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Using Video on Your Campus: Value vs Cost

Video is the fastest growing content medium in education today, as it is growing in almost every delivery area and across every role inside educational institutions. As students, faculty, administrators, researchers and communicators are increasingly using video for almost everything (e.g. course assignments, discussions, projects, assessments, course content, tutorials, exam prep, communications), the mountain of assets is growing. Because many institutions do not have a central video management portal yet, they might not be aware of just how much video is being generated and what the associated costs are if that video is left unmanaged.
We know at a high level that the value of any asset in education comes from its impact to teaching, learning and communications but how do we measure that? How do we trace value or return back to the source of a single asset type or even a single asset? It is extremely difficult to say the least. Is there anything we can measure that might give us an idea or an indicator as to its value? Let’s shelve the concept of value for the moment and start with the concept of cost.
Cost can actually be a great important indicator of the value of an asset. We can all agree that a supercar costs a lot more to produce than a Styrofoam coffee cup and we can also agree that it has a lot more value. The cost of a Styrofoam coffee cup is about 10 cents. The cost of building a Bugatti Veyron is in the millions. Admittedly a Styrofoam cup filled with water in the desert has more value if you’re dying of thirst than a Bugatti, but as a general rule it follows that what something’s cost of production has a relationship to its value.
Okay, so what is the cost of production of a video? Well, as we all know, Star Wars cost a lot more to make than a video of my five year old making faces for 10 seconds. But we can follow a simple example to get a rough idea. Let’s take, for example, a 15 minute exam prep video created by a chemistry professor in her office. She films it with just a simple camera on a stand, directional mic, and desktop light bar in order to have some reasonable quality basic production value. She is going to put it on her WordPress site for students to download.
The first aspect of production cost is time: it takes about an hour to make. She creates a script (about 30 minutes), shoots it in two takes (20 minutes), and she then quickly clips/edits it and posts it (10 minutes). Results – one hour of total time invested. Not the Avengers sequel, but a great little video for second year chemistry students to watch before their December exam.
Let’s look at the simplest breakdown of costs involved: time & associated salary cost + equipment & software costs + storage & bandwidth costs
Time & associated salary costs. A course content video takes time to create and that time costs money in the form of the salary of the person making it. Depending on the video, it can be as simple as a grad student on their laptop all the way up to a full production / post production team in a studio. This part of the equation is

time to produce X hourly salary cost

This is added up for each person involved in the production of the video. In this example our chemistry professor makes $110,000 a year. After vacation, etc. she works about 1750 hours in a year. So the one hour of time invested in producing this video content costs the institution about $63 in time/salary costs.
Equipment & software costs. A video requires equipment to make. Depending on the video, it might be as simple as a GoPro camera and a laptop or it might be as complex as a film crew with dollies and multiple cameras. In the middle of that range is massive potential list of equipment which can include light boards, cameras, microphones, lecture capture stations, green screens, lecture capture systems, and many other things. These items, of course, all cost money to purchase, operate, and replace. You would not own them or rent them if not to make video, so they have to be considered part of the production cost. This part of the equation is

initial equipment cost X lifecycle X time used for production X upkeep costs

In this example, she is using a camera/mic/light set-up, which costs about $1,600. It needs to be replaced every three years and the equipment gets used for about 100 hours a year. So it costs about $5 to use it for an hour. It also costs about $1,500 a year in salary time from an admin to check in/out the equipment or $15 per use. Therefore, each year it costs about $20 for that equipment to be used for one hour.
Storage & bandwidth. Video that is created must be housed somewhere. Depending on the size of the video and the kind of storage, there can be significant costs to storing large videos. An ultra-high-definition movie can be terabytes of data and a low definition short video can be only a few megabytes.  The amount and type of storage, as well as the bandwidth required, all equate to costs. Let’s say this faculty member uploads her 15 minute video onto her WordPress site where she makes it available for download. If the video is an hour at $.10 per GB with an average size of 40GB, the cost is $1.00 to store it per year.
What we have above is a simple straightforward video that cost about $84 to produce give or take. 72% of that amount is salary cost, 24% is equipment and software cost and 4% is storage and bandwidth.  The point is, we have something to work with. We have an equation with which to measure the cost of producing something.
Now we move to the much harder area to measure, which is value. How do we measure the value of that 15 minute exam prep video? There are a couple of options:

  • We look at statistics. The movie industry looks at ticket sales and the number of seats across the number of theatres, as well as the gross revenue of the movie. Since we don’t sell videos in higher education we cannot count on ticket sales, so for a 15 minute exam prep video in a chemistry course we could instead equate ticket holders in seats to the students who watched the video. How much of the video they watched and how often they watched it are also relevant, as it would be reasonable to argue that a video, which was watched by the entire class on multiple occasions, has more value than a video watched by 5% of the class. So the analytics data for videos is a great way to provide us with one aspect of the value of video in classrooms.
  • We look at feedback. The movie industry looks at the value of a movie via professional reviews and/or audience feedback. It might be hard to convince Rotten Tomatoes to get involved for a 15-minute chemistry exam prep video, but you can enable student feedback of videos via comments and rating stars. Basic feedback mechanisms can also point to the value of video in classrooms.
  • We look at results. The movie industry looks at attendance of sequels as a good indicator of the success of a franchise. In a chemistry class exam prep video, we have an even better indicator–the exam. If we see that students who watched the prep video tended to do better on the exam than students who didn’t, we might argue that there is a positive correlation between watching the exam prep video and success writing the exam. Success in the course is a great correlation with value in an educational environment, so again we have a great way to measure value if we take the time and we have the analytics tools through which to gather the data.

Those are just three examples of ways we can look at value which are quantifiable and which provide us with real data to use that points to the value, or lack of value of video. The goal is not to come up with a perfect equation, but to examine and better understand where video can best be used and how it can best be produced to get the best outcomes for your investment.

For one easy way to create videos, check out Kaltura CaptureSpace.

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