Creating Mobile-Ready Videos
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
As bandwidth and computer technologies improve for the general consumer, it is becoming more and more apparent that online options for support, training, and course work will continue to increase in demand. In the past, online course materials have, out of the necessity of bandwidth limitations, been offered in general print-ready formats as well as lower-resolution audio/video formats such as SWF and FLV. While broadband internet is still not a risk-free assumption, its multiple home (cable, DSL) and portable (wifi, 3g, 4g) channels have helped it increase in availability and use. This increased amount of broadband has changed the way many students access course resources.
The introduction of powerful mobile devices, however, has started to change student expectations for provided video. As more and more people buy smartphones and tablets that are also media and web devices, they will expect to be able to access course on their mobile devices. This presents an issue, however, in that many mobile devices live within their own operating system and ecosystem and cannot be as easily modified as computers running full versions of standard operating systems such as Windows or Mac OS. iOS devices (iPhone, iPad) cannot play Flash or SWF movies natively (such as those created by Presenter), and Apple has proactively blocked user-submitted applications to add this functionality. Android devices can play a minimal version of Flash, but can still have issues loading it on the fly. Considering that tablets are the growth area in the tech industry with 20 million sold in 2010 (7.3 million were iPads in Q4 alone) and a projection of 180 million tablets to be sold in 2014, it would seem prudent to keep these devices in mind when choosing file formats for newly created materials, especially for technology-savvy students who will want mobile options for accessing course materials.
The good news is that mobile-ready videos can be created right now with tools already available. Narrated presentations, for example, can be created in PowerPoint 2010 using its built-in narration tool. The entire presentation, including audio, can then be saved as a movie file (.wmv). This resulting video can be uploaded to a conversion/hosting tool (DoubleTake, Echo 360, YouTube, etc) and then shared with students through Blackboard or any other preferred means of communication in a mobile-ready format. (Note: Unfortunately PowerPoint 2011 for Mac will not currently export audio when saved as a movie, so this option is not yet viable for Mac users)
As mobile devices become more popular and more powerful, it seems reasonable to assume that students will increasingly expect to be able to access course materials on them. Proactively working now to create materials that are mobile-ready will not only increase the current accessibility of materials, but may also reduce the need to recreate non-accessible materials in the future.