Choosing a video platform isn’t easy. Especially as online and distance learning grows. With ever-increasing vendor choices and a myriad of options from features to integrations, it can be difficult to decide which platform is truly the best fit for your institution.
With hindsight from educators, here are the top factors predicting video platform success that you want to consider during the selection process.
1. Avoid any video platform that is too complicated to use
More features aren’t always better. If they’re not easy to use for faculty of all skill levels, overly-fancy features can actually deter faculty from creating video altogether.
Don’t count on training to overcome a difficult interface. There aren’t enough staff, and instructors don’t have the time, anyhow. Tom Rosenberger, Director of Online Learning Services at The College of Saint Rose, shares his need to implement solutions with limited staff. “What’s important to me is having tools at our disposal that are so simple that we don’t have to help much after initial training.”
Instead: Consider ease of use over features in order to ensure strong adoption and high return on investment.
2. Avoid any video platform that is not accessible enough
Most platforms may offer captions, but are they accurate? Take the accessibility modules for a spin yourself. Make sure the platform offers:
- Caption engine that is 90%+ accurate
- Easy, web-based caption editing with built-in compliance checker
- In-house human captioning workflows
- Third-party import and export options
- Integrated third-party human captioning
- Audio description support
- Accessible student viewing and interaction
Most importantly, accessibility features need to be easy for faculty to use and manage. And stay away from platforms that only meet basic ADA requirements. If they’re not already on the forefront of compliance, they’ll likely struggle to keep up with changing guidelines.
Instead: Look for a vendor with built-in accessibility workflows, that stays ahead of the curve, with straightforward ways to gauge compliance.
3. Avoid an inexperienced video platform vendor
Despite promises of a dizzying array of features, newbie companies often can’t support their platform in the long term. More server downtime can lead to instructors not being able to record videos, and students locked out from critical study material. Infrequent software updates can leave you without crucial integrations and bug fixes.
Some startups play a ‘short game’, with plans to sell their company for a quick profit. The unwanted transition is, at best, an added stresser for faculty, and at worst, can discourage use of video. Other companies mean well, but aren’t financially stable, and go belly-up or may phase out the platform over time.
Instead: Choose a time-tested, trusted brand based on recommendations from colleagues at other colleges who have worked with the company for years.
4. Avoid a vendor with impersonal (or expensive!) customer support
Some companies promise excellent phone and email support, but once the contract is signed, response times stall. When you do get help, it’s with a new person each time, so you have to explain your situation all over again.
Additionally, be wary of vendors that provide only bare-bones help. It’s not enough to fully onboard or grow usage, and a la carte options are a high-priced headache.
Instead: Look for a video platform that offers customer support built-in, a dedicated support rep, and customized remote training at no extra cost.
5. Avoid any contract with add-on costs
Avoid video platforms that charge extra for ongoing costs. Unpredictable or add-on fees – such as incremental bandwidth and storage – are tough to budget for, make pricing difficult to understand, and create unneeded hassle.
Instead: Choose a platform that offers clear, inclusive pricing up front.
6. Avoid any video platform that isn’t built for higher education
Video vendors that cater to business and other industries aren’t a good fit for the unique needs of faculty and students. They don’t take time to understand challenges such as turnover of student accounts each year, new and updated course videos each semester, team teaching considerations, intellectual privacy concerns, and other academic needs.
Most importantly, one-for-all vendors don’t partner with educators. At Montana State University, Colin Smith goes beyond the face-value of video to look at the bigger picture. “Building these partnerships is super important to make sure the things we’re building are not used to perpetuate didactic instruction but to really help people re-frame how they’re teaching and figure out what instructors want to be doing that can help better engage those students.”
Instead: Find a platform whose creators work with educators to understand pedagogy, and that builds features based on research and educator feedback.
7. Avoid any platform that’s not interactive enough
Some platforms’ interactivity is just an after-thought. Quiz and viewership stats don’t help measure engagement and often don’t synch well with your existing platform or LMS. Think twice about any vendor that doesn’t let students and faculty interact at any point in the video with conversation threads (as opposed to simply a single comment thread at the bottom of each video page).
Instead: Choose a platform with robust quizzing that integrates with your LMS gradebook, time-stamped in-video conversations, and real-time analytics to measure learning.
We hope this information helps you find a vendor partnership that truly keeps your needs first. Avoid any platform that not only helps provide quality online programs but also drives overall student success, increases student engagement, and improves outcomes.