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Digital Content for Education

Web exclusive

Many filmmakers got their start in formal classes, at universities and colleges that teach the art and science of visual communications. Those schools, in turn, often depend on industry donations for the most advanced equipment and technology. Companies that want those up-and-coming future customers to know and appreciate their products are sure to note that having their gear in those hands early makes for an easier sale years later.

VideoBlocks, a subscription-based provider of royalty-free stock video, announced on July 28 that they have launched a Digital Media Action Grant to further advance the goal of delivering creative freedom to college campuses across the United States, while encouraging the ethical use of digital content. VideoBlocks will be awarding two grants of $10,000 each to higher education researchers to study how digital creative content can help students build 21st-century skills.

Faculty can earn one of the $10,000 grants by showing a significant and original contribution to the field of digital creative media using VideoBlocks’ range of digital content. The grant will allow faculty to build upon previous research into the pedagogical impact of digital media, consider the effects and usage cases of digital media across entire educational institutions, and give a better understanding of how digital media fits within a framework of 21st century communication skills.

The Digital Media Action Grant is open to all institutions participating in VideoBlocks’ Early Enrollment Program (VEEP). So, what is VEEP?  A select number of higher education institutions will be enrolled in the program and have access to more than $10 million worth of copyright-safe video and audio content at no cost through December 2015. Why the end-of-year cut-off? According to T. J. Leonard, chief marketing officer at VideoBlocks, “We think about it as the semester enrollment period, when you sign up for your classes. So each semester we’ll have a limited number of spots in this early enrollment program. What you’ll get through the program is a free semester’s worth of access to our entire library, as well as the option to submit a proposal to the new grant program. The early enrollment period is open now but once that closes, if somebody wants to sign up for our higher education program in general, that’s OK, too. The grant program will also be open to those people. It’s a little double bonus right now that while we’re announcing the grant, and there’s still availability and room in this semester’s early enrollment program.”

In addition, colleges and universities that enroll in VEEP will receive a 20-percent academic credit for any original footage sold via the recently launched VideoBlocks Marketplace. The credit can be applied toward future licensing costs.

The combination of VideoBlocks’ unlimited library of copyright-free creative content that students can incorporate into their digital projects, and the Marketplace, where students and faculty can earn 100-percent commission on all sales of original footage, plus the 20-percent academic credit, provides a unique opportunity to develop contemporary skills in an academic environment, and then commercialize their productions in a functioning marketplace.

“Our customers range from the weekend filmmaker all the way up to the big studio,” notes Leonard. “We’re making premium creative content accessible and affordable to everyone. So obviously it’s a nice, natural fit with higher education. We noticed there were many people signing up for our normal program who had a .edu e-mail. Higher education is a large market, but too many companies just repackage their existing products, mark it up and try to sell it to higher education. We didn’t want to do that.”

He continues, “We talked with many educational customers who had purchased individual licenses. What we were told was the importance of these 21st-century skills and the critical role visual and digital media in general played in that market. We heard a lot about copyright compliance and how digital piracy is running wild on campus and administrators aren’t exactly sure what to do about it. Then there’s this whole notion of building the digital infrastructure. When I was growing up, the library had books, and we had Lexis/Nexis subscriptions on microfiche. That was the knowledge infrastructure the institution provided for the student. People are realizing that the 21st-century infrastructure needs to include not just a physical library, but a library of digital goods, too.”

Taking a proactive stance, VideoBlocks wanted to find a way to help develop a solution. Leonard recalls, “The idea really resonated with us and we said, ‘All right, cool. How can we help solve these problems? How can we partner with the schools, as opposed to just selling them a library?’ That’s where the idea of this grant came from. We’re excited because it helps to provide funding for an area of research that is gaining in importance. I read that 96 percent of faculty, staff, and administrators cite digital literacy as an increasing need on campus.”

It’s not something that’s been studied enough by the academic community. “This is a great way,” Leonard says. “Not only can we provide the service by giving the campus access to this library of content, but by encouraging folks to do research about the impact of digital media on learning and student engagement, we could share the results with the entire academic community.”

Besides the grant and student and faculty access to the VideoBlocks library of content, the company is encouraging them to place their footage into the library. Leonard explains, “Any student or faculty member who shoots something can put it into our video marketplace. Contributors can upload their own footage, sell it to our members, and keep 100 percent of the commissions on those sales. But we’re taking that idea to a higher level. It’s another form of partnership with higher ed where we’re giving them a 20-percent credit on their sales for their next year’s licensing cost for VideoBlocks. For example, I went to the University of Virginia; if I’m in Charlottesville and I’m shooting some scenes around town, and I put it on the marketplace, and I sell $10,000 worth of footage, UVA would earn a $2,000 credit for the next year’s licensing fee for the service. It’s not just about classroom learning, it’s about commercializing these skills. We think we’ve got a library that can help in an academic setting, and there’s the marketplace that enables students to practice commercializing their creations, which is critical once you graduate from college.”

For more information on any of these programs, visit VideoBlocks.com.

July 28, 2015