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Video On Demand and Information Technology

Woman watching Video on Demand

 A New Perspective

A little known fact about me is that I’m a big Star Trek fan. I’m one of those annoying people who can answer just about any Star Trek question from any of the series or movies. All except for one, and that was the Star Trek: Enterprise series that ran for four seasons from 2001-2005. It was a time in my life when I was putting a lot of energy into my career and I never found the time to watch.

When I discovered this TV series was available through my video on demand (VOD) service, I learned a new term: “marathon watching.” Marathon watching a TV series is when you watch every episode of every season in the exact order in which it originally aired, one right after the other, in a short period of time. And that is what I did with Star Trek: Enterprise. I watched four seasons of episodes (98 shows) in about 20 days.

After this whirlwind 20 days, I was able to catch my breath and reflect. Something much larger happened to me than just catching up on all the episodes of Star Trek. I realized that this fairly recent technology (VOD) had the potential to transform the way I learned things and thought about the information/content.

Because I watched Star Trek: Enterprise through the VOD format, I realized that I had a greater knowledge of this Star Trek series than any other. Watching every episode, one after the other, in such a compressed period of time, enabled me to retain more information. I found that because I was able to “watch on demand,” I was able to concentrate on each episode in a way that I had never done before. If I misunderstood something, I could return to a certain point and replay it. Sometimes an episode in season three was a spinoff of an episode in season two. I could go back to season two and watch a portion, or all, of that episode and then watch the spinoff episode. Without even realizing it, I understood what the directors were trying to do with storylines, what actors were trying to do with character development, what writers were doing with plot development. I suddenly “got” the context of the show. It made me want to watch all my favorite series all over again from start to finish because I was now getting so much more out of what I was seeing.

The most rewarding moment for me as a teacher is when the academic “light bulb” goes off for a student: when a student realizes that going back to college isn’t just a mechanical process of reading books, writing papers, taking tests, and getting a degree.

What does all this have to do with information technology (IT) and education? I’ve been an adjunct professor for 15 years. The most rewarding moment for me as a teacher is when the academic “light bulb” goes off for a student: when a student realizes that going back to college isn’t just a mechanical process of reading books, writing papers, taking tests, and getting a degree. Something you’ve said or presented or introduced has struck a chord for the student in a very personal way. The student wants to learn more about a subject not because the work is required, but because he or she has a new thirst for knowledge.

I have been in Information Technology my entire career. VOD has given me a new outlook on those two words. In this case, the “information” is the storyline in each episode. The “technology” is the streaming video over the internet. It became clearer to me than ever before that the delivery method of information can actually enhance the learning experience and be a powerful academic tool.

Finally, and most importantly, it made me realize how under appreciated our “perception” of VOD is as regular users. For most of us, being able to pause a video or go back to re-watch something is convenient when we want to make a sandwich or answer a cell phone call during one of our shows or movies. For me, my perception was awakened regarding what Liberal Studies is all about. Marathon watching Star Trek: Enterprise opened my eyes, and after 30 years as a technology professional I was able to see something in an entirely new way.

Robert J. Dougherty
Robert J. Dougherty is the Director of Information Technology for the College of Liberal Studies. He has 30 years of experience in the higher education IT field and is actively involved in University IT initiatives including learning management systems and database applications.

1 Comment

  1. Bob, what a fabulous post!!! I am also a Star Trek addict (I love that even the animated series, which I watched in its first run as a child) is available at Netflix, and I also watched Enterprise for the first time a couple of summers ago, thanks to Netflix.
    And the analogy here with how online learning can work is a great one. There are so many reasons why I love teaching online, and that sense of freedom AND depth in exploring the world online is one of them.
    I’m taking the idea of “on-demand” and student choice to totally revamp the reading selections for my Myth-Folklore class. I first created the website for that class back in 2002 (!!!), and of course the world of mythology and folklore texts online has exploded since then, so I am moving from just 30 reading options during the course to 100 options. It’s so much fun. I’m documenting the process here if you are curious:
    Thanks again for this post! Live long and prosper! 🙂

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