Seeing is believing

To enhance the learning experience, Harvard Business School uses streaming video as part of its living IT laboratory.
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Four years after Kim Clark took over as dean at Harvard Business School in the fall of 1995, there's been significant reorganization in the IT department around the school's mission: "Training Tomorrow's Leaders." An $11 million IT program, an intranet, and a host of innovative applications--chief among them the extensive use of streaming video--have put HBS at the head of the class.

HBS Dean Kim Clark
"To retain our position, we need to be leaders in using IT in education," says Kim Clark, dean of Harvard Business School

Curiously, prior to Clark's arrival, while HBS consistently ranked in the top echelon of advanced-degree-granting institutions, its investment in advanced technology was in a holding pattern. The school, Clark says, was in danger of doing a disservice to its students. They were paying a cool $25,000 a year for tuition, but they weren't seeing or using the best that technology had to offer. "To retain our position, we need to be leaders in using IT in education," says Clark. "We needed to be a living laboratory showing students how to use it, manage it, and deploy it."

HBS students, who have long had access to the most accomplished teachers and the most distinguished visitors, now have access to thousands of hours of video, streamed on demand to their workstations in one of the campus computer labs or to their PCs at home. And faculty members have a new tool to meet their goal, Clark says--"to bring the world into the classroom."

"Video is absolutely critical" to that goal, he insists.

It may be at the heart of HBS, but streaming video is still fairly rare in large organizations, say industry experts. According to Gary Schultz, president of Multimedia Research Group Inc. (MRG), a market research firm in Sunnyvale, Calif., widespread adoption of streaming video has been held back by concerns about insufficient bandwidth in organizations, poor management interfaces in video products, and the often exorbitant cost of setting up video applications. Schultz says video server software and hardware can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $60,000. The real cost, however, usually lies in upgrading network bandwidth to make such applications look good and function properly.

"All these things can be overcome. However, it takes the vision of a CIO or CEO to make this kind of application happen," says Schultz. "Somebody high up there has to regard it as part of a new enterprise strategy." He predicts that applications like Harvard's, built on corporate intranets as opposed to ones fighting for bandwidth over the public Internet, "will be a major driver of market growth." A recent study by MRG predicted the worldwide market for multimedia server applications next year will have tripled in size from its 1997 level, growing from $354 million in revenue in 1997 to $1.2 billion in 2000.

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