Special Report
Classroom Technology

Video Content Provider Market Expanding

By Ian Quillen — May 20, 2013 5 min read
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As digital video content becomes a more popular educational tool, the companies and organizations that provide such content are becoming more diverse.

Traditional educational publishers are using video as one tool to help them shift from print to digital content. Companies whose roots are digital are working, in some cases, to add more text resources and context to the videos they’ve always produced. And groups that have offered free video resources to be consumed informally are now finding that educators are an increasing proportion of their users.

Teachers themselves have also assumed the role of content provider, as apps continue to evolve to allow them to produce and share their own video content with colleagues.

No one classification of provider will automatically offer more relevant content for the classroom than another. But it’s important to understand those classifications and how they affect the nature of the content provided.

Education Publishers

New York City-based Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt of Boston, and New York City’s McGraw-Hill Education have long been known as the titans of the K-12 print-textbook industry. More recently, they’ve been investing in digitizing their content to keep up with changing consumer demands, and in many cases, using video to do so.

In general, those video resources are included as part of a suite of purchasable content services.

For example, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Fuse math apps for mobile devices offer around 300 video tutorials to accompany digital lessons. Pearson’s KnowledgeBox online learning platform for students in grades K-6 includes video as part of a range of interactive content, and the company also offers a service to produce custom videos for a range of secondary educational courses.

Like its two traditional competitors, McGraw-Hill offers digital curricula, mostly geared to secondary students, that includes video content as an instructional tool. The company has also made efforts to encourage its educator customers to become video creators while offering the ability for teachers to link to their own resources through its digital curricula, said D.J. West, one of the company’s educational consulting managers.

“The ability to integrate [provider and teacher content] has been around really for the last three to four years,” Mr. West said. “The more digital we go, the more we’ve been able to allow teachers to incorporate materials through Web-based resources.”

Content Companies

While the “big three” publishers have dominated the print-content world, the shift to digital content has opened significant opportunities for other companies to get involved, including with video.

Discovery Education of Silver Spring, Md., may be the most obvious example. The company originally grew out of what was exclusively an educational video-streaming service. More recently, though, it has appeared most focused on growing its Techbook line, a digital curriculum built on those video resources and other specifically developed multimedia content, available for K-12 science and middle school social studies.

“Video has always been a big part of our service, certainly,” said Scott Kinney, a senior vice president of the company, which has partly, but not entirely, built its content from resources created by its parent company, Discovery Communications.

“We’re fortunate to have a parent company that is rich with media, and at the same time, we don’t necessarily start there and back into a service,” Mr. Kinney said.

Similarly, Wynnewood, Pa.-based Safari Montage has from its inception in 2005 worked to move from its reputation as a provider of on-demand educational video only to one featuring a variety of digital media.

On the other end of the spectrum, Shmoop, based in Los Altos, Calif., has long been a provider of digital learning guides both for students’ core academic studies and for Advanced Placement and college-readiness exams, but it more recently has migrated toward video.

Shmoop’s president and CEO, Ellen Siminoff, said her company now offers 1,000 videos across those subjects. And based in part on experience with the expected release this coming fall of SHMOOCs—the company’s take on “massively open online courses"—she expects video content to eventually account for about a third of the company’s online curriculum offerings.

“It becomes a necessary component,” said Ms. Siminoff, whose company offers many resources free to individual users, but sells services to districts.

Free Repositories

While many companies follow Shmoop’s lead in providing a large portion of their resources for free, the growth of completely free video repositories, from nonprofit organizations such as the Khan Academy, is also giving those providers an increasing stake in the formal education market.

The Khan Academy currently boasts more than 4,000 short educational videos across science, math, economics, computer science, and the humanities. Some educators have used them to “flip” their classrooms: Students watch the videos at home to get conceptual basics, freeing up in-class time for practice, discussion, and revision.

Likewise, the Annenberg Learner website offers free videos targeted to high school academic subjects as part of its range of online educational services supported by the Annenberg Foundation. The nonprofit Annenberg Learner also offers a range of professional-development videos for preservice and in-service teachers.

More recently, the New York City-based nonprofit ted, which uses video and live events to spread emerging ideas and practices in many sectors, launched its educational channel in March 2012. The channel allows users to edit or alter any of its featured videos as well as create their own educational content based on any YouTube video.

All three nonprofits offer some guidance to educators about how their resources might be used in schools. The Khan Academy has also run pilot studies on schools that are using its content and how that use is affecting student learning.

But, in general, educators have much more leeway, and also much more responsibility, to choose video resources they see as most useful and effective than they did in the past when choosing print resources only.

“We are implicitly trusting our users, whether they’re students or teachers, to choose what is going to be the most helpful for them, and we think that’s the right role for us,” said Shantanu Sinha, the Khan Academy’s president and CEO. “We want to empower you, but we’re not going to tell you exactly what to do.”

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A version of this article appeared in the May 22, 2013 edition of Education Week as Educational Video Makers


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