Disruptive Forces: The Leaders Speak – Jan Zanetis, The Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration

Jan-Zan-suit-1214Profile: Jan Zanetis is the chief executive officer at The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC), a not for profit that serves educators, learners and content providers.

Jan’s Backstory: As an educator and university administrator, Jan Zanetis spent 20 years in K-12 and Higher Education. In 2005, she moved into the corporate sector as an education specialist, first for TANDBERG and then Cisco Systems based in Australia. Jan joined the CILC in August 2013 where she became their Executive Director.

Jan’s area of expertise is the application of video technologies in education. She has written extensively on this topic for education journals and has co-authored two books. Jan is an active member of several professional organizations including the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the United States Distance Learning Association and the Consortium for School Networking. She often presents at educational conferences, regionally, nationally and internationally. Jan is currently serving on the ISTE Board of Directors as a Member at Large serving a three-year term.

I would like to thank The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration CEO Jan Zanetis for participating in this next series on Disruptive Forces in AV/IT.

CM:  Jan, thank you very much for joining us today. Tell us about your personal journey with the CILC.

CILC-logo-1214JZ: For your reader’s sake, I should start by explaining what CILC is. The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration is a non-profit organization of 20 years standing. It is a clearinghouse for all things around video conferencing in education.  We offer content programs from over 200 museums, science centers, art galleries, etc., as well as professional development and collaborative projects for all ages. Think of it as a Match.com between learners and world class content providers.

I ran across CILC in 2001 when I was attending the ISTE conference for the first time. Having taken on a role at Vanderbilt University to deploy video conferencing to connect schools to content experts, I was at a loss to find others doing the same thing… until I met the CEO of CILC. In the early 2000’s they were busy rolling out video to all the schools and cultural organizations in Indiana with some heavy financing from Ameritech (now ATT). I was one of the first content providers outside of the state to join CILC from the Vanderbilt Virtual School.  From there, I helped CILC with the development and delivery of two international conferences that deployed cascading bridges and live streaming to those folks in remote sites across three countries. Pulling off these conferences was quite the challenge in the early 2000’s and I’ve got to say it wasn’t easy being on the cutting edge in those days!

Throughout other roles, with TANDBERG, Wainhouse Research and Cisco, I always promoted CILC. As a specialist in K-12 education, I know that the uses for video conferencing in education are very different from the uses in other verticals. And CILC is pretty much a one-stop shop for all those applications. I can’t imagine a salesperson with an EDU focus not using the CILC as a value proposition when going into schools!

CM: Can you give us your perspective on the current state of video conferencing in education?

JZ: The graphic below gives you an idea of how video conferencing is being used in schools today. These applications are ranked by the amount of usage, with the virtual fieldtrips being the most common application. It’s interesting to note that the data from 10 years ago was quite different with Distance Classes being the most common.


CM: How do you see cloud-driven strategies as the future of video conferencing in the education market?

JZ: For many years I promoted the use of Movi, then Jabber to educators. The problem was, it was just not ready for mainstream adoption because even when there was a “free” version, it still wasn’t easy enough for educators. The K12 market is one in which there is very little IT support and frankly, educators don’t have the time or inclination to install clients or troubleshoot connections. They will give up after one failure to connect. The ease of use and zero cost of cloud solutions such as Skype and Google Hangouts has helped to turn the tide. And they are ready for more robust solutions that include managed services.

I’m seeing a huge interest in solutions such as Vidyo, Zoom, Pexip and Acano. Ease of use and price point are the lead drivers in education, which leaves out the big boy products, except in cases where the dollars are not an issue and their cloud offerings are often thrown in with large purchases of endpoints and infrastructure. I truly believe that the cloud-based solutions can finally move video adoption in schools to mainstream use. The forward thinking districts and Service Centers that I know, are NOT replacing aging equipment but ARE deploying cloud solutions to all their classrooms, not just a special few, at a fraction of the cost. And that’s great news for organizations like CILC!  The challenge now is getting the word out and showcasing what is possible to schools.  Here’s a little video we’ve developed with that in mind.

CM:  With the escalating usage of mobile devices as well as BYOD programs in the education market, how do you see these video conferencing applications fitting within that strategy?

JZ: I’m not such a big fan of all the hula-baloo around BYOD. When students were first able to carry their own pencil around, was there such an uproar?  To young people today, being able to use whatever device is in their hands is an inalienable right. Even in the some of the most un-developed regions of the world, people are connecting and using video on smartphones to improve their lives. I remember when I was in Malaysia learning that Jakarta was the Facebook capital of the world!  Many of the school districts in the US have solved the BYOD issues, but others are still struggling. In a lot of cases, the root problem reverts back to the age-old issue of bandwidth, particularly in our rural schools. Hopefully the new eRate focus on wifi will alleviate this problem.

Back to your question, I believe that when districts have robust Wi-Fi, a sound BYOD solution and equitable access for students, the use of video is a no-brainer. Referring back to my diagram above, the use of video for collaborative learning should mushroom. The other area for growth would be students creating content. The next step to live video conferencing is recording, which the new cloud based solutions have made so simple to do. The time is right…educators today are all about flipped learning, personalized learning and hybrid distance delivery. Video is a critical piece for all those learning scenarios.

CM: Do you have any advice for the education market concerning these and other associated technologies?

JZ: For those schools that are still using legacy H.323 systems or that have never incorporated video conferencing as an education tool, its time to take a look at the new cloud-based video conferencing solutions. Connecting students to world-class experts and to each other using real-time, interactive video is not new to education, but has historically only been available to a limited number of schools. Not any more! There is a plethora of tools, content and projects out there that make it easy to supplement any lesson to make it more engaging for students. And the good news is that the technology itself is now easy for teachers to use and at a price point that can be implemented across the learning organization. I’m available to any education organization that is interested in learning more.

Jan can be reached at jzanetis@cilc.org.