Paradigm-Shifting Ways to Put Your Educational Content Online

Author: Barbara Palmer       

Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Organizing a conference takes months — and sometimes years — of planning, points out Tammy Jackson, vice president of marketing and communications at Sonic Foundry, parent company for the Mediasite video platform. “To have all that just go away after the conference and live on only in the memories of the people who were in that session is almost a shame.”

And, in fact, according to a survey of meeting professionals conducted by PCMA’s Digital Experience Institute, most respondents don’t just let conference content disappear. More than 70 percent of survey respondents reported that they used both live-streamed keynotes and plenaries and captured breakout sessions and other content on video. More than half said they captured the sessions on video in order to leverage their educational content by making it available online.

The days of meeting organizers fearing that if they made the conference content available online, nobody would come to the meeting itself are mostly over, Jackson said. “That persists a little bit — I’m not going to lie,” she added. “But there has been such a big shift and shift in mindset.”

The new hurdle, as the amount of video content available to viewers keeps growing exponentially, is viewer attention, she said. “We see companies getting really creative about how they use their content after the fact,” she said. “They’re really making an interesting experience for the online viewer, to entice them and bring them in.”

One trend is to break away from the traditional 45-minute to hour-long session format to create shorter, more focused videos, Jackson said. “A lot of our customers use our video platform to record lectures at universities — we’ve seen a shift where the lectures are now 10 minutes long, or six minutes long,” she said. “If you’re using your conference videos after the fact … maybe each session isn’t a full hour or a full 45 minutes with a person standing and delivering content. Maybe, instead, it’s a series of 10- to 15-minute snapshots.”

The shorter segments are ideal for sending out via social media and email, she said. “You can send a link out in a newsletter, saying ‘Here’s a piece of content from our user conference. It’s 10 minutes of an expert talking about this topic.’ It makes it really digestible for a viewer to open that email, click on the link, and, during a 10-minute coffee break, watch and get a best practice on a certain topic.”

Then, “post the video everywhere and get more eyeballs on it,” Jackson said. “That not only raises the brand of your organization, it also raises the brand of your speakers. You find that once you start posting those things, speakers will respond and it becomes a balloon of sharing and information and exposure for your brand.”

Many of Sonic Foundry’s weekly webinars are created as 15-minute digests, Jackson said. “Maybe we have 10 minutes of presentation and five minutes of Q&A. We find that it holds the attention of the audience during the live portion of the webinar, but then on demand, we’re able to reuse the content in emails, newsletters, blog posts, and media pitches.”

When Mediasite plans its own annual user conference, they ask speakers in advance to prepare 10- to 15 minute “spotlights,” Jackson said. Not every session is designed that way, “but we ask speakers to prepare to deliver their story, their case study, or their best practices in 10 to 15 minutes so we’ll be able to turn it around quickly. It will already be in a nice, little package with a beginning, middle, and end.”

AI Gets Interactive
Along with experimenting with formats, content producers are beginning to use AI-powered speech-to-text applications and cognitive search-engine tools to add flexibility and interactivity to videos, she said. Mediasite announced in June that the video platform could be integrated with IBM Watson, which creates near-instantaneous video captioning that is keyword searchable.

That makes it possible for users to navigate directly to the content they are most interested in hearing, Jackson said. Additionally, the technology allows users to start discussions or make comments at specific places in a video, so they can comment directly on particular topics, she said. “And those comments become part of the metadata.”

Mediasite also is developing ways to allow digital users to insert videos of themselves making comments or asking questions, Jackson said. “You can turn on your phone, take a quick video, and then upload your question or your comment.” The permissions could be set, she said, so that no one can see it except a presenter, or it can be made public so that anyone who has access to the online portal can upload a video comment or question.

‘Super Affordable and Instantaneous’
Sonic Foundry has long made it a practice to have the entirety of its conference sessions transcribed, Jackson said. The company has always thought that it was a good investment, “making it all the easier to create written pieces from the content.” But now recent improvements in automatic voice-to-text have greatly reduced the cost of transcription, she said. “It has become super affordable and instantaneous.”

One thing that most content creators won’t need to worry about spending money on is glossy video production, Jackson said. “We’ve always held on to the belief and the knowledge — based on our research of our end users, the viewers — that there’s a lot of tolerance for not-perfect video.

“The audio has to be perfect — you need to be able to hear what people are saying. [But] the tolerance for imperfect video, I will say, has only increased over the past several years,” she said. “If you think about all the unboxing videos you see on Instagram, or all of the here’s-me-on-my-phonein-my-environment videos — not only does the video not have to be perfect, I would say the less perfect it is, the more authentic.”

Don’t Be a Speed Bump
It used to be that people would take some time to fill out forms in order to get information or watch a video, said Sonic Foundry’s Tammy Jackson. “We used to have a tolerance for 15 to 20 fields on a form: name, email, phone number, company name, all of that stuff.”

Today, the best practice is to have as much of the form as possible designed to be autofilled. “And then just ask for the bare minimum of information,” she said. “Attendees, viewers, the people you’re marketing to — they all have a lot less tolerance for spending a lot of time and resources trying to get into what you’re trying to tell them. It’s definitely in your best interest as a company, a planner, or a marketer to make it as easy as possible for that person to get from point A to point B and continue on their journey of either reviewing the content, entering a virtual conference, or watching a video.”

Each month, 15 million people around the world learn by watching videos — many of which are betwen two and 10 minutes long — produced by the non-profit Khan Academy, khanacademy.org.