Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less
Video is everywhere—and almost any device that can access the Internet can play (and probably capture) it. From user-created clips and machinima to creative mashups to excerpts from news or television shows, video has become a popular medium for personal communication. Editing and distribution can be done easily with affordable tools, lowering the barriers for production. Ubiquitous video capture capabilities have literally put the ability to record events in the hands of almost everyone. Once the exclusive province of highly trained professionals, video content production has gone grassroots.


Over the past few years, the ways we produce, use and even think about video have undergone a profound transformation. Literally millions of videos are just a click away for any Internet-connected user. As the numbers and quality of user-produced clips have increased, our notions of what constitutes useful or engaging video have been redefined—and more and more, it is a two to three minute piece designed for viewing in a three-inch browser window or on a mobile phone. That same phone is often the video capture device, with surprisingly high quality when viewed on a small screen.

Tools for assembling and editing clips are free or extremely low cost and make it easy for amateurs to get good results without investing in expensive equipment, software, or training. A new class of online toolsets do much of the work for you. FixMyMovie (www.fixmymovie.com), for example, enhances the quality of digital video and optimizes it for online distribution. Literally dozens of web communities offer easy-to-access outlets for distribution and richly featured search and tagging functions.


With video capture and editing tools in the hands of more and more people all the time, we are at the point where virtually any event may be caught on video, by virtually anyone. The proliferation of video is due in large part to how easy it has become to share clips. In January 2007 alone, 7.2 billion videos were viewed online by nearly 123 million Americans, or 70 percent of the total Internet audience in the U.S.2 Video content is as easy to post to the Internet as is text, and in some cases, even easier. Sharing sites like YouTube, Google Video, Viddler, or Blip.tv accept a variety of common formats, and transparently handle the intricacies of conversion and distribution.


Some sharing sites are designed to handle live streams, allowing users to create their own broadcast shows with a webcam; UStream (www.ustream.tv) is one example. Mogulus (www.mogulus.com) is a service currently in beta that enables users to produce their own shows by collaborating online with other producers, mixing live and prerecorded content from around the web, and broadcasting live in real time. Stickam (www.stickam.com) is a similar service that lets users build social networks around their broadcasts—viewers can chat with the producer and with each other while they are watching. Many of these services provide embedding code that lets users place their streams on their blogs or other websites. The effect of all these developments is that the capacity for video production has been distributed to the grassroots level, to the point that even major news outlets routinely feature audience-captured cell phone videos of breaking news stories.

Relevance for Teaching, Learning, and Creative Expression

As the costs of production and distribution for video have dropped to nearly zero, many of the barriers to using in learning and creative situations have fallen away. Rather than investing in expensive infrastructure, universities are beginning to turn to services like YouTube and iTunes U to host their video content for them. As a result, students—whether on campus or across the globe—have access to an unprecedented and growing range of educational video content from small segments on specific topics to full lectures, all available online. Hosting services like YouTube and iTunes U even provide institutional “channels” where content can be collected and branded.

With video easily produced on all manner of inexpensive devices from phones to pocket cameras, faculty have more options than ever before to incorporate video into their curricula. Video capture, in the hands of an entire class, can be a very efficient data collection strategy for field work, or as a way to document service learning projects. Video papers and projects are increasingly common assignments. Student-produced clips on current topics are an avenue for students to research and develop an idea, design and execute the visual form, and broadcast their opinion beyond the walls of their classroom.

Institutions are offering courses in new media production and new media literacy that take advantage of the inexpensive tools, distribution and editing services, and social networking communities that have evolved around video. New media courses are examining the phenomenon of video creation and sharing itself; one example, offered at Pitzer College, required student commentary to be created in video form and published on YouTube. Faculty at Elon University use digital storytelling approaches to reinforce research topics; student teams collaborate to develop and produce a digital story that extends the traditional research paper. The technique is used in a variety of disciplines at Elon, including computing sciences, philosophy, mathematics, Spanish, and French.

The popularity of video is providing new outlets for creativity and enabling literally millions of individual voices to be heard. In education, politics, and other arenas, people are using video rhetorically to persuade others and articulate points of view. Amateur cinematographers and musicians use hosting sites to reach a broader audience for their work and to build a network of fans. Increasingly, learning organizations, faculty, scholars, and students are using these tools as well, and in the coming year, it is very likely that such practice will enter the mainstream of use in these institutions.

A sampling of grassroots video applications across disciplines includes the following:

  • Information Technology. Secondary school students from five schools in five different countries researched and envisioned the future of education and society through the framework of the 2007 Horizon Report, capturing their work in a wiki. They then produced nearly twenty short videos about the topics in the Report and shared them via YouTube. See the results at www.youtube.com/results?search_query=horizonproject07.
  • Mathematics. Two professors at the University of Minnesota used a 3-D animation to illustrate Mobius transformations. The simple video illustrates the mathematical concept in a way that seems to have sparked the imaginations of a wide range of viewers. The video has been watched more than 1.2 million times since it was put on YouTube. See the clip at ca.youtube.com/watch?v=JX3VmDgiFnY.
  • Studio Art. At the University of Mary Washington, students in the course “Approaches to Video Art” study video as an art form and then create short video pieces as final projects. To see the students’ work and read about how the course progressed over the course of the term, visit the course blog at cgar.umwblogs.org.

Examples of Grassroots Video

The following links provide further examples of video applications being developed at the grassroots level.

The MERLOT ELIXR project uses digital case stories to encourage the adoption of exemplary classroom practices in higher education.

MIT Tech TV makes it easy for the MIT community to find and share video related to science, technology, or the community.

Learning From YouTube: MS135 at Pitzer College
In a new media studies class at Pitzer College, students investigate what can be learned from YouTube. Throughout the process, the professor writes frankly about the experience on her blog: wordpress.com/tag/learning-from-youtube/.

Custom YouTube Channels: University of California, Berkeley; UMBCtube; University of New South Wales
Courses from UC Berkeley are available on its own specially branded YouTube channel, an approach also used by the University of New South Wales. UMBCtube, a custom YouTube channel for the University of Maryland Baltimore County, allows the campus to blend community-generated content with institutional video offerings. UMBCtube is designed to complement UMBC’s main course media portal on iTunes U.

VideoANT is an online environment developed at the University of Minnesota that synchronizes web-based video with an author’s timeline-based text annotations. VideoANT is designed to engage learners by supporting interactions between students, instructors, and their video content.

For Further Reading

The following articles and resources are recommended for those who wish to learn more about grassroots video.

I Ustreaming Your Ustream: That’s a Twitter of an Idea!
(Curt Bonk, TravelinEdMan, December 17, 2007.) A professor describes the serendipitous connections made during a talk he gave that happened to be Ustreamed by a member of the audience.

On YouTube, No Enrollment Caps
(Andy Guess, Inside Higher Ed, October 4, 2007.) This article describes the University of California, Berkeley’s course offerings on YouTube and compares them to content available on iTunes U and on Berkeley’s internal video portal.

Video Toolbox: 150+ Online Video Tools and Resources

(Mashable Team, Mashable, June 27, 2007.) This is a comprehensive, annotated list of online video creation, editing, and sharing tools.

Virginia Tech Launches First Major University YouTube Contest
(Mark Owczarski, Virginia Tech News, February 28, 2007.) This news announcement describes a competition for YouTube videos about the Virginia Tech campus.

del.icio.us: Grassroots Video
(Horizon Advisory Board and Friends, 2007.) Follow this link to find resources tagged for this topic and this edition of the Horizon Report, including the ones listed here. To add to this list, simply tag resources with “hz08” and “video” when you save them to del.icio.us.

2 Lipsman, Andrew. (2007). ‘Primetime’ U.S. Video Streaming Activity Occurs on Weekdays Between 5-8 P.M. Comscore Press Release, March 21, 2007. Retrieved December 2007, from www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=1264.

Posted by NMC on February 3, 2008
Tags: Chapters

Total comments on this page: 7

How to read/write comments

Comments on specific paragraphs:

Click the icon to the right of a paragraph

  • If there are no prior comments there, a comment entry form will appear automatically
  • If there are already comments, you will see them and the form will be at the bottom of the thread

Comments on the page as a whole:

Click the icon to the right of the page title (works the same as paragraphs)


No comments yet.

Brian on paragraph 1:

uStream has seemingly come out of nowhere to become a compelling part of the edu-blog landscape. It’s early, but I find it very cool to share a lunch with the ed tech wizards in Saskatchewan, or to have Jennifer Jones pushing out a live video of Alan’s session — with the opportunity for people on-site to chat with the people watching remotely.

I haven’t seen a tool emerge so quickly since YouTube. Interesting that these are both “grassroots video” tools!

February 25, 2008 11:44 am
Matt on paragraph 5:

Over the weekend, attendees of the Northern Voice conference (and Jennifer D. Jones in particular) used ustream.tv to broadcast live panel sessions. The largely unplanned livestreams were announced via twitter networks; each one drew from 12-25 viewers, some of whom were even at the conference itself, but used the ustream chat as a backchannel. Ustream allowed those of us who were unable to attend the conference to see and hear some of what was going on, and to participate, in a small and virtual way, in the conference itself.

February 25, 2008 11:49 am
Jim :

That was pretty remarkable, Matt. And to add to it, Jennifer has now created an online video archive of the conference, because she was able to save all of those live streams. If we are running out of bandwidth, I’m no so certain that UStream is helping with that problem :)

February 25, 2008 12:39 pm
Jim on paragraph 4:

In fact, the advent of YouTube not only suggests how easy it is to create and share video, but through the embed links opens up video to be reproduced just about anywhere online, making the portability of this previously bulky medium that much more explosive.

So video became cheaper and easier, but it also got a whole lot more portable with a very simple bit of available code.

February 25, 2008 12:32 pm
pumpkin on paragraph 5:

The ustream Northern Voice archive is available at: http://ustream.tv/channel/nv08

I had distinctly different experiences when passively watching the archives vs actively watching and participating in the chat room real-time. The evolution of the ability to broadcast vs. share/play video will be interesting to watch develop.

February 25, 2008 3:30 pm
Matt on paragraph 5:

That’s a great point, Pumpkin. It’s notable, too, that there was some interaction between remote ustream viewers and actual conference-goers. For instance, some people at the conference who were also participating in the ustream chat waved for the camera. I was tempted, at several points, to ask someone in the room to ask a question for me.

February 25, 2008 5:59 pm
Chris L on paragraph 5:

Matt– you should have relayed a question! I would have loved that (if the connection in the room I was presenting in hadn’t been so flaky).

February 25, 2008 6:09 pm
Name (required)
E-mail (required - never shown publicly)