international students, researchers and others. Providing an easy forum for these individuals to hear from each other allows for more communication to drive education forward and easily garner perspectives from individuals around the world. In offline courses, professors can also utilize video conferencing tools to dial-in professors or experts in the field to contribute live or speak to their students on relevant topics.

Video conferencing can also provide a forum for distant tutoring, where students can conduct tutoring sessions remotely and frequently with the ability to schedule them on-demand.

Platforms like Zoom also provide capabilities, such as polls and Q&As so professors and students can chime in, comment and contribute during lectures as the discussion goes along for a fully interactive experience.

Additional benefits of video conferencing in education

There are many additional advantages of using video in teaching for both online and offline models. The video platforms themselves, such as Mediasite and Kaltura, only continue to evolve to provide more features and interactivity to their users.

Mediasite for example aims to follow a Netflix model for education, where students are provided with libraries of video resources with which to choose from. This feature allows students to personalize their own learning experiences. Access to libraries of videos provides endless paths for new learning and teaching opportunities and allows students to focus on items they personally find to be the most interesting.

Additionally, video fuels opportunities for students with an array of different learning styles to succeed. Elements such as captioning and transcription, which were once thought of only as visual aids for students with disabilities, such as hearing loss, are now being used by all students. Captions can be produced on live videos in real-time with tools like Artificial Intelligence, as well as added to recorded videos in post-production to provide an additional tool for better comprehension of materials when hearing and seeing the information.

Adding accessibility features to videos and video conferencing in education not only meets disability requirements outlined by the ADA, but presents tremendous inherent advantages to all viewers.

Video, by its nature, can be viewed over and over again. When students and professors utilize video conferencing and record their meetings, they can then go back and reference what was said. Further, when transcripts are provided of these calls or lectures, students can do quick searches of them and identify the pieces of the video they’d like to go back and reference, rather than needing to rewatch the entire video.

“These are tremendous advantages for everyone,” said Rubeinstein. “Video can be indexed and searched, so you don’t have to be noting down where in a lecture something was mentioned because you can search for it. You can say, ‘find me the spot in the video where this was talked about’.

Rubenstein said students can greatly benefit from being able to watch videos again at half speed for example, with the equipment they prefer, in the place they prefer and at the time they prefer. These added tools of captions and transcriptions also help students consume video or participate in video conferencing in situations where they cannot listen to the audio out loud, or may find different accents or dialects to be trickier to understand.

Some video providers and platforms, including Kaltura, also allow for important tracking. Professors can easily see who joined their lectures live and who is watching the recorded video conference on-demand. They can also see data on how often students are consuming videos and which aspects of them they’re consuming.

“Are they reading the closed captions? Are they reading them in Spanish as opposed to English? That can actually help you figure out how you can reach learners better,” Rubenstein said.

There is little doubt that more professors and students will continue to lean more on video conferencing in education in the near future and well beyond it. Video conferencing ensures effective communication is delivered and through a personal means of communication with the closest means to face-to-face interactions available.