There is a lot being made about video presentation, online learning, and the state of the academy, but lost in the debate are other uses for video interaction on college campuses.
I saw a poet speak recently, or did I hear him? Sitting in the audience, my mind wandered to the expense of it all. – Airfare, lodging, meals, reception and honorarium. He was good, but could the presentation have been equally as good through a well-prepared video conference? Absolutely. Video would have revealed the same words, tone, facial expressions, body language, and even audience response and questions. Cost savings through video conferencing? Without question. Would people attend? Maybe. Is it the growing edge of the future? Certainly, especially for colleges that are serious about cutting costs and maintaining quality offerings. That was one presenter on one night. Multiply that by colleges around the country and real savings is realized – maybe enough to lower tuition or help with student loans!
I had lunch with a Development officer friend the other day. Lots of travel, lots of relationships to be built, and that’s a good thing. Nothing can replace the power of familiarity and trust when you’re raising money for a college or university. That said, are there ways to build relationship and trust that don’t include the physical presence of travel and meals? I think so. Video conferencing and webinars offer powerful opportunities to share useful content and connect with alumni. Other video options can be used for face-to-face private conversations, meetings across distance, and the relaxed personal check-in. These things are being done but not enough. Just because the typical Development prospect is over 50, doesn’t mean they won’t meet you online – that group is the fastest adapter to social media. Will the handshake and the meeting ever go away? No chance. But those visits should be supplemented with low cost video chats wherever possible.
Finally, the ubiquitous “conference”. Almost no one that I’ve ever met in higher education likes to go to their regional or national conference, but everyone goes. Plenty of money is spent on this activity that most everyone agrees is a drag. Does this agenda sound familiar – eat-workshop-eat-workshop-eat-speaker-open bar? The conference is a macrocosm of the poet event: airfare, lodging, lunch, dinner, reception, and honorarium. Smart conferences are finding ways to integrate video presentations into the agenda which reduces expenses. Like the Development situation, video is a legitimate partner to these events, offering colleagues the opportunity to hear excellent speakers, participate in learning forums, and interact with one another across great distance at a fraction of the cost through software and hardware platforms that most colleges already have and underuse.
Colleges and universities are using this technology creatively, and others are coming along. In an era of cost savings through reducing staff and programs, why not use low cost options to accomplish many of the tasks that are creating the costs you’re trying to reduce?