Streaming Technology Improves Student Achievement


Study shows the use of standards-based video content, powered by a new Internet technology application, increases student achievement.

Millions of dollars have been invested in connecting schools across the nation to the Internet with the aid of E-Rate funding \f1\emdash putting computers in classrooms and improving building infrastructures. Although there is much to be accomplished before achieving the goals set forth by the E-Rate legislation, it is now time to integrate technology throughout the teaching and learning environments. An example of putting the power of technology to work is on-demand video streaming and the promise it has to offer as an instructional tool for a variety of learning experiences. Cometrika, a research firm led by Frank Boster, Ph.D., recently completed a first-of-its-kind study that incorporates standards-based video clips into lessons developed by classroom teachers.

According to "A Report on the Effect of the unitedstreaming Application on Educational Performance" (Boster et al. 2002), students who received instruction incorporating the video-on-demand unitedstreaming application showed dramatic improvement in achievement. The unitedstreaming application is a browser-based Internet delivery system with a comprehensive content management system developed by United Learning. It consists of an extensive collection of more than 1,500 videos and 15,000 chaptered clips of standards-based, core-curriculum edu-cational video, teacher's guides, student activities, quizzes and teacher resources. The control-group study of more than 1,400 elementary and middle school students in three Virginia school districts showed an average increase of 12.6% by students exposed to unitedstreaming compared to students who received traditional instruction alone.

Overcoming Barriers

While there are currently many barriers to overcome regarding the adoption of streaming video technology, there are also ways around these barriers. Consider the following:

Bandwidth limitations. Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be transmitted over the Internet in a fixed amount of time. For digital devices, bandwidth is usually expressed in bits per second or bytes per second. Some common examples of Internet connection speeds include dial-up modems at 56 Kilobits per second (Kbps); DSL, which can range from 128 Kbps to 8 Megabits per second (Mbps); and T-1 lines at 1.544 Mbps. The broader the bandwidth, the better quality the streaming. Many schools, libraries and other places of learning currently don't have sufficient bandwidth to support dependable video streaming; though the technology is coming.

Where bandwidth is an issue, downloading the video file is a viable option. "The quality of Internet access is critical. Broadband access will be the new standard. Slow, unreliable connections that cannot support interactivity or right multimedia content will no longer be sufficient" (Riley, Holleman and Roberts 1999). In addition, the Web-Based Education Commission recommends making "powerful new Internet resources, especially broadband access, widely and equitably available and affordable for all learners. We call on federal and state governments to make the extension of broadband access for all learners a central goal of telecommunications policy" (Kerrey and Isakson 2000).

Content challenges and issues. The challenge of content providers, as well as the users of content, is to select content that has been cleared for digital rights and meets the highest standards of educational excellence. The "Web-Based Education Commission Report" calls on us to "continue and expand efforts to digitize rich educational materials consistent with copyright laws" (Kerrey and Isakson 2000). Selecting content that meets the needs of students, is standards-based and is available in clips of various lengths will contribute to a rich digital resource tool.

The report also suggests that we select "content that is easy to find and access, easy for students and teachers to use and accessible to people with disabilities" (Kerrey and Isakson 2000). For example, the unitedstreaming application consists of an expanding digital video library from a variety of publishers. All such content is chaptered and correlated to state and national standards. In addition, local school content, with appropriate copyright clearance, can be uploaded to the United Learning servers and used by teachers and students within the school district.

Teacher training. "Professional development \emdash for preK-12 teachers, higher education faculty, and school administrators \emdash is the critical ingredient for effective use of technology in the classroom" (Kerrey and Isakson 2000). Teacher training that addresses the technical and practical application aspects of using video streaming in a variety of settings is suggested. Ways for teachers to incorporate content clips into their existing lesson plans, methodology for creating new lesson plans, and ways for students to use video streaming in electronic reports and for research are but a few topics to be addressed in teacher training. Consider a "train-the-trainer" model with each trainer responsible for several sites.

Security issues. "In 2000, almost all public schools with Internet access (98%) had 'acceptable use policies' and used various technologies or procedures to control access to inappropriate material" (Cattagni and Farris 2001). Security should not be a problem if administrative tools are included in the video streaming strategy. Adminis-trative tools will enable the user to block content that is not age appropriate, create user accounts, assign security profiles, set the number of users, enable permission to download, and assign access to reporting functions. In addition, a protected site with user name and password requirements is always recommended.

Funding. E-based learning is expensive, so schools must sustain funding through traditional and new sources. "To realize the goal of universal access to educational technology for students and teachers, we should ensure sustained and predictable funding for technology; ensure that technology plans reflect the educational needs of students and are regularly updated; improve the affordability, reliability and ease-of-use of educational technology; ensure that school buildings and facilities are modern; strengthen our commitment to eliminating the digital divide; and ensure that all students have equal opportunities to access and use technology" (Riley, Holleman and Roberts 1999).

Education Technology Goals

The No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to use instructional approaches that work. This is both a challenge and an opportunity for the educational publishing industry. The challenge will be to develop instructional materials, then subject them to scientifically based research. The opportunity comes with an unprecedented level of technology that is available to publishers and the learning environments within which learning can take place. Cometrika, using the unitedstreaming online education delivery system has provided the first such study that complies with the requirements of the NCLB Act. "The United Learning standards-based application, unitedstreaming, is a great example of how technology can be used to further student achievement," said U.S. Rep. Johnny Isakson, vice chair of the Web-Based Education Commission.

According to the U.S. Education Department, the use of video streaming technology can help accomplish the following National Educational Tech-nology goals:

  1. All students and teachers will have access to information technology in their classrooms, schools, communities and homes.
  2. All teachers will use technology effectively to help students achieve high academic standards.
  3. All students will have technology and information literacy skills.
  4. Research and evaluation will improve the next generation of technology applications for teaching and learning.
  5. Digital content and networked applications will transform teaching and learning.

"The use of educational technology in Illinois public schools has had 'a small but significant impact' on student performance, according to a statistical analysis. The Illinois State Board of Education commissioned Westat, a research firm based in Rockville, Md., to find out how the state's classrooms use technology and what affect computers and the Internet have had on student performance" (Branigan 2000). This study reports that "students' scores on certain subjects tended to be higher." Longitudinal science-based research and evaluation, which includes video streaming for content delivery, needs to be conducted over the next several years.

From Promise to Practice

The on-demand feature of video streaming embraces anytime, anywhere, any pace and anyplace learning. Since January 2001, thousands of schools and classrooms have made video streaming available to students. Teachers are learning to prepare lesson plans and student activities in print, graphic, sound and video formats to give teachers and students multiple paths for understanding and retaining content.

Largely as the result of E-Rate programs, which provide discounts on telecommunication services to schools and libraries, 98% of schools and 77% of classrooms are connected to the Internet. Upgrading Internet connections to robust broadband availability is becoming a reality. By 2000, "schools tended to use faster dedicated-line Internet connections" (Cattagni and Farris 2001).

Currently, downloading video streamed clips can overcome existing bandwidth limitations in the classroom. Downloaded clips can be built into Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, electronic reports, as well as other traditional and nontraditional forms of education. The on-demand feature of video streaming fits well with Internet use at school by students before and after regular school hours. "Of the 54% of schools making the Internet available to students outside of regular school hours, 98% made it available after school, 84% before school and 16% on weekends" (Cattagni and Farris 2001).

Several teacher surveys show concern over the time it takes to prepare Internet-based lessons. In addition to shared lessons, more student projects and cooperative learning activities that are student-centered can be developed. "Students assume greater control over the materials, making the learning process proactive. As a consequence, faculty gain more time in and out of class and can concentrate on further improvements to the learning process" (Miltenoff 2000).

Various forms of electronic lesson planners that involve Internet content are now available to assist teachers. In addition, many organizations, includ-ing the Institute for Teaching Through Technology and Innovative Practices in South Boston, Va., are providing training and building model lessons and activities for teachers to use. During the 2002-03 school year, video streaming will move from promise to practice at the classroom level in thousands of classrooms around the United States.

According to Scott Huggins, director of technology for Geneva Area City Schools in Ohio, teachers in his district download video to a server with a folder set aside that has 18 Gbps available for video. Once downloaded, the video is displayed on an LCD projector or 27" TV and used by the teacher in their classroom. Huggings says the feedback has been very positive: "Two of the teachers have said that it is the most valuable technology I have brought into the district."

By Ron Reed
([email protected]) President, United Learning

Contact Information
United Learning
Evanston, IL
(800) 323-9084

Background on Video Streaming Technology

Video streaming is the showing of video over the Internet. Streaming media technology enables the real-time or on-demand distribution of audio, video and multimedia via the Internet. Streaming media is the simultaneous transfer of digital media, such as video, voice and data, so that it is received as a continuous real-time stream. Streamed data is transmitted by a server application, and received and displayed in real time by client applications on the viewer's workstation. These applications can start displaying video or playing back audio as soon as enough data has been received and stored in the receiving station's buffer. A streamed file is simultaneously downloaded and viewed, but leaves behind no physical file on the viewer's machine.

Video streaming provides instant access to video content that can be used in lesson plans, student projects and research. On-demand or downloaded video content from a streaming site offers a technology tool that holds the promise of improving education. "The latest research and evaluation studies demonstrate that school improvement programs that employ technology for teaching and learning yield positive results for students and teachers. Given that many schools and classrooms have only recently gained access to technology for teaching and learning, the positive outcomes of these studies suggest a future for education that could be quite bright if the nation maintains its commitment to harnessing technology for education" (Riley, Holleman and Roberts 1999).

The technology is currently in place, and widespread availability of video streaming is increasing. With sufficient access and support, teachers will be able to better help their students comprehend hard-to-understand concepts and become engaged in learning. Using video streaming technology, teachers will also be able to provide their students with access to information and resources. as well as better meet their students' individual needs.


Boster, F., G. Meyer, A. Roberto and C. Inge. 2002. "A Report on the Effect of the unitedstreaming Application on Educational Performance." United Learning. August.

Branigan, C. 2000. "New Study: Technology Boosts Student Performance." eSchool News Online. October.

Cattagni, A. and E. Farris. 2001. "Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms: 1994-2000." U.S. Education Department, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, D.C: U.S. Government Printing Office. Online:

Kerrey, B. and J. Isakson. 2000. "The Power of the Internet for Learning: Moving From Promise to Practice." Web-Based Education Commission. Washington, D.C. December. Online:

Miltenoff, P. 2000. "Integrating Streaming Media Into Web-Based Learning: A Modular Approach." Syllabus. August.

Riley, R., F. Holleman and L. Roberts. 1999. "E-Learning: Putting a World-Class Education at the Fingertips of All Children." U.S. Education Department's Office of Educational Technology. Washington, D.C. December.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2003 issue of THE Journal.