How to digitize those dusty VCRs

What do VCRs have in common with slide projectors in schools? In addition to signaling nap time, they have both gone the way of the dinosaur. As Funai Electric announces production of VCRs to be shut down completely, it’s time for schools to modernize the technology being used in order to keep students engaged.

The Cost of Content

The discontinued production of VCRs is big news for the education market as a number of K-12 and higher education institutions still utilize VCRs to present content to students. Why is this? One reason is that the programming may only be available on VHS and not in a digital format. If the content is available digitally the institutions may have to purchase a new license to obtain the same content in digital format, costing a school up to hundreds of dollars for just one documentary. Educators may be tempted to simply copy the VHS tapes to DVD or another digital format but to do so would violate copyright protection laws. Another reason schools still use a VCR is that it was already a part of the existing resources, so they wonder why they should change what isn’t broken.

Digital Migration

What is an institution to do? One option is to roll the dice, hoping the existing VCRs do not break and they have spare VCRs to get them through another school year. Realistically, though, schools need to start the migration to a digital format. Before starting the digital transition institutions need to evaluate what content is needed to educate the students. Is the content on the VHS cassettes still relevant to the lesson plan? Can the students be better engaged with the use of video conferencing or online chat tools? Understanding how educators would like to present content to students, as well as what kind of engagement they expect from students, will help determine the best migration path to digital media.

There are many upgrade paths available allowing each school to pick what works best for their needs. It starts with simply upgrading from VCRs to DVD or Blu-ray players. Each classroom can be equipped with a computer to play digital content via DVDs, Blu-rays, or online digital content. That computer can also be used to introduce video and audio conferencing into the classroom to allow students to engage with other campuses, schools, or other professional institutions expanding the learning experience well beyond the classroom.

Next Steps

Want to know what the AVNation team thinks about this? Listen to AVWeek Episode 256 to hear their ideas on what steps institutions can take to migrate from the VCR.

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