Guest post: Capturing Content for Distance Learning
This is a guest post written by Jon Anscher on behalf of the Northwest Regional Primary Care Association. The NWRPCA received a Technology Improvement Award from the NN/LM PNR to purchase equipment for capturing sessions at the organization’s two annual conferences.
Community Health Centers (CHCs) need a comprehensive learning environment with modularized learning components that are current, interactive, and engaging and our goal was to deliver a higher quality and broader access through online resources. In an age where technology is changing too fast for our infrastructure to keep up, it is essential that CHC workers have access to the latest information without having to attend every retreat, workshop, or training that is offered.
Add to that a challenging economy, and distance learning becomes the saving grace of a new age. Through distance learning, we can offer training and information that is instantly accessible, easy to update, and is less than half the cost to clinics that cannot afford continually sending their staff to conferences and courses to stay current. Further, distance learning has the capacity to target specific learning and identify the needs of the learners so that participants can maximize their time, learning content that is the most relevant to them.
The staff at Northwest Regional Primary Care Association (NWRPCA) regularly received feedback from conference participants that there was so much good content, they wished they could go to more than one session. Given this consistent need, the Education and Training Team wanted to extend the visibility and accessibility of our conferences through better capture and delivery of content. Secondarily we also wanted to deliver higher quality online learning by doing better work capturing and delivering content.
Thanks to an award from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Pacific Northwest Region, we were able to do just that. The resulting content captured from purchased equipment has allowed us to extend the reach of our conferences and the valuable learning that can be found there.
Learning from Our Ignorance
Yet this journey was not without challenges. As a small nonprofit, NWRPCA is constantly struggling to keep up with current trends in technology and content delivery. Maintaining the equipment and a skilled staff is no easy task. And the time and effort that goes into editing the hours of footage captured cannot be overestimated. Video editing is a time consuming process that is often not user friendly. As such, it has become apparent that there is a fine balance between quality and speed of delivery. Finding that balance is a challenge and one that we continue to address.
The biggest surprise, however, was the complexity of the capture process. Entering into this, we thought that resources were our big deficiency, but we quickly realized that equipment was a drop in the bucket compared to the time it took to develop and edit the content we captured and the skills it took to ensure we could capture and work with the content. We quickly found that building partnerships and finding ways to develop solid workflow was key.
Additionally, the number of times that captures were lost due to clipped audio, crashed software, or user error was surprising. Anyone considering capturing content from a conference should have a clear purpose for why they are doing it, a measured need, and a clear goal about how they are going to manage all that content.
Not only was the human factor big, but the size of the captured content quickly became an issue. As the size of content grew, we quickly realized we needed a strong plan for how to keep the content safe. We had anticipated a large working drive to keep the content on, but the need for redundant backup drives quickly out-paced us.
Lastly, it is very important that you understand the cost to value ratio. How much of a commitment of staff and resources is the content worth? At first, we tried to capture content at the highest quality. But we quickly discovered that space was not unlimited and had to make decisions about the level of quality that we truly needed.
Overall, this project has been a big success. We engaged a broader audience and learned a lot about balancing quality and quantity. Many conference attendees were eager to gain access to the recordings for sessions they missed and sessions they wanted to share with others. Ultimately, this was our sign of success.