May 11, 2018

On Demand | Academic Streaming Media

Streaming technology is revitalizing video as an educational tool in academia, but there are challenges ahead for libraries

Whether the topic of discussion is electronic resources, collection development policies, or patron-driven acquisition, academic librarians have a history of giving media and video short shrift, argues deg farrelly, media librarian and streaming video administrator for Arizona State University Libraries (ASU).

“I personally feel, and have felt for many years, that media is the redheaded stepchild in the academy,” says farrelly. Many librarians, he says “are loath to admit that media has value. But it is used; it’s used heavily. We know that faculty want it.”

Working as AV coordinator/librarian at York College of Pennsylvania for almost 15 years prior to starting his current position at ASU in 1991, farrelly has certainly witnessed a great deal of transition in academic media in terms of formats. Now, opinions about the role of media in the academy may be undergoing a shift as well. Over the past decade, the growth of streaming video has represented a sea change in the U.S. consumer entertainment market. And it is already demonstrating its power as a pedagogical tool, both inside and outside the classroom.

Just the facts

Consumer streaming services “like Netflix and Hulu, have increased the amount of media consumption in general and that has translated to the academic market,” says Erika Peterson, director of media resources, Carrier Library, James Madison University, VA, and coauthor, with Cheryl J. Duncan, of the 2014 title Creating a Streaming Video Collection for Your Library. “Faculty are used to consuming media and are more aware of the pedagogical uses of video. And knowing that their students [and faculty] are able to access content…any time of the day, anywhere that they are, makes media much more appealing” as a teaching resource.

According to “The State of Video in Education 2015,” a recent survey of educators—66 percent higher ed and 26 percent K-12—conducted by video publishing software developer Kaltura, “67 percent of all respondents say that video is used in student assignments, while 59 percent use video for lecture capture. Using video for remote teaching/learning is commonplace in higher education, with 66 percent of respondents from these institutions doing so. As expected, flipped classroom methodology is becoming a widely used form of pedagogy—46 percent said they use video for that purpose.”

Year-on-year Kaltura survey data also indicates a marked increase in streaming video usage. Eighty-four percent of higher ed respondents to the 2015 survey said that video was regularly shown in the classroom at their institutions, compared with 76 percent in 2014, while 71 percent said that video was a regular component of student assignments, compared with 61 percent in 2014. The report notes that “the incorporation of digital video as a teaching aid is permeating the classroom, although [it] has not yet reached anywhere near saturation point.”

And farrelly’s own “Survey of Academic Library Streaming Video,” conducted in 2013, and 2015 by farrelly and Jane Hutchison, who recently retired from her position as associate director of media services for William Paterson University, NJ, bears out these trends as well. In a 2010 Primary Research Group Survey of Academic Libraries, 33 percent of respondents said that their libraries were providing streaming video. Three years later, according to farrelly and Hutchison’s research, 70 percent of all respondents, and 92 percent of Association of Research Libraries (ARL) member respondents, were offering streaming video resources. In addition, 47 percent said that they anticipate spending more on subscription streaming video in the coming year, and 42 percent said they would probably spend more on individual streaming titles. The 2015 survey data is still being crunched, but there is little reason to expect a reversal of this growth.

“It’s big,” farrelly said. “This is now the main approach, in many instances, for collecting video in academic libraries.”

New format, old compromises

The promise of streaming video as a teaching tool lies in its convenience. It’s much easier for a professor or instructor to stream a short clip of video in class, for example, or direct students to a link or embedded video on a learning management system (LMS) course page, than to check out physical media from the library and find a DVD player, or expect students to do the same.

Yet academic libraries have seen this movie before. Much like online databases and electronic journals, streaming video resources greatly simplify access to content. But in many cases, the format trades away the first-sale protections and long-term ownership benefits of physical media and incurs ongoing subscription or infrastructure costs.

“It’s similar to the question that we face when we think about print versus electronic collections. What is the right balance?” says Mark Roosa, dean of libraries for Pepperdine University, CA. “How much of a collection do you want to lease versus owning? It’s a business decision, and for us…this is an access solution that provides an expedient way for students to get the material they need without the irritations of trying to check out a DVD that may already be checked out. It really helps facilitate their academic work.”

As for issues of preservation, and the prospect of investing in yet another electronic content model, Roosa adds, “Is it a long-term, sustainable solution? If we can finance it, yes. But what does that look like in a scaled environment, where we’re moving massive amounts of content in a streaming mode? It’s a great tool for right now, but as [physical] media—DVDs, CDs, and lots of other physical media—are kind of disappearing, I think we’ll have to make some tough decisions down the road.”

Circ and search

Academic streaming video vendors, such as market leaders Films on Demand, Alexander Street, and Kanopy, tend to argue that regardless of any trade-offs made when licensing content rather than purchasing physical copies, the value of licensed streaming content is self-evident in increased usage and resulting lower cost per circ.

“VHS is dead…and DVD is almost dead—anyone who has an Apple [recent model iMac or MacBook] now doesn’t have a DVD player. And DVDs are becoming defunct. They’re getting damaged, they’re getting weeded, and they’re getting lost. And only one person can watch at a time,” says Tom Humphrey, COO of Kanopy, discussing the broader consumer transition to streaming and the corresponding demand for streaming video resources in higher ed.

“Is it better to have a DVD on the shelf that’s going to sit there for ten years and only get watched once, or am I better off putting $100 toward something that is going to generate 1,000 plays over the course of the year” before requiring renewal? Humphrey asks.

At ASU, farrelly confirms that academic streaming video services “are not inexpensive, but, in our experience, the return on investment for these products is amazing. Our per view cost is almost too cheap to meter.” ASU, notably, was recognized in 2014 by Films on Demand as the first customer to reach two million views on its platform.

These three major vendors, among others [see Denice Rovira Hazlett’s product spotlight coverage below], also offer tools such as searchable transcripts of video content, which enhance the utility of the format for researchers as well as students.

“It’s been interesting to see [academic libraries] transition, because I think the first adoption of a new media format or technology is to replicate how it was used in the past,” says Andrea Eastman-Mullins, COO of Alexander Street. “A lot of the [initial use of streaming video] was kind of like how DVDs were used in class. Cue it up, make a clip, have it to stream in class.”

More recently, “We have seen a lot of libraries essentially discovering video as an academic form,” she says. “From the very beginning, we made all of our [streaming video] transcripts fully searchable and combined that with our indexing as well. We want you to pull up interesting historic documentaries and newsreels, but we also want you to do something meaningful with it. One example is indexing for the speaker within newsreels, so you can search for all occurrences, within a specific time frame, that [John F.] Kennedy used the word communist. That’s one way that we’ve been able to explain how video could be used in a scholarly way. The interaction with it can be so much richer than watching a DVD for 60 minutes.”

Curation challenges

Although some overlap is inevitable among large subscription-based streaming collections, libraries can expect a mix of exclusivity agreements that will typically require institutions to work with multiple vendors, farrelly notes.

“There are large companies out there that provide large, comprehensive collections, in much the same way that you could go to a journal index and get a large number of your e-journals. But you’re still going to need to buy and subscribe to individual journals. It’s not going to cover everything,” ­farrelly says.

Established publishers are also beginning to create new, proprietary video content. SAGE, for example, recently launched SAGE Video, which is composed of about 40 percent curated, licensed content but is otherwise defined by discipline-specific video collections that were commissioned and produced by SAGE.

Released in May, the first three collections cover Education, Communication and Media Studies, and Counseling and Psychotherapy and feature “a range of different types of video content: reference-style definitions with scholars [explaining] a key concept in 60 seconds or less, longer five- to ten-minute tutorials…expert interviews where we worked with our editorial boards to identify who would be the top scholars to [discuss] the impact of their research on the field and emerging trends.” Also “taking theory into practice” content to help students understand the real-world applications of certain concepts, explains Martha Sedgwick, executive director of online product management for SAGE.

Terms and conditions

Such tools show how streaming video is already beginning to evolve in academic settings. But the current proliferation of content—along with the already comprehensive web of subscription arrangements for individual institutions and consortia, term licenses or perpetual licensing terms, and patron-driven acquisitions models offered by vendors—will leave media librarians juggling a variety of considerations as they build a selection of content for their institutions.

For example, many publishers and vendors still offer perpetual/permanent streaming licenses for individual titles—or in some cases, collections of titles—but those licenses can be expensive. In addition, maintaining long-term access to those resources requires ongoing platform subscription costs, or uploading and hosting fees for those titles to be maintained on third-party servers, or the maintenance of an institution-based streaming infrastructure, all of which can weigh on a collection development decision.

At James Madison University, which built its own streaming infrastructure in 2003, Peterson notes that she prefers buying streaming rights in perpetuity when possible, but those licenses typically “are expensive enough that I don’t do a lot of speculative purchasing. Where I would feel more bold about buying a DVD because the content sounds cool, I really want to know there’s an audience when I purchase streaming ­content.”

Peterson adds that she generally tries to avoid purchasing licenses that expire after one year or less, and if a vendor’s upper limit is a three-year license, “I’ll do that reluctantly.” But she, along with Roosa and farrelly, all agree that faculty requests and input are key drivers of streaming video collection development.

“It’s not inexpensive, so we have to be judicious in our selection of providers, and it has to really tie in to coursework,” said Roosa. “Our library liaisons work closely with faculty… there’s a nice dialog that goes on between the library and faculty who are using films in their classes.”

Future viewing

All trends point toward continued growth for academic streaming video. And as faculty continue to explore and refine their use of these resources, dialog with their library seems likely to continue. And with that, media certainly seems on track to earn the appreciation that, according to farrelly, it has lacked in the academy.

Based on responses from more than 1,200 educators, two-thirds of whom are from academic institutions, Kaltura summarized its recent survey findings by predicting that “in ten years’ time, video will become a standard part of education, will evolve beyond delivery of content, and enable innovative types of teaching and learning…. In the words of one respondent, a member of the leadership team of a large higher education institution, ‘Faculty will serve as coaches, curators of content, and facilitators to a far greater extent, and students will be receiving content via video and other media. This means video serves an essential role in changing faculty from lecturers to facilitators of active learning.’ ”

Product Spotlight

By Denice Rovira Hazlett

Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu Plus have helped make streaming video services a staple of middle-class home entertainment in the United States over the past decade. Now, the convenience of the format could help expand the use of video as a pedagogical tool in higher education.

The trend is old news to some academic libraries that long ago worked with campus IT departments to build their own streaming services to host library-owned content. But more often than not, the need for custom infrastructure, along with bandwidth and format compatibility issues, presented barriers to widespread adoption. In recent years, however, a number of new vendors and established publishers have launched streaming video services designed to simplify discovery and access and offer students and instructors an experience comparable to the consumer streaming to which they have become ­accustomed.

Product: Alexander Street
Company: Alexander Street


Alexander Street’s director of marketing, Kelly Latham, says the amount of content the company has available—44,000 videos and seven million audio tracks—is what sets its streaming services apart from other companies. Its newest resources include 60 Minutes: 1997–2014; the BBC Video Collection; the Criterion Collection; Music Online Listening; and, coming soon, Public Library Video Online: Premium. Its new interface, which debuted in August, incorporates mobile-friendly responsive design techniques, enabling easier viewing on any device or screen resolution, with more intuitive search and browsing features. The interface also provides easily accessible instructional videos to get patrons up and running and increase usage, plus related items to provide additional relevant content.

Alexander Street’s options for acquiring streaming video include demand-driven models; its proprietary learning platform allows users to make clips, search scrolling transcripts, embed content into learning management systems, and create playlists.

Librarians and faculty can request a 30-day free trial of any Alexander Street collection at

Product: Ambrose Digital
Company: Ambrose Video Publishing


Ambrose Video Publishing is an educational video production and distribution company that offers exclusive, newly produced content on its own streaming platform for colleges and universities.

Productions incorporate clips designed to be stand-alone, but users can create custom clips, too. The majority of Ambrose’s U.S.–created materials are produced and delivered in HD (high definition) at a quality stream suitable for big screen or HD monitor presentation. All programs have machine-readable cataloging (MARC) records, include a wide variety of citations, and are available on any mobile device.

Ambrose’s full catalog is closed-captioned and comes with searchable transcripts. Its updated site accommodates HTML5 streams using Amazon as its content delivery service. All titles licensed by Ambrose are available for campuswide access and off-campus access via proxy server. Discounts are available for volume purchases, multicampus and consortium purchases, and multiyear licenses. Licensing options also include “Video a-la-Cart,” an option that allows libraries to license segments of any video in the Ambrose Digital collection for as little as 1¢ per minute.

For more information, go to

Product: Digital Campus
Company: Swank Motion Pictures


The Digital Campus streaming solution by Swank Motion Pictures lets students watch full-length, copyright-compliant feature films, with thousands of titles available for academic faculty and staff to bolster in-class and campuswide teaching. The Swank Digital Campus (SDC) simplifies film distribution for students and allows academic libraries to access films via any learning management system, or through the library catalog and e-reserves. A campus proxy server provides simplified login access.

SDC has exclusive rights to streaming content from a majority of Hollywood’s top studios, and recent updates allow Swank to offer its product through IP authentication.

“In the past,” says Mike Grana, sales manager for Swank, “our product was only deliverable through the school’s learning management system. Now schools can post their Swank collection on their library catalog page.”

Movies are also included in database packages, including academic department packages. Swank offers on-campus and webinar demonstrations. To learn more, go to

Product: Docuseek2
Company: Docuseek2


Docuseek2’s subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) site gives colleges and universities in the United States and Canada access to high-quality, content-rich documentary films from such companies as Bullfrog, Collective Eye, the Fanlight Collection, Icarus, and selected titles from the National Film Board of Canada. The exclusive Docuseek2 collection holds 750 titles and adds approximately 200 programs per year. It promises high-profile productions from prestigious, nontheatrical distributors with collections that have been built for more than 40 years.

Docuseek2 has recently added a search widget for embedding on a library’s streaming media page or LibGuide. Jonathan Miller, Docuseek2’s director of marketing, explains, “The custom widget allows a library’s users to initiate a keyword search of the Docuseek2 titles available on their campus.” From those search results, users can then watch the institution’s licensed films, view the description, and more. Individual videos can be embedded into learning management system pages or course pages. Docuseek2 has also added clip-making functions and increased the number of titles with interactive transcripts.

Docuseek2 provides licensing options with terms from one week to three years, as well as licensing for individual titles, thematic collections, and user-created packages. Libraries can also purchase the entire database or take advantage of evidence-based acquisition and patron-driven acquisition deals. Visit to learn more.

Product: Films on Demand
Company: Films Media Group/Infobase Learning Co.


Designed and curated for academic institutions, Films on Demand is one of three cloud-based digital video delivery services from Films Media Group, a subsidiary of Infobase Learning. The company also offers Classroom Video for High Schools and Access Video for Public Libraries.

The Films on Demand collection includes individually selected titles from more than 800 international producers, including BBC, MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, Open University, PBS, A&E, National Geographic, Bill Moyers, ABC, NBC, CNBC, California Newsreel, WNET/Thirteen, TED, Films for the Humanities & Sciences, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; the firm has exclusivity agreements covering half of its titles. Features include closed-captioning and interactive, searchable transcripts for all works, as well as an administrative portal with enhanced reporting features.

Films on Demand offers annual subscription packages, including a comprehensive master academic collection with access to over 20,000 full-length videos and 300,000 video clips, as well as smaller, curriculum-based collections. Individual titles from the Films on Demand library are available through a three-year license—which is typically equal in cost to the list price of a DVD copy—or through a perpetual/permanent license, which usually costs twice as much as the three-year license.

For additional information or to request a free trial, visit

Product: Kanopy
Company: Kanopy


Kanopy is an on-demand streaming video service for educational institutions providing access to more than 26,000 films globally to students and faculty. Its content includes leading films and producers, such as the Criterion Collection, Media Education Foundation, Great Courses, New Day Films, PBS, Universal Paramount, and more. Kanopy’s nonacademic, attractive user interface is designed to engage users in the same way a consumer solution like Netflix does. For libraries, the administrative dashboard includes dynamic usage and engagement statistics and visualizations, a performance and budget manager, and a MARC record downloader. Libraries can design their own collection and pay only for what they need, according to Tom Humphrey, Kanopy’s chief operating officer.

“We invented the à la carte model of ordering individual films when we first launched in 2010, and our patron-driven acquisition (PDA) program, launched in 2012, is now the leading model for video acquisition in the country.”

Curated thematic collections are also available for licensing—with discounts available for volume purchases—or titles can be licensed on an individual basis. Kanopy also offers a hosting service that enables libraries to upload any video that their institution owns streaming rights to and make them available via the Kanopy video platform.

Some features Kanopy has recently added include full Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, full MARC cataloging for all films, a revamped search and discovery tool with new technology to enhance searching across all metadata, and new HD capabilities. Kanopy has also upgraded the responsiveness of its live analytics, along with enhanced administrative tracking features.

For more information or to request a free trial, visit ­

Product: SAGE Video
Company: SAGE Publications


SAGE Video offers 400 hours of streaming material in the social sciences created for use across higher education, from pedagogical resources for undergraduate teaching and learning to higher level academic research. SAGE offers both originally commissioned/produced and licensed content to provide a complete disciplinary resource for students, faculty, and ­researchers.

According to Jenny Hopkins, SAGE library marketing manager, the collections were developed with contributions from SAGE’s global book and journal authors and editors. Most videos in each collection are exclusive to SAGE, and further reading suggestions link across SAGE’s journal, book, and reference titles.

Video features include hot keys, closed-captioning, and full transcripts for every video to support accessibility. Many videos include pedagogical features for teaching; all videos are available globally.

Since its launch in May 2015, SAGE Video has added MARC-21-compliant records as well as improved search functionality and search results pages. Current SAGE Video collections include Counseling and Psychotherapy (429 titles), Education (466 titles), and Communication and Media Studies (521 titles). Six more collections will launch in 2016 in such categories as Psychology, Business and Management, Politics and International Relations, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Sociology, and Research Methods.

Video collections are available for lease or purchase via perpetual license with continuing access in streaming format. Find additional information at

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (, @matthewenis on Twitter, is Senior Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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