On The Emergence of the Video Professor

Professor John M. McCann
Fuqua School of Business
Duke University

July 1993
Revised May 1995

The fact is that a widespread system of two-way broadband networks reaching most American homes, schools and offices is less than five years away. All U.S. business planners must come to terms with its transforming reality. [1]

The above quote from George Gilder tells us that we should be prepared to deal with the broadband network era. He invented the word microcosm to describe the growth and meaning of the microprocessor and its liberating effects on individuals. His new term, telecosm, has been coined to describe a world in which communication power is huge and essentially free. His message is that competition, between telephone companies and cable television companies on one front and computer manufacturers on the other, is bringing about a new world.

The microcosm will yield chips containing billions of transistors, equivalent to scores of supercomputers on single slivers of silicon. The telecosm will yield bandwidth exploding into the terahertz of all-optical networks and the gigahertz of millimeter waves in the air. [2]

As my daughter would say: "Think on it." What will it be like to have many supercomputers on every desk? More importantly, what will it be like to have these supercomputers on every desk connected to every other supercomputer via super networks?

And they will be cheap, because competition and technology will make it so. Cheap computing and cheap bandwidth (I am using the term "bandwidth" to refer to the carrying capacity of the communication channel. People are beginning to use a highway analogy to give others concrete metaphors for use in understanding this concept: "the transition from old copper telephone wires to new fiber optic cables is like widening a two-lane highway to hundreds of lanes." [3]). So cheap that we might eventually think of it as free computing and free bandwidth ... all the computing and communications facilities that you want will be there for the taking. When will this happen? The year 2015 or 2020? Nope, a working version will likely occur before my nine year old daughter gets her driver's license or my eleven year old son enters college. The early version of this vision will likely occur about the time that the rising college seniors have gained sufficient experience to be admitted to an MBA program.

My paper The Cyberspace Challenge expands upon these developments and discusses some of their implications. This paper explores one development, video, in more depth.


From Textbook Author to Video Author

For one thing, it means that people in different locations will be able to communicate with each other as if they were in the same room. The goal of people developing the new technologies is that people will be able to communicate with all the nuances and tools that are used when people work together. Where might these people be located?

... in a basement in Vancouver, a boat in Port-au-Prince, a cab in New York, a garage in Texas City, an apartment in Rome, an office in Hong Kong, a bar in Kyoto, a cafe in Kinshasa, a laboratory on the Moon. [4]

It also means that people will have instant access to stored knowledge and information in all forms and formats. Consider what is coming to the cable television subscriber in the next few years as these firms build giant client/server computer networks.

The client computers will be digitized TVs or teleputers linked to powerful database computers that use a parallel-processing architecture to access hierarchical memory systems ... that contain terabytes (trillions of bytes) of digital video movies, games, educational software and other programming. [5]

The world's greatest lectures can be placed on video and served to these teleputers on demand. These lectures can be interactive in nature, letting the student move from segment to segment as desired. These lectures will be composed of all forms of media, from video to image to audio to text to animation to simulation.

Teaching in this world will be very different from today's world. Take the case of a textbook author who writes a popular book that is accompanied by material for use by the instructors who adopt the text. This material includes 1) an annotated version of the text that contains hints on how to present the material, along with supporting material that can be used to illustrate the concepts in the text, 2) copies of overhead transparencies that the instructor can use, 3) lesson plans, and 4) supporting video material. Universities employ these instructors, who adopt the authors book and deliver the material as suggested by the author. One obvious path for this technology to take is for the textbook authors to evolve into video authors.
Return to Contents

The Video Journalist Model

What is the role of the professor in a world where resource material is available from a giant server, students have supercomputers, network bandwidth is huge and inexpensive, and people can collaborate with each other as if they were in the same room? One vision of such an instructor can be garnered by looking at a related professional, the television news producer. Times Warner recently started a new cable television channel to serve the New York market; the following describes how a 30 minute news segment is put together by Mallory Prestlien, a New York 1 news producer.

A few pecks on the keyboard and the inventory of the station's video jukebox is on Preslien's '386 screen. Segment by segment, she sews together bits of pre-recorded anchor commentary and taped reports from the field. A few items get replayed from the 8:30 show, several others are bumped; most are replaced by an updated version of the same story -- enough to keep it fresh. She clicks on story after story until the counter reads half a minute over 30, deletes a couple of public service announcements, and -- viola -- a seamless 1,800 second news cast programmed in two minutes flat. No stage crew to warn. No director to review the schedule. Just Prestlien in Producer Pod Number 1. The robot will do the rest. [6]

An interesting aspect of this approach is the lack of support people; a single journalist/editor produces the entire show from pre-recorded material. Just a video jukebox and what is now an "ancient" PC ... a '386. But where does that material come from?

Just as New York 1 has transferred control of its newsrooms from stage hands to software, it has also done away with technicians on the streets. Reporters usually go it alone with 40 pounds of video, light, and sound equipment tucked into the trunks of their cars. The crumbling economics of broadcast journalism are giving rise to a new generation of reporters: the video journalists. Electronically literate, as comfortable behind the camera as in front, these lone wolves are producing near network-quality field reports with little more than camcorders. ... Peter Herferd, who heads the broadcast journalism program at Columbia University, says it's just a matter of time before Hi-8 journalism reaches the community level, 'demystifying the priesthood' of television news. [7]

This producer is in a studio working at a PC, pulling together portions of video to assemble a 30 minute news show. What makes it work is the use of Hi-8 camcorders by video journalists, a library of video footage produced by these video journalists as well as by traditional camera crews, the robot that pulls and loads tapes on demand, and the computer equipment for selecting and assembling footage.

She is in a broadcast mode in which she determines what every viewer will get and puts it on the air. But how would this work in a video on demand mode? She would get a request for a thematic show, and then pull together existing material to produce the show. If she is familiar with the available material, she should be able to do this relatively quickly. Suppose a tour director sent a message requesting a show about West Coast volcanoes. If the footage were available, she could assemble a tailored show for this person.
Return to Contents

MBA Desktop Education

Now, let's transport this model to education. Suppose the producer was an educator who had access to video material on every subject taught in MBA programs. Suppose she was preparing a segment on the use of regression analysis to forecast sales of retail stores. What material might she find on the network?

There might be a two-hour video on the intricacies of regression analysis on time-series data. There might be a 10 minute video featuring an interview with Durbin about the process he and Watson used to derive the Durbin-Watson test. There might be a 4 minute video on the perils of the Durbin-Watson test when the model contains a lagged dependent variable. There might be a 3 minute animation, with voice-over, showing why the test is biased in those conditions. There might be the course outlines from dozens of related courses. There might be text and image versions of all the popular econometric textbooks, along with the past 10 years of all the relevant journals.

She could assemble any and all of this material into an education on demand module that could be narrowcast to the requesting party, or assembled on optical media and sent via over night mail to that person. This is one scenario for a growth path for MBA education in the network era.

Another recent article provides an example of the trend towards tailored news, and thus provides a role-model for tailored education.

What we are talking about here, however, is a new system devised to combine the imagery of television, the intimacy of the computer, and the immediacy of telecommunications. And it's worth considering the implications of its development for anyone who works in a news department. It's called NBC Desktop News. ... the vision of the product is to deliver video information anywhere they want, at any time, in any form. ... Every day multimedia editors take news that's going out on CNBC and actually create product especially tailored for this process. In full-motion video format they just send it out. For the multimedia format they go through a digitizing process where we convert it from full motion video to a freeze frame multimedia approach and add text. ... For the multimedia editor of the future, the audience is one person, almost guaranteed, which is very different from TV. In TV, the audience is generally in an intimate -- but not personal -- space. The system that NBC, IBM, and NuMedia have cooked up is based on the notion that there is enough concerns (markets, if you will) that need information in this form that the service can become a viable and useful product capable of supporting itself and making a good profit. Or, according the Wheeler (Executive VP of NBC), it was a vision that we'd had for some time but needed technology to catch up, so that the value of the service is greater than the cost of delivery. If you look at how satellite costs have come down, how compression allows you to reduce your distribution costs, how personal computers have been upgraded to 386s and 486s, you see that it was a concept just waiting for the cost of technology to catch up. [8]

It is not hard to see how to apply these concepts to an analogous education system, let's call it MBA Desktop Education, that could operate in a similar manner ... not an identical but a similar manner.
Return to Contents

Educational Video Server

The advent of the video journalist will result in video overload. Just as today's databases contain so much information that it is almost impossible for an individual to quickly pull together the material that tells a coherent story, the satellites and video servers will contain hours and hours of video material. How does one find their way through all of this video material? To attack this question, researchers at Northwestern are combining case-based reasoning and multimedia.

Imagine the day when you will have access to vast libraries of video clips on almost any topic and intelligent assistants that help you retrieve information and explore areas of interest. That is exactly the kind of experimental work under way at Northwestern University's ILS (Institute of the Learning Sciences), directly by Roger Schank. Schank's group has developed a 'smart' object-oriented/CBR (case-based reasoning)/multimedia navigation tool called Ask, it intelligently indexes and retrieves short video clips (i.e., 1 to 2 minutes) and text. Ask creates knowledge bases about the clips and indexes them by content. The user can navigate through the stored videos and retrieve footage interactively through conversational-style queries regarding the context of the clips. ... Schank's group worked with the transportation command of Operation Desert Storm to film the experts who managed the monumental task of moving the equipment, troops, and materiel to Saudi Arabia. The expertise gained from the experience is now indexed and available through the Ask system. [9]

Where would we put all of this video material? Recent developments would allow us to turn an existing network of PCs into a PC cluster that could, among other things, provide a video server. The basic idea is to augment an existing Ethernet network with a 100-Mbps network to loosely couple the computers.

The combined processing power of the clustered computers and the high-bandwidth interconnection creates a large server capable of processing applications that were once beyond the scope of your server and network. The novelty of a PC cluster is that it lets you exploit inter machine connections for special-purpose, multi-processor, and network-intensive applications, such as image processing and full-motion video. [10]

One of the applications of this approach is an educational video server.

How could we use this stuff in an MBA program? One thing would be to build a multimedia database of the research findings of our faculty that could be brought to bear by students when they are doing cases and projects. We could build the video base or research-base with student help. A student works with a professor to build an application that goes onto the network. This student might be taking the professor's course; his/her job is to put the material into digital media, including video. Over time, we would accumulate a large library of material. It could include the results of students' own research.

Perhaps we could follow the lead of firms such as Arthur Andersen. They have TIM (Total Information Management), "a focal point for a number of emerging technologies, integrating knowledge-based systems, case-based reasoning, multimedia, and voice synthesis. ... TIM integrates a number of off-the-shelf applications such as Microsoft Mail, Excel and Word." [11]

Or, perhaps we could simply become Video Professors.
Return to Contents

The Video Professor

Just as news organizations have evolved the Video Journalist, we can create the Video Professor, the VidProf, who combines desktop computing, desktop video, and desktop publishing into a stand alone operation that can produce high quality education material for delivery by a university, or perhaps by a new organization known as the Business Broadcasting Company (BBC). That is, the VidProfs will create educational material that can be combined and packaged by an Education Producer (i.e., the analog of Mallory Preslien, the News Producer at New York 1) and delivered via the network to any person, any time, and any place.

I can envision the reader agreeing that the technology will permit such developments but denying that "I" would get involved in such endeavors. Some might view themselves as scientists who do not want to get involved with endeavors that smack of "trashy" television. That may be true, but there are scientific organizations that are on the leading edge of this wave, and they do not think it is far fetched. Let's listen to how Gary Welz, the President of Science and Engineering Network, Inc. [12] envisions the implication of the upgraded NSFnet for scientific journals:

At that point virtually unlimited use of the Internet for the exchange of video documents and live video multicasting will be possible. One can anticipate that a number of new publication models will arise. Some may be patterned after print journals, offering selected viewer submissions, others will be familiar television formats like talk shows, news reports and live viewer 'call-ins.'... We are entering the age of video email, video computer bulletin boards and ultimately video journals with the same degree of editorial quality control that now exists in print. The average scientist is now able to put a television reception, production and distribution center on his desk for under $10,000. This has turned the computer into the television equivalent of the ham radio set. Television will no longer be only a mass audience medium, instead, in a very short time, it will be the most common and the preferred form of scientific communication. [13]

Just as the PC allowed anyone to become a desktop publisher, the marriage of television and computing will make anyone who is interested into a desktop television producer.

One should not be surprised at the interest in video among the hard sciences because the growth of computation science as a legitimate scientific paradigm that has taken its place alongside theoretical and empirical approaches. Models running on supercomputers generate billions of numbers which are transferred over the network to scientific visualization software running on graphic workstations. There soon evolved a need to produce dynamic visualizations and to capture them on video. For instance, researchers at the University of Illinois Beckman Institute have developed a desktop video production system called the Video Mac for capturing the visualizations of research results generated by the Illinois supercomputer. [14]

Desktop video is made possible by advancements in hardware and software that bring video technology to the computer. One of the leading breakthroughs is the Video Toaster, a plug-in card and software package that transforms the Amiga computer into an easy to use, multipurpose video application [15]. This package, which costs less than $5,000 and can be coupled to IBM personal computers, provides the capabilities of dedicated video production equipment that cost close to $100,000. These types of systems are becoming available due to advancements in computer chips that digitize and process video signals, along with software and hardware standards. Hardware innovations are being driven by the development of dedicated video chips and the rapid rise of the Digital Signal Processor (DSP) chip. On the software side, IBM and Intel have defined a set of standard methods and an architecture for building desktop multimedia and video applications. The resulting Audio-Video Kernal is one of several developments that promise to enhance the development communities ability to develop technologies and applications that run on a wide array of platforms [16]. Such developments are leading to a new model for desktop multimedia: the video production studio.
Return to Contents

What's Happening Today

Video-based education is certainly not new. Videotapes have been part of correspondence courses for a long time, and universities have been transmitting video in distance learning situations for years. Most universities have a classroom that allows it to deliver interactive video classes to a distant campus.

What is changing? We are now in the midst of the Digital Revolution that is causing a merger of many industries: communications, computing, entertainment, news, and publishing. As these industries move to the digital format, the distinction between them begin to blur. The same will be true of education.

Schools are gearing up to take advantage of this merger, and one early development is the delivery of education over the public networks, as opposed to delivering education over a dedicated network as is typically done today. Consider the follow situation:

Gordon Davis taught a computer class last month in Singapore but he never left Minneapolis. Instead, the University of Minnesota information management professor relied on a revolutionary type of communication: an inexpensive fiber optic telephone cable that provided a live two-way video and audio link between Davis at a Minneapolis AT&T office and the students at the National University of Singapore, half a world and 14 time zones away. For about $600, or one-tenth the cost of sending Davis to Singapore, the images and voices of Davis and the class were transmitted across continents and beneath the Pacific Ocean as tiny pulses of laser light carried along hair-thin glass fibers. [17]

The "new news" in this effort is that Davis could give a two-way video lecture at low cost; that is the driver of the emergence of distance education based upon video and other multimedia elements.

It was probably no accident that the course was delivered in Singapore because that country was the first to put in place a nation-wide ISDN infrastructure, and this infrastructure is linked to ISDN networks in 13 countries (Duke University uses an ISDN telephone switch, and some of us have ISDN phones) [18]. This infrastructure has allowed Singapore to get out in front of the Digital Revolution with the introduction of Accet, a PC-based visual communication system.

I think of this as nothing more than connecting my personal computer with one or more other PCs. The fact that video is being transmitted is now new but it will not be so in a couple of years. Digital video is now part of my personal computer in the form of Video for Windows, and it is part of most Macintosh computers in the form of Quicktime. I could attach my camcorder to a card in my PC, and then capture real-time video to my hard disk. The next release of Windows will include the ability to "play" video files without having special software. Desktop video is a novelty today, but we will soon think of it as an integral, or perhaps essential, part of our personal computer. When you digitize the video material, you put it in the same form as the other information that resides in our computers: text, bitmaps, vector drawings, etc. We now display and transmit that information; we can also display and transmit the video information. In fact, I display and transmit video on my computer today via an Intel Proshare viceoconferencing system.

Although video is another data type, it is in a similar format and can thus be treated in a manner that is identical to how we treat our other material. When I browse my disk, I see some new file types that were not there last year, when my disk contained .DOC, .XLS, .EXE, .COM, and .HLP files. I have added .FLI files that contain animations, .AVI files that contain video, and .WAV files that contain music and other audio material. I click on one of these files and it executes: It runs an animation, displays a video segment on my computer screen, or plays audio material through speakers attached to my PC. I can bring them into the appropriate software package and edit them. Similarly, I can use that software to create new files.

I have elements of an animation studio, a video studio, and an audio studio in my office. But I do not think of it this way. To me, I have a personal computer, one that allows me to acquire, create, display, edit, store, and transmit material in many different formats. Some people call it a multimedia personal computer; I just call it my PC.

Someday soon, I will also have a television broadcasting station in my office: my personal computer. We can see this world in action today by examining a new product offerred by Intel and CNN: CNN at Work . This service offers CNN's Headline News over a local network without requiring special video hardware in personal computers and without clogging up the network with video traffic. In addition, the technology accepts any video signal from a camera or a VCR. Thus it is now easy for a professor to prepare a video lecture and distribute to students via an existing LAN. It will not be long until this type of technology is extending to the Internet. When I am hooked into the next version of the Internet, I can send my video course to any student anywhere around the world. It will be about as simple as sending sending an email message to a colleague at another university.

That is the magic of the Digital Revolution ... it is bringing new capabilities to a world in which I already know how to operate ... it is making the other media behave like the media I already know how to manipulate.
Return to Contents

Rise of Cybrarians

We can now envision an individual journalist producing News On Demand ... a news program that is tailored to each person's needs, desires, and wishes. In the same vein, we can envision a professor sitting in a studio version of today's office, pulling material together that meets the needs, desires, and wishes of an individual student. But wait. Haven't we seen such a professor before? Don't they exist today?

Yes we have and yes they do exist today, but without the technology. In fact, they flourish in England where the tutorial system is common. The professor is not called an instructor but a tutor . A tutor will give direction to a student for his studies, which then occur with material taken from a library. After working with the material, the student discusses it with the tutor, who then gives additional direction based upon the student's progress and interests. These tutors do give lectures in their areas of expertise, but students are not required to attend them. These lectures are resources, just as are the books in the library. This learning cycle continues until the student is ready for exams.

In a way, all the technology is doing is adding a new library format, the digital library, that contains all forms of media that can be accessed, integrated, modified, and published from a personal computer anywhere in the world. The video lecture and the video research report will simply join the ranks of educational material that will reside in this library alongside today's books and journals. Once we have a dozen or so great lectures on any topic, why will the thousands of professors in universities around the world continue to develop and deliver their own version of those lectures? That does not seem be efficient or logical, and will probably go away in the wake of budget reductions and/or TQM programs.

What do these professors do, if they do not lecture? One answer is that they adopt the practices of the tutor in the English system of university education ... they compose, direct, guide, and evaluate a student's education program. Perhaps tutor is not the correct word, perhaps producer is more appropriate ... the professor produces an education from the material available on the network. They are thus not far from the term cybrarians, which has been coined to denote "renaissance librarians navigating in cyberspace." [19]
Return to Contents

What is the Role of the University?

The educational material will be there for the taking, for a fee of course. But who owns that material and thus who gets the fee? The precedent in the U.S. is clear: the author owns the material and the author gets the fee, perhaps in the form of today's "residuals" that go to entertainers every time their work is displayed.

Bell Atlantic is working on this payment concept via the development of DocuSource, a software toolkit for building multimedia document and delivering them via the telephone company's facilities. It is being designed to protect the authors in the following ways.

DocuSource has been rightly applauded for offering one of the first usable copyright management schemes within a serious document management system. If a document has been assigned a copyright, the reader is informed of this when the document is accessed. The publisher specifies the charges for each access of that document and each desired action (for example, download, print, etc.). The reader can accept the charges or deny them. Of course, in the latter case, the document is not displayed. [20]

Then why have a university? If anyone can place documents on these servers, and anyone can gain access to the material by simply paying a fee and "plugging in," what does the university add to the equation?

It is the exams that give the university its legitimacy. The harder the exams and the tougher the competition to pass them, the higher the prestige of the university. That is the secret to success in the world of higher education. And it may very well be the secret to higher education success in the world of the microcosm and the telecosm.

The university owns the curve ... that is what it provides. The curve and the curve alone is enough to justify the existence of the university. Its primary purpose is certification... it certifies that the student has accomplished tasks at the level expected by its faculty and at the level of past graduates. Without certification, the university is nothing more than an entertainment network such as NBC. And networks like NBC may find it harder and harder to justify their existence as the telecosm unfolds.

The faculty stature is then the driving element, as perhaps it is today. If that is not the case, then anyone can start a university. The educational material will exist in the telecosm, and anyone can assign grades and thus certify performance.
Return to Contents

The Network is the University

How will faculty get stature in the telecosm? By publishing printed books and articles in printed journals as they do today? Hardly. These media will be too dull to be effective communication tools. By publishing in electronic versions of today's books and journals? Maybe. By being television personalities like the anchors of the network news programs or the talk show hosts? Perhaps. The bandwidth will be so high that anyone can get "on the air." So who wins? If we apply today's model to this question, we will see that the winner will be the one who delivers the most entertainment, or who delivers information with the highest degree of trust.

But this should not be shocking. Today's great case teachers are not dissimilar from today's popular TV talk show hosts. And today's successful lecturers have a lot in common with TV news anchors. But there is a limited supply of this type of talent in people who are also subject matter experts. They will likely become very popular and perhaps very wealthy.

A more common form of professor may be more similar to the new TV news producer, the one who pulls together existing material to provide a successful communication. We might think of this professor as a navigator who directs the students through the space of educational material. This professor might build a "front end" to the available lectures and discussions available over the network. Perhaps in the form of a Table of Contents or a Course Outline that the student uses to access the recommended material. When the student clicks on an entry in the outline, the document executes commands that call up the linked educational material from somewhere on the network.

An intriguing aspect of this approach is that the linked material can exist anywhere in world-wide network, not just the physical network in operation at the student's location. Sun Microsystems coined the phrase The Network is the Computer to highlight the fact that their workstations are designed to access computer resources that exist beyond the physical workstation. I adopted this phrase when I chaired the Duke University Provost's Committee on Networking, and it seems to have been instrumental in getting administrators at Duke to agree to build DukeNet, the campus fiber network, because it provides a vivid image of the advantages of operating in a networked environment. We can generate other images by expanding upon this phrase. Perhaps the network is the university .
Return to Contents

What Business Could We Be In?

Up to this point, I have delved into the role of video in delivering a traditional university education. Let's shift gears and look at new opportunities that will flow from the emergence of the digital information highway. Let's think broadly about the meaning and implications of the phrase the network is the university . When I used that phrase earlier, I was thinking of the network as being the Internet and its successors. In this section, I shift focus to another type of network: television. The goal of these thoughts is to identify revenue and growth opportunities that flow from this digital information highway. This will allow us to move from the "what business are we in?" question to the "what business could we be in?" question.

Let's look down the path that the cable and telephone companies are leading us; down the path towards 500 or more channels coming into most of the homes in the U.S. Billions of dollars are being invested to put in place the technologies that make this possible. The money is committed and it will surely happen. It doesn't take much in-depth analysis to conclude that these funds are at risk because of the lack of programming material to use on these channels. We are all aware of the sorry state of the current situation; cruise around through your 40 or so channels and you will begin to wonder how the TV industry is going to spread the material being displayed on these 40 channels over 500 channels.

A lot of people are aware of this situation, and many are devising new ventures that will produce television material that is targeted to narrow audiences: coin collectors, fly fishermen, etc. People are buying the rights to all existing media, with the goal of filling the channels for a profit. It is easy to see that the people who own the content will be in a position to profit. Let's use an analogy by looking back to the Eisenhower era (that seems to be a popular thing to do these days). When the Interstate Highway System came into existence, those people who owned the land at the major intersections were the ones who profited. Today's media content is yesterday's land.

Media content has two forms: existing and potential. Movies, TV shows, books, tapes, and articles constitute the existing media. Skills, talent, and knowledge constitute the potential media. Those who possess skills, talent, and/or knowledge own the "land" that was important in capitalizing on the Interstate Highway System; they own the content that is important in capitalizing on the information highway. Since universities are repositories of skills, talents, and knowledge, universities are in a position to capitalize on the information highway. All we have to do is accept a new role, one that has been called a Multimedia Publisher to denote the practice of producing and publishing multimedia material, i.e., material that uses one or more of the multimedia technologies. Since I am focusing on video in this document, I will restrict the focus to that media.

To make this transition, we have to do two things. First, we have to redefine what we consider appropriate and good. We now consider the publication of our knowledge in referred journal articles to be good, as we do its "publication" in the classroom. That is, we define the printed journal media as good, and we define the live display of knowledge in a classroom as good. If we can define the display of our knowledge over television to be good, we will be in a position to profit from the digital information highway.

The second thing we have to do is become proactive. Today, we wait for the writers and editors to call. Sure, we send out press releases that describe some of our work, and our PR agency makes the rounds of the media. But we leave all the work to the journalists. We are passive; we wait for them to come to us.

As I described earlier in this paper, technology has evolved to the point that we do not have to wait. We can become Video Professors and produce our own video material. The "we" in this sentence refers to either individuals or to the collective "we." We, the faculty of any school or university, can become publishers of video material for distribution within our facility, over distant learning networks, or on the 500 cable channels. The technology is in place for producing the material, all we have to do is acquire and use the desktop technologies; technologies already exist for distributing the video material. There are a lot of TV professionals and consultants around who know how to use the technology and are hungry for the opportunity. All we have to do is to do it.
Return to Contents

Is There a Market Today?

It is one thing to argue that there will be the need for a lot of new video material to fill up the 500 channels. But those channels do not exist today. Will existing TV stations accept our material? Is there a market today for video material produced by outside organizations such as a business school? Isn't the news that we see every evening produced by the stations and networks? Would they accept news that flows into their organizations from the outside?

The answer to the last question seems to be "yes" ... yes they will accept outside "news material" and yes they accept it today. The aftermath of the Gulf War opened a lot of eyes to this practice when it was revealed that some of the video reports we had seen on the network news were produced by a PR firm that had been hired by the Kuwait government. Some of these reports were not "news" at all; they were staged productions made to look like real events. There are other instances that are not as bad as this one. It is not uncommon today for drug firms, for instance, to produce video and audio material that they send to broadcasters. These materials might contain interviews from people who are suffering from an ailment, descriptions of the new drug, and/or testimonials from people who have used the drug. This video material replaces the old text press release.

These examples illustrate the development of video material that is freely given to the broadcasters. There are other examples of freelance video journalists who produce news items that are make available to broadcasters via the satellites. The availability of such material has led some television stations to stop carrying the evening news because they find they can put together 30 minutes of material that is just as compelling and interesting for a much lower price by simply "picking" news items off the satellites.

And then we have informercials, the thirty minute television show that is a cross between a commercial and an information piece. We see them all the time in the upper bands of cable television systems. The beautiful bodies twisting at all angles on the exercise machines. The attractive women sitting around a simulated living room talking about how they changed their lives by using Joy's New Cosmetics or Dr. John's 1 Minute Diet. Or Ross Perot taking us through chart after chart, with each one accompanied by an appropriate sound bite.

Ross Perot is our gateway to this new opportunity. If Ross Perot can do it, then you can do it. If Ross Perot can get people to watch his display of information using crude graphs, so can you. Ross has set a new standard, a lower standard, for television. He has lowered the bar from Tom Brokaw and the million dollar evening news show to a hurdle that we jump over on a regular basis. We do it live, in front of a very critical audience. Doing it on video should be easy.

Each professor is an expert at something, and our job is to profess it; that is how we got our title. Television is simply a channel that we have not utilized for our professing. Ross Perot-style presentations and case-discussion-as-talk-show are just two examples how our material could be exported to this media. Compelling lectures are another, as would be a one minute discussion of an important topic, such as Whaley's volatility index. These opportunities exist today because of the new economics of television. They are likely to explode in a few years.
Return to Contents

The 500 Channels Challenge

When we get the 500 channels, the game changes in two ways. First, because there will be a big imbalance between supply and demand. I seem to recall that when there is an upward shift in demand without an offsetting shift in supply, those people who own and are willing to sell the goods stand to profit.

But not only are we getting an explosion in the number of channels, their very nature is changing from passive to interactive. Today we can only receive signals; tomorrow we can transmit them. Today, I can watch a video case discussion; tomorrow I can participate in one from my office, living room, hotel room, boat, or airplane. Today, I can watch a finance professor's one minute video on volatility if a broadcaster elects to put it on the evening news; tomorrow I can pick it off a menu of items available to me during the news period. Today I have to sit through all or none of an operations management professor's video lecture on TQM; tomorrow I can fast forward to find the parts of most interest to me. Today, I watch the video material at the time that a broadcaster puts it on the cable; tomorrow I can pick my own time. Today, when one of these videos gets me interested in more information, I have to go to the bookstore to buy a book; tomorrow I can buy it by downloading it to my disk by pushing a button on my TV handset. Today, television is boring and similar to a canned lecture; tomorrow it will be similar to a challenging interactive class; and a little bit later, it will be better because it will include people who have expertise in the topic but who are not a part of the isolated classroom discussion ... they can join in the case discussion from their office, living room, hotel room, boat, or airplane.

This last point might be the secret to the success of the Video Professor program: Any one is eligible to join in. Today's airwaves are filled with people talking about all kinds of topics. Scan your radio on a weekday afternoon, and you will find a lot of talk shows. The people involved in these shows are not working; they are listening to and talking on the radio. There are far more people who are working, and they love to talk about their work. Go to a picnic and listen to conversations. What are people talking about? Work. Most people like to work, and they love to talk about it. Even after they retire, they still like to talk about it. When they go to Executive Education classes, they like to talk about it. In fact, they insist that they talk about it; there can be no long lectures for these people.
Return to Contents

Closing Thoughts

Television will clearly change, and it seems to be moving in our direction because its new capabilities will result in programs that are similar to the activities we engage in today in our classrooms, particularly our Executive Education classrooms. In the coming digital television world, those who can entertain, and those who can inform, stand to gain. Those who can entertain and inform stand to the gain the most.

We are sitting on top of a unexplored and undeveloped mine. The same technologies that are moving television in our direction are also bringing television production to our office computers. Not only are we setting on an undeveloped mine, we are also getting new tools for developing it. It might prove to be a bonanza; it might be a dry hole. But we will never know unless we develop it.

As I close this piece of writing, I am beginning to look forward to my colleagues reactions. I expect the worst, and it will be interesting to see what happens. The most common reaction I anticipate is that "We are in the education business, not the entertainment business; we don't do that kind of stuff around here." That is definitely a true statement. But does the statement "and, we will not do that kind of stuff around here" have to be the conclusion? It might. I hope it does not because I believe the following statement is true.

Education itself is undergoing a revolution in concept. Whether it is the notion of corporations running schools or schools in homes or schools beaming courseware over the airwaves, the notion of what a school is is changing right before our eyes. I submit to you that those entrepreneurs who can help reinvent the very idea of education and match today's merging multimedia technologies to that idea will find welcome (indeed, eager) audience over the coming years. [21]

This vision is supported in other camps, as illustrated by the following statement ... one that is even stronger.

Education might cease to exist as we know it and merge with entertainment and information in an industry that will form the backbone of a culture that is yet to be born. [22]

If we were to elect to travel down the digital media road, we have to be aware that we cannot predict where we are going. There was a recent WSJ article about the digital media business, and it pointed to the difficulty in predicting what would be a big hit in the new media and where the paths will lead. As Andrew Grove, Intel's CEO, was quoted as saying: "I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, really. ... We'll know the truth when we get there." [23] That's exactly my feeling.


[1] George Gilder, " The Issaquah Miracle," Forbes ASAP, June 7, 1993, p. 122.
[2] George Gilder, Microcosm: The Quantum Revolution in Economics and Technology, Simon and Schuster, 1989
[3] This analogy was attribted to J. David Naumann, Associate Professor, Carson School of Management, University of Minnesota, by Steve Gross, "Wired for the Next Century," Minneapolis Star Tribune, January 18, 1993, p. 1D
[4] Michael Benedikt, Cyberspace: First Steps, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992, p. 1.
[5] Gilder, ibid, p. 123.
[6] "Have Camera, Will Travel," Wired, July/August, 1993 p. 75
[7] Ibid, p. 76
[8] Jim St. Lawrence, "Real Desktop TV," Videography , May 39, pp. 38-40
[9] Sara Hedberg, "See, Hear, Learn," Byte, July 1993, pp. 110-128.
[10] Michael J. Butmann, "Cluster PCs for Power," Byte , July 1993, pp. 57-64.
[11] Hedberg, op. cit, p. 123.
[12] Science and Engineering Television Network, Inc. is a non-profit consortium of professional societies including the Association for Computing Machinery, the American Physical Society, the American Mathematical Society and others. Its purpose is to develop, produce, and distribute scientific publications in the medium of television.
[13] Welz, op. cit.
[14] Doug Watson, "NCSA Video Macintosh-- Producing Scientific Visualizations on a Desktop," NCSA data link, July-August, 1991, pp. 22-26.
[15] John Spofford, "NewTek's Toaster Slices Costs," TV Technology, March 1991, pp. 48-49.
[16] John W. Donovan, "Intel/IBM's Audio-Video Kernel," Byte, December 1991, pp. 177-186.
[17] Steve Gross, "Wored for the Next Century,"Minneapolis Star Tribune, January 18, 1993, p. 1D
[18] Schultz Lee, "Working Together, Apart," Business Times, April 5, 1993, p. 5.
[19] Michel Bauwens, an information officer at British Petroleum, quoted by Tom Peters, "Let the Talk Show Begin," Forbes ASAP, June 7, 1993, p. 127.
[20] Russell Lipton, Multimedia Toolkit: Build Your Own Solutions with DocuSource, Random House, 1992, p. 96
[21] Russell Lipton, Multimedia Toolkit, New York: Random House Electronic Publishing, 1992, p. 62
[22] Lamont Wood and Robert Bixby, "A Look Inside the Soul of Your Computer: MIPS, BIPS, and Superchips," Compute !, October 1992, p. 58
[23] Stephen Yoder and G. Pascal Zachary, "Digital Media Business Takes Form as a Battle of Complex Alliances," Wall Street Journal, July 14, 1993, p. A1.
Return to Contents