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Thought Leaders in Online Education: Sean Brown, SVP of Education, Sonic Foundry (Part 4)

Posted on Thursday, Jun 5th 2014

Sramana Mitra: That would have been my guess. They take advantage of the resources you give them.

Sean Brown: The next thing I was going to tell you though is that the new trend is for institutions to start to take advantage of the presence of these video systems and flip the classroom. Schools are crowded. We would have to build more buildings. Let us say that when we meet, you are expected to have seen my lecture offline. When you come to class, we’re going to start our discussion based on the assumption that on your own time, you managed to watch my lecture. This is a trend of time shifting and optimizing collaboration time that video capture is essential to. What I am really talking about, in the parlance of your readers, is an innovation in automating traditional video production.

Sramana Mitra: Can you discuss the architecture of this system? When you win an account, what do you do? How do you roll this out?

Sean Brown: When we win an account like New York University, what we’re excited about is that they’ve committed to basically installing our DVR-like appliances into tons of classrooms. We say, “We don’t make cameras or microphones. We make a recorder that will record the type of signals that are sent to a projector, the output from any camera that the school chooses, and the input of any microphone or mixers of group of microphones that the school chooses.” When we walk into a school, what they’re excited about our technology is it is not designed to be a standalone studio or special gadget. It is designed to be an element that can be included in the existing classroom design.

Our legacy classroom perhaps needs to have a camera added in the ceiling. The professor never had to wear a microphone before but with those two minor upgrades to the existing legacy classroom, that classroom is an 8-hour a day, 5 days a week digital content studio. Now, the greatest lecturers in the world who are going to retire soon who never made their own website or blog will be captured on video. The face of the lecturer will be in one part of the browser and whatever he was projecting will be in another part of the browser. It’s a natural teaching performance for him. The students see it as a sexy 2014, YouTube-like media content. That’s what a win is for us. That’s what our research at Carnegie-Melon showed. Universities desire to produce content. Students desire to consume content. The Internet was there. The tools were there to build it yet there was no content. So we saw an opportunity for automation.

Boy, did we bite out a lot to chew because there’re a lot of issues in having a workflow that goes from just standing there to something being in exactly the right spot. It was an Econ101 class. It ends up in Econ101 Section 3 in your LMS. Making all that happen isn’t trivial but it’s what my company gets paid to do. When we perfected that, we had a winner kind of system adopted in the ways I’ve been telling you. Then, we have competitors come along and it’s a whole industry now.

Sramana Mitra: On the publishing end, is your publishing platform the blackboard?

Sean Brown: No. It’s a self-contained publishing platform as well. It’s not just the recorders. It is a whole publishing platform. It is an enterprise video portal that is automatically generated from your performance in class. It goes all the way to that point.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Sean Brown, SVP of Education, Sonic Foundry
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