On-demand video enriches student, faculty engagement


More than 30,000 hours’ worth of Babson’s on-demand video presentations were viewed last year.

In an age when “bring your own device” initiatives are  booming and flipped learning is gaining steam, many colleges believe that video is an ideal medium for delivering academic content.

Last year, Babson College students and faculty reportedly watched 30,000 hours of Brainshark on-demand video presentations outside of the classroom—a staggering number with numerous implications for the future of higher-education technology.

Looking to reduce costs, Babson initially enlisted Brainshark to inspire students and faculty members to create their own content more efficiently, instead of having to book time in an expensive recording studio. Brainshark’s cloud-based technology allows students and professors to add vocal commentary to PowerPoint presentations.

“The [idea that] everything is very modular, each slide is its own living, breathing mini-piece—that was very appealing to us,” said Eric Palson, director of instructional technologies at Babson College.

Palson said that Babson was attracted to Brainshark videos because they will “stand the test of time,” and “you don’t have to re-create the presentations all the time.” If a professor wanted to update his content every semester, he could tweak a slide or two, instead of having to start from scratch.

(Next page: How Brainshark helps Babson track video views, student activity)

“Those three slides that you’re editing from semester to semester are engaging to students—like if a slide is based on a [class] discussion,” said Palson. “Students know that their input is meaningful.”

Brainshark offers colleges other benefits aside from accessible video editing tools.

“When you create that presentation, you create it once and get a link and can put that link on a portal, social media, or school website,” said Andy Zimmerman, chief marketing officer at Brainshark.

“The URL lives on,” said Palson. “Maybe I’m making one or two changes for the spring semester. I just have to log into Brainshark and edit the slide, hit save again, and I don’t have to touch that URL, it’s automatically updated. From a production standpoint, that has helped our faculty and production staff [tremendously].”

Brainshark is able to detect what type of device is clicking the link, and the content is reconfigured to become accessible to that device.

“The tracking allows the sender of that content to get deep analytics and insight into how the audience is consuming that content,” said Zimmerman.

Brainshark comes equipped with analytics tools that allow video creators to observe who is watching their videos, how long they are watching them, what parts the viewers may have skipped over, and examine whether or not viewers chose to replay videos at a later date.

“One of the reasons [Brainshark] is very popular is its ease of use,” said Zimmerman. “We really pride ourselves in having a solution that allows the average person—student, faculty member, anyone with some basic computer expertise—to upload content like PowerPoint and add their voice and marry it together with the content to create a video that’ll play online and play on any device.”

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Zimmerman said that students and other video viewers appreciate Brainshark’s interactive features.

(Next page: How Brainshark has helped Babson improve its blended learning initiatives)

“The interactivity is unique, most video content is sent as a single stream, whereas our video content you can jump around, view speaker notes, take a quiz, answer a poll or survey question, click through from a link to a presentation out to a different video experience,” said Zimmerman.

Paula Crerar, senior director of content and product marketing at Brainshark, said that Babson and other colleges are using the on-demand video presentations for faculty relations as well. If a college needed to alert its staff about a benefits package, for example, Crerar said that it could gain powerful insight from sending a virtual Brainshark eMail instead of a traditional one. Not only would Brainshark’s heightened graphics and video help staff to absorb the information better, but the college would additionally be able to track which staff members viewed the eMail.

For Babson College, finding ways to achieve higher success rates with blended learning was another priority. For more than 10 years, Babson has been home to one entirely blended, fast-track MBA program geared toward executives. Palson said that Brainshark has helped elevate the program and provide a more interactive, seamless experience for fast-track MBA students.

In the past, “we’ve had various degrees of interactive content,” said Palson. “[We had] talking PowerPoints early on and evolved that into much more interactive, and when we’re doing it right, very engaging content.”

Since the initial pilot program nearly two years ago, Babson College is using Brainshark not only to streamline communications to prospective students and faculty members, but also in library and IT training. Today, Babson professors commonly ask their students to create on-demand videos for class presentations, and 1,100 Brainshark presentations were created across Babson College in last year alone.

Follow Assistant Editor Sarah Langmead on Twitter at @eCN_Sarah.