Universities Are Schooling Tech Companies In Video

Editor’s note: Eric Burns is co-founder and CTO of Panopto. Prior to that, he was an engineer at Microsoft leading the development of the Books and Academic search engines for Microsoft’s Windows Live division.

It’s no secret that the ivory towers of academia don’t get much respect from the tech industry. It’s become conventional wisdom that computer science degrees are out of date before graduates enter the workforce, and that MBA programs forgo developing practical leadership and entrepreneurship skills in favor of theory and rhetoric. Schools are chronically behind when it comes to developing the skills that graduates really need, it seems.

Unless, of course, they’re 10 years ahead.

Over the past decade, video technology has radically changed the way people communicate. Video conferencing and webcasting have been embraced by business to lower costs and shrink distances. But organizations that have realized the greatest business value from video aren’t businesses at all — they’re universities. In fact, the video solutions that universities have been using for over a decade are just now being adopted by their corporate counterparts.

Panopto was spun out of academia as a project that began at Carnegie Mellon University over a decade ago. What was originally created as a tool for recording, managing and searching university lectures at scale has evolved into a general-purpose video platform for sharing ideas and information across a range of industries.

Now, the innovations from higher education have spawned a fast-growing enterprise marketplace for video solutions, with businesses embracing video as a way to capture, organize and disseminate institutional knowledge. Off-the-shelf software like Camtasia, Brainshark, and KnowledgeVision are enabling companies to record multimedia presentations and on-screen demos, and share them internally from a centralized media library.

Some companies have even developed their own home-grown video management solutions. Microsoft famously spent $6 million to build its own video knowledge sharing portal. In spite of its high cost, Microsoft reported that the platform yielded $14 million in cost avoidance and an ROI of 560 percent.

What Universities Have…

One of the primary goals of higher education is to prepare individuals for the talent marketplace, helping students develop work-related skills while growing personally and intellectually. For most of the 2,300-year history of higher education, the Aristotelian lecture has been the standard — until recently, as new technologies have begun to offer models that produce better results.

Today, universities are using video to record lectures and “flip” their classrooms for increased interactivity, improved student-teacher communications, scalable distance learning, and dozens of other applications. The effects have been noteworthy. In video-enabled classrooms, test scores are up, failure rates are down, and even traditionally underserved groups like non-native speakers and students with disabilities are better equipped for success.

…And What Tech Companies Are Missing

Meanwhile, 55 percent of employers are looking to hire tech talent — and are often struggling to find the right candidates, as unemployment in the technology sector is down to a growth-throttling 3 percent. For many companies, this technical skills gap is a crisis that strikes at their most valuable growth driver and sustainable competitive differentiator: the “tribal knowledge” and subject matter expertise of their employees.

Rather than wait out the recruiting wars, businesses should look to the model already proven by universities. Video might just be the best tool organizations have to scale the knowledge of their experts, improve the flow of information, quickly ramp up new employees, and innovate more efficiently with their existing resources.

Increasingly, organizations are starting to seize the opportunity.

Video, Coming to a Company Near You

This year, 85 percent of companies expect to create more video content than they did just in 2013. In turn, this means employees are watching more video at work. Cisco reports 76% of executives watch business videos at least once a week, including 40% who view them daily. By 2016, Gartner Research predicts that large companies will stream more than 16 hours of video to the average worker per month, or 45 minutes per day that each employee will spend watching business videos.

Driving that influx of enterprise video is a confluence of technology and simple human nature — video is simply more engaging and impactful than text, and people retain more of its information content. Video is able to activate more parts of our minds with visual content that can more easily hold our ever-shortening attention spans. And a new generation of smartphones, webcams, and simple video software has made creating, sharing and accessing video easier than ever.

From Classroom to Boardroom

That might all sound cutting edge, but the truth is that it’s not. Universities have already been charting the course for video-based knowledge sharing for more than a decade. Today’s schools are veritable video production powerhouses: the University of Essex in the U.K., for example, produced 80,000 hours of video last school year. In the U.S., the University of Arizona produces 3,000 hours every week. The largest and most advanced corporations, on the other hand, struggle to produce even a thousand hours of high-value content each year. This is a missed opportunity.

Colleges and universities aren’t just teaching businesses about the value of technology, they’re leading by example. At the core of their lesson is an essential technology: the video content management system. With it, universities are able to use low-cost computers and anything from high-end cameras to consumer webcams to record every lecture in every classroom across campus. Some go beyond recording, broadcasting live courses to remote learners around the world.

Students are able to view these lectures on any device and even search inside the recordings for any word that was spoken or shown on-screen, turning video lectures into searchable reference material that helps them better prepare for exams. All of this comes at a fraction of the cost that corporations traditionally paid for specialized AV services and hardware.

Now, as businesses begin to follow higher education’s lead, they find themselves using the video content management system for many of the same applications as universities. The names may be different, but the use cases are the same:

  • Corporations record instructor-led training. Universities capture lectures.
  • Businesses deliver video to remote offices and employees. Universities call it distance learning.
  • Employees share ideas and best practices through video-based social learning. Students record and share knowledge through peer-to-peer video presentations.
  • Businesses record product demonstrations and conference sessions. Universities record lab demos and colloquia.
  • Businesses “flip meetings” by recording and sharing presentations ahead of time. Schools flip their classrooms by doing the same.

Early enterprise adopters can reap real rewards. After designing its own e-learning program and moving half of its training courses to an online format, IBM saved $579 million in just two years. Siemens PLM Software slashed event production costs and time by using commodity hardware and video software to capture their employee conferences.

Technology firms experiencing explosive growth are speeding new employee ramp-up through video-based onboarding, reducing training costs and time to productivity. And C-suite executives like Stanley Young, former CEO of NYSE Technologies, have begun to transform internal corporate communications from multi-page email updates to more engaging “micro-videos” that can capture and share instantly from any device.

Knowledge workers at technology companies are lagging behind academia when it comes to using video, but that won’t be the case for long. Specialized AV hardware is giving way to the video-enabled laptops, tablets and smartphones that we all carry around. The software to capture, live stream, and search video is becoming as easy to use and ubiquitous as email or Skype. And each new graduating class is adding millions of new employees to the workforce who are more than comfortable using video — they expect to use it as a daily communication tool.

For businesses looking to get ahead, then, taking the occasional lesson from the ivory tower may not be such a bad bet after all.