With nine schools, more than 150 academic programs and 6,000+ students, Biola University has learned a thing or two about getting serious mileage out of existing content assets
Over the course of what would have been IBC week, we met with some of the top minds in the broadcasting industry from Sky, Sesame Street and WarnerMedia to learn how the pandemic thrust innovation upon them. Last but not least, we sat down with Joseph Rubio, Director of Educational Video and Innovation at Biola University, to discuss what things educational institutions need to keep in mind to keep existing students engaged and get prospective students enrolled.
Some key insights included below but we encourage you to watch the full webinar here.
What is your approach to video content creation for HEIs?
Most of the video work that we do is for our online programs: I would say about 90%. Before we moved recording out of the classroom, it would take 15 weeks from beginning to end to record one class, and up to a year, if not longer, to do the post work on it. We decided to move all of our recording to video studios.
We built our first studio several years ago, and all of our content for our online courses are recorded by the faculty in those studios. We're generating content that is intended for the online student and user. They're looking at the camera, they're talking to that student. Not only did this improve the process, in terms of turnaround and making it more efficient, but we're actually generating higher quality videos that are more demonstrably more engaging. In fact, I'm in one of our studios right now, and this year, due to COVID, and due to the demand for more video to be produced for our remote offerings, we opened up a second studio, and brought on more resources.
We're a relatively small team. We have one pre-production producer, three studio staff that run our two studios, and three full-time post-production staff, and rotate between three or four student video editors throughout the year, depending on their availability. With that, something that has become a priority for us, as we create this content, is extracting additional value from it beyond just our online courses.
To do this, we needed a way to catalog assets and index metadata. I like to use the analogy that we felt like we had a warehouse full of products and boxes but it wasn't organized. One of the things that we initiated, before COVID, was bringing on the Curator Asset Management system. Full disclosure:it wasn’t fully operational before COVID came but it's definitely become a top priority for us, to start looking at that. All that we've learned and experienced throughout this summer of supporting fully remote learning and preparing for a new school year, has made it quite obvious that we can’t deliver without it.
How did the stay-at-home orders affect your workflow?
We've been recording in the studio for several years. So the biggest change was when it was announced that we had to go remote in the middle of March. We had a little more than a week to segue about 1,800 courses, or 1,800 course sections, of our local residential courses, to a remote modality.
The first thing that we had to do was identify a streaming platform that faculty were going to use. There wasn't a lot of streaming happening before COVID but going remote necessitated that we have some sort of solution. We had to find a way to continue offering courses and allowing students, many of whom were seniors who needed their classes to graduate, the opportunity to finish on time.
We were able to leverage our existing catalog of online course video and move it over into courses that were residential. For example, we had one or two English 101 sections online but we had five, six, seven or eight English 101 sections residentially. We were now able to take the existing course lecture content, scale it, and wrap it into those additional sections, so that students had relevant and engaging content.
Were there any challenges getting content indexed quickly?
It was a huge challenge. One of the ideas that was floated early on was to use video content in courses that didn't necessarily have the same course number. For example, with video assets used in English 101, can I use those in an English composition class, or a different literature class?
For our accreditation, it's very important that the content we were moving and repurposing was relevant to the learning objectives of those courses. What we needed to do was identify what courses all the content we had fit in to? We created these extremely long lists of all of our videos and developed a process that allowed faculty to basically comb through the content, and make a request to their department, their dean, to see if they could get approval to put that content into their course curriculum.
There were also intellectual property issues that we had to wrestle with, so that we protected the intellectual property of our faculty. To manage this, we developed a process that was based on compensating for that, and in a very reasonable, efficient way. But it was definitely at that point, where, if I'm honest, I really wish we would have been further along in our own embrace and implementation of Curator.
Do you think that these changes will become permanent?
I absolutely think so. Certainly, with regard to our approach to creating content for our online programs, that was already a part of the vision. And it's because of that vision, several years ago, that we were able to meet a need, when the time came.
We spent the majority of the summer preparing for a hybrid flexible model, meaning that we were expecting some students to be in class. We were expecting to be able to stream those courses live, to students that couldn't be in class. As a result of that, there was a big investment in technology, to accommodate Zoom in every single class.
We quickly realized that there's a huge opportunity to increase capacity to deliver courses and content to students that are in a lot of different circumstances. Whether they're international students, having that asynchronous modality for online courses is a great option, but if you're a student who's on the East Coast, in the United States, or anywhere else for that matter, we have a lot of different tools now because of the investments that were made. We're going to be able to accommodate many more students.
And then, definitely in terms of our commitment to continue to build our catalog, and to be more robust and thoughtful about how we, what we do with our content, our indexing, it's going to be very important to do speech to text on all of our videos, as we put them into our index, into our Asset Manager, so that their keywords are searchable.
Do you see this as a growth opportunity for Biola University?
Online programs are a definite opportunity for Biola to grow. We have a full-time enrollment of about 6,000, or close to that, but space is limited where we're located. Housing is limited too. We can't put that many more students on this campus. However, we can grow online programs, and scale that accordingly.
It is a top priority for the university to grow our online offerings, and to add new degree programs, new courses, etc. and that's definitely a place we feel that we can grow beyond the size and limitations of this campus. The priority for us is producing high quality courses, which includes superb instructional design. Our instructional designers are just amazing and the high quality video helps the faculty to be more engaging. It also helps them to be confident that they're going to be delivering courses that are high quality and meaningful to students.
How much content do you actually produce at the moment?
We have a lot of content. This summer, we approached 10,000 short form lectures. Basically, they're cut versions of what would be a long lecture. We recommend this to our faculty so the information is a bit more palatable to sit through.
If we keep pace with the type of production that we did over the summer, we're looking at potentially producing about 35 to 5,000 short form lectures a year. One of the discussions that I've been a part of is, how do we increase our capacity to be able to then produce more content? So we're definitely looking at turning around the production of a lot of course selection video.
To do that, the focus is on refining our systems, embracing and adopting Curator to a greater degree, looping that into our project management. It's going to be the hub for us for how we interact and how we manage our post-production. It will also help us deal with accessibility in captioning and managing our content review and improvement process with faculty. We also plan to leverage it to help with our marketing.
How important is your archive content?
The experience of having to go remote in a short period of time highlighted the value of our archive. It's very precious to what we're trying to do. We realize that we're going to be able to provide quality content, with very little disruption, to students who are in this scenario.
We do have an archival system set up, and all of that's going to be indexed. In trying to identify new opportunities and products that we can develop, we plan to leverage our archival content extensively. It's a big, big part of what we have in mind
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