British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

Streaming Visual Literacy

Kevin Wilson of Goldsmiths College asks, what does video streaming mean for the higher education library?

KevinWilson200x250About the Author: Kevin Wilson is Subject Librarian for the Institute for Management Studies and Audiovisual Librarian at Goldsmiths College. He studied History and Politics at Keele University and has an MSc in Information Science from Robert Gordon University.

There is growing acceptance that the use of video in learning and teaching has clear educational value and can engage and motivate students, while allowing them to develop important cognitive skills. Video use is already prevalent in higher education. Greg Benfield et al’s 2009 article ‘Student Learning Technology Use: Preferences for Study and Contact’, investigated students’ e-learning activities and discovered that ‘high usage activities involve multimedia use, particularly listening to audio and watching video’, while Jack Holland in ‘Video Use and the Student Learning Experience in Politics and International Relations’ (2014) studied video use and the student learning experience in Politics and International Relations, noting that ‘digital native’ students are already fluent in using these technologies, and academic staff themselves expect to make greater use of video in class.

While it is clear that using video enriches the student learning experience, it also allows students to develop visual literacy skills. Visual literacy is a term first coined by John Debes in 1969, which he defined as ‘a group of vision-competencies a human being can develop by seeing and at the same time having and integrating other sensory experiences’. In 2001, the Association of College and Research Libraries defined visual literacy standards in higher education. The ACRL believe that a visually literate individual should be able to determine which materials he/she needs and how to find, access, interpret, analyse and use them both effectively and ethically. The Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) includes visual literacy within the umbrella term of information literacy. SCONUL believes an information literate individual should demonstrate ‘an awareness of how they gather, use, manage, synthesise and create information and data in an ethical manner and will have the information skills to do so effectively.’

Changes in technology have made video increasingly available and accessible. Streaming services such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant have changed how audiences consume television programming. Ofcom’s 2015 Communications Market Report revealed that six in ten adults use ‘video on demand’ services – 4.4 million households subscribe to Netflix, while 1.2 million households subscribe to Amazon Prime Instant. It also found that 16-24 year olds use computers and smartphones to access on-demand services more frequently than using set-top boxes and they watch short-form video (e.g. YouTube) more often than any other age group. Students are already streaming for recreational purposes, so using it for educational purposes seems perfectly logical.

As iPlayer and Netflix are changing how video is consumed, providers of educational video have followed suit. Many readers will be familiar with Box of Broadcasts (BoB), a shared online off-air TV and radio recording service available to subscribing institutions. Box of Broadcasts has over 2 million programmes in its archive, which are kept indefinitely. For higher and further education libraries, services such as BoB have been liberating. In the past, librarians would manually record programmes, create catalogue records, print labels and find sufficient shelf space for multiple copies of videos and DVDs. Now, users can log-in, set a programme to record within seconds (or find one recorded by another institution) and view it once it has been broadcast. Users can stream programmes, wherever they are in the UK, no matter which device they are using.

Alexander Street Press seeks to transform how we research, learn and teach in various disciplines by providing access to a number of video collections, ranging from Art and Architecture to World Newsreels from the twentieth century. Artfilms offers more than 5,000 films in various art forms from all over the world, while Concord Media, a non-profit provider of films on topics of social concern allows films to be purchased or rented on-demand via Vimeo. In many cases, these films are only available from these suppliers and only for streaming.

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