Hybrid Events in Higher Education

London (UK), June 2023 - (by Sergei Tugarinov, Kaltura, UK) What does the status of video content, virtual participation/learning, and hybrid experiences look like in 2023? Where could higher education institutions use improvement?

As a horizontal market leader in the education and events spaces, Kaltura recently partnered with a research and survey firm to explore the role and impact of hybrid experiences on institutions. The goal was to identify groups within higher ed that use hybrid events and experiences, what roles hybrid events play, and whether the institutions feel well served by solutions and platforms in the marketplace.

The survey was administered to 450 respondents from the US and abroad and included equal numbers of respondents from departments of Continuing Education, Academic Technology, Marketing, Alumni Relations, Admissions, and Professional Development.

Among the findings was that hybrid audiences are larger and can be more valuable than in person only. Other results included the following:

  • Forty-eight percent of in-person experiences include an online component, and on average, hybrid audiences are 13% larger.
  • Online events typically create a lower barrier to entry and entail a much lower supporting cost than in-person gatherings.
  • More than half of the value of respondents' hybrid events was reported to come from the digital audience!

Among the problems identified was that organizations may not offer enough hybrid support, including the fact that

  • 79% of organizations surveyed have not formally established KPIs to measure engagement and the impact of hybrid events
  • 68% of respondents were bearing the associated costs of hybrid/in-person events without realizing the financial benefits

Among the suggestions to emerge was that organizations shouldn’t invest in content without managing returns. Although virtually all respondents were using video tools, only 38% have a video CMS (content management system) in place.
Furthermore, linked to the above section, it seems likely that higher-education institutions are bringing forward video content and hybrid events, but without reaping the full benefit. Specifically, they're not adequately managing the large amount of content they produce; can lose branding and control over content distributed through public channels; and are not able to receive the full added value from hybrid experiences and video content.

Another major finding was that multiple vendors increase complexity and complexity increases cost:

  • Higher ed institutions use 4.7 video capture and creation tools on average and work across 2.6 teams managing virtual and hybrid events.
  • Twenty percent of those surveyed use more than six tools.
  • Forty eight percent of institutions cited cost reduction as an improvement they want to make. Unfortunately, using more tools (especially across several departments in large institutions) leads to higher complexity in hybrid event production and inevitably to higher costs.

This leads to the conclusion that organizations need fewer and better tools. This was deduced from the fact that

  • 95% of respondents were concerned they couldn't adequately support hybrid audiences
  • 42% felt it was difficult passing data to an LMS
  • 30% were concerned about assessing engagement
  • 23% worried they couldn't enable equal participation.

It appears most higher-ed institutions would benefit from consolidating their tools across organizational departments. Solutions that can take multiple functions and use cases would also support hybrid events and learning styles, particularly through ease of use.

In interpreting the results, it emerged that respondents had differing definitions of hybrid events:

  • Forty-three percent described them as shared access activities in which content was available to live/in-person participants (including remote participation synchronous with the live event) as well as on-demand viewing.
  • Interestingly, however, nearly a third of higher-ed professionals surveyed (28%) defined "hybrid" as more than simply shared access. To them, hybrid indicated an event that would offer separate, dedicated interfaces for each type of attendee and additionally create possibilities for remote attendees to communicate in real time.

Overall, the findings strongly suggest that at present, a lack of preparedness and technology infrastructure for content management and distribution is preventing higher-ed institutions from getting the most out of hybrid events. Additionally, video content often does not realize its full potential without dedicated CMS and distribution channels. Additionally, consumer platforms shortened the lifetime of created videos, shrank potential audiences, and may have the disadvantage of placing content alongside competing messages, brands, and content.

Broadly formulated, while institutions and respondents generally recognized the opportunities and advantages of video and hybrid formats, they also still saw hurdles to adequately setting up and executing the experiences.

To take the best advantage of hybrid events, it's likely these institutions need to consolidate tools and focus on fewer vendors who are able to provide streamlined but more versatile technology solutions. Ideal platforms could support digital-first needs; centrally aggregate content and management across departments; enable real-time participation; and serve multiple use cases for multiple audiences.