There’s a new catch phrase in town, and it has massive implications for blended and online learning, especially as OER use begins to ramp up in schools and institutions across the country. It’s called OTT and yeah, you’re going to need to know it.
What Is It?
OTT stands for Over-The-Top technologies, or any technology that aids in the delivery of audio, video and media content via the internet, without requiring users to subscribe to ,or pay for, a traditional cable or satellite pay-TV service like a Comcast or Time Warner Cable. In other words, every device that is internet connection-capable can now be a television equivalent, (i.e. a human-centered and screen-deep learning environment). It’s important to note, however, that the internet service provider is not responsible for the content that is being distributed. The internet simply provides manageable access and distribution. Internet-capable devices often harness OTT through apps by third-party interfaces to deliver content. Just a few examples of OTT interfaces are Facebook, YouTube, Hulu, Skype, WhatsApp, and Amazon Video.
“Over-The-Top technologies are transforming the nature of how we receive content,” writes Dr. Bernard Luskin, CEO of www.LuskinInternational.com and former CEO of eight colleges and universities. “OTT channels are the emerging elephant in the field of opportunity in online learning.”
Why Should Education Take Notice?
Because of recent technology and innovation-based initiatives in both higher education and K-12, OTT technologies will be critical in the delivery of online content for students.
There are 3 ways OTT technologies will be critical in education in the near future:
1. As budgets continue to shrink, OTT technologies lower the cost of learning
According to Luskin, “the presence of OTT creates access for direct sharing of information at low cost. Many times it is in the form of a subscription-based purchase model.” As curriculum and apps associated with that curriculum develop, they may be purchased or distributed with or without long-term contracts. Luskin notes that the best platforms will have minimum barriers to buy-in and ease of use (transparency) will be a central concern, especially in K-12.
Lynda.com, a product of LinkedIn for learning professional skills, is an example of an educational OTT tech platform—both for educator PD and student online learning. It has a monthly subscription fee and can be accessed via a mobile app or website address. “The courses offered on the Lynda.com site are organized into modules with streaming video instructions to lead users/students through the lesson,” notes Luskin. “OTT presents the capability to distribute content to larger audiences, on various devices at low costs making it promising technology for delivering future learning systems.”
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2. Online and blended Learning are big investors in OTT
Internet-based apps that can stream online learning content from myriad sources for a low cost is a perfect fit for blended and online learning initiatives taking hold in schools and institutions across the country.
Though K-12 may have to worry about filtering content, and both K-12 and higher education will have to monitor content quality, formal OTT online platform technologies include learning management systems (LMS), which often aid in filtering and monitoring; some popular examples include Blackboard, Desire 2 Learn and Canvas.
Less formal, but no less informative, OTT online learning examples include TEDEd, EdCast, and edX.
3. OTT can support OER
Thanks to the White House K-12 initiative, GoOpen, more districts are being urged to get involved with Open Education Resources, and whole states have joined the movement. In higher education, faculty predict that OER use could triple in the next five years. The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) reports that 16 of their colleges are participating in the development of 70 OER courses, and the colleges’ use of OER in courses has saved students’ money and generated new revenue for the colleges by drawing more students to OER courses. Students were also more successful in OER pilot courses than in the equivalent textbook-based courses. California legislation has now been passed incentivizing the use of high-quality OER. The College Textbook Affordability Act of 2015 (AB-798) adds legislative force to the OER movement.
“Publishers, technology companies, educational institutions and software developers are working to figure out how to leverage these new access pathways,” writes Luskin. “Intelecom Learning, Inc., is an example of a not-for-profit educational resources company serving community colleges by providing OER resources integrated into Over-the-Top Technologies for use in online learning courses and programs.”