3.9.22 – SSI – Dan Wallace
Education is an opportunity-rich sector for A/V integrators. But the needs of colleges and universities often differ substantially from clients in other verticals.
From lecture capture and remote learning to flipped and hybrid classrooms, applications for video in higher-ed abound. Thus, so do opportunities for A/V integrators by helping colleges and universities differentiate their program offerings and better serve students.
Considering the physical-distancing requirements we’ve seen over the last couple years, it’s no mystery why schools are using video to a greater extent than ever before. And this trend will only continue, according to Kaltura’s State of Video in Education 2022 report. In fact, over half of respondents expressed an intent to leverage video even more going forward.
As higher-ed institutions double down on video, there is no doubt that many will be looking to modernize their A/V infrastructures to realize efficiencies and capabilities not possible with their current setups.
It’s easy to see where integrators fit into this picture: They offer the essential product knowledge and technological expertise required to make disparate systems work together. What might not come as naturally is an understanding of the needs of education clients, which can differ substantially from those in other verticals.
Whether you’re new to the education space or whether you’re a seasoned edtech integrator interested in an outside perspective for your next contract, read on for insights that will help you drive client success in this opportunity-rich market.
4 key attributes of edu-friendly video tech
As with other verticals, you could be brought on at any stage of an education client’s video-tech journey. You may find yourself in a blank-canvas situation, or it might be more of a “rip and replace.” It could be that there are just a few components not working for your client, and they want your help sourcing new solutions and making those mesh with the rest.
Whatever the case, there are certain attributes that tend to make a solution “edu-friendly.” This is true whether it’s a camera, an audio system, a hardware encoder, a piece of software, a control system or something else.
So, when assessing video technology for an education client, keep the following four qualities in mind to promote long-term success and satisfaction.
Ease of use
The average college or university campus is very diverse, including when it comes to technical proficiency. This is a common pain point in education for any IT or A/V matters. Students or faculty with limited technical backgrounds often struggle to use essential technologies. This can result in prolonged training or frequent calls for support, both of which can be burdensome for staff.
Recognizing this, see to it that any video product or service you recommend offers a straightforward user experience. Make sure that the product or service has interfaces and features that will make sense to most people (or, at least, that won’t take too long to understand). This will be a bit of a judgment call on your part. Often, however, integrators can quickly tell when a solution was designed with the user experience top of mind.
In many cases, it’s possible to find gear that’s targeted to a specific application. This can be alluring to clients. After all, why bring in something with a bunch of features they’ll never use? But always keep in mind that what a school is doing today, or has plans to do later, is likely to expand in the future. That is especially true as more institutions look to make video a competitive advantage.
For this reason, consider flexibility a key attribute. Look for solutions that can comfortably support the full range of applications for video in education, whether that’s lecture capture, school event streaming, remote learning, video marketing or anything else.
Simplicity of management
Many schools are looking to equip multiple spaces with streaming and recording equipment. An ambitious, campus-wide setup can bring institutions a lot of efficiency by eliminating the need to cart around, set up and tear down gear. But it can also be a burden on the staff responsible for managing it all.
“Simplicity of management” touches on a couple of different elements. The reliability of individual components is one, especially when it comes to hardware. Systems that break down or require extensive maintenance will eat up IT time, so look for technologies with a reputation for excellent long-term performance.
Another consideration is the ease of day-to-day management. For example, monitoring the health of deployed devices, keeping systems up to date with the latest firmware or fixes, and so on. A centralized management tool can greatly facilitate this by sparing staff from having to trek across campus, troubleshooting and updating as they go.
In all likelihood, most schools won’t be starting from scratch. Some will have cameras and microphones on hand; some maybe will have a video content management system (CMS) deployed; and most almost certainly will have a learning management system (LMS).
None of this will faze you as an integrator. But, in the interest of client satisfaction, always communicate when a vendor lock or closed ecosystem is present in recommended gear. The reason is simple: These can limit a school’s ability to adapt or evolve their workflows in the future. For example, down the road, a client might wish to change to a different CMS with better pricing, or one that offers much-needed features that are missing from their current provider’s roadmap. That’s not an easy switch to make if the hardware encoders they’ve deployed across campus will only work with the original platform.
Ease management’s burden
If integrators want clients to sing their praises and award future jobs to you, it helps to set them up with products that make their lives easier. For education clients, that means intuitive and versatile solutions that ease the management burden wherever possible, and that won’t stifle their ambitions should they wish to alter their video workflows in the future.
Dan Wallace is Director of Creative Services of Epiphan Video, an A/V equipment manufacturer founded in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. This article first appeared on SSI sister site Commercial Integrator.