Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Backpack TV: A New Educational Video Site

By Sean Scarpiello

Backpack TV is an up and coming website which is trying to build off of the success of other educational websites such as Khan Academy and Just Math Tutoring. The goal of the site is to quickly bring educational videos to students in various academic subjects. Backpack TV mentions that their goal is not to completely teach a full course from beginning to end, but rather to help students study by offering videos for review of complex topics. So how exactly does Backpack TV hold up against its popular and highly successful counterparts?

First things first, I looked at some of the videos that Backpack TV had to offer. The site has hundreds of videos and the content of the videos were also very clear, relevant, and reliable. In fact, the site contained videos from teachers and websites I have used in class and recommended to others in the past. All of the videos on the site looked as if they could be accessed somewhere else online and there were no videos that belonged solely to Backpack TV. I feel that this is great because not only can students come to Backpack TV for help, but they can also use the site to help them find more educational videos. The site also provided a list of teachers that are in each video. This allows individual students to look at videos from several different teachers in a subject and then pick which specific teacher is the clearest or most helpful for the individual.

Although the content of the videos on Backpack TV is spectacular, I did find some weaknesses with the site. The main flaw was that the videos were difficult to access. The videos were grouped into subjects clearly, but after clicking on a subject, there was little or no organization of each of the different videos. For example, after clicking on the calculus subheading, I was brought to a “gallery” of videos which were not organized in any specific manner. The “list” option was not helpful either, as I was scrolling through lists of videos randomly chopped up into hundreds of different pages. Sites such as Khan Academy and Just Math Tutoring are successful because they are extremely easy to navigate. If I am looking for a video on find the slope of a tangent line, I can easily find it at Khan Academy or Just Math Tutoring, without having to search through several pages of material. If the entire list of Calculus videos were found on a single webpage and organized by specific headings and subheadings, Backpack TV would be much more effective as an educational video site.

Something else I noticed which was flawed with Backpack TV was a Backpack TV Plus option which will be available in the future. This option would cost viewers $4.99 a month to view the same videos without advertisements. Unless this Plus option has much more bonus material or contains videos that are not available elsewhere for free, I think the Plus option would be a mistake. No one is going to pay to have access to videos they can find elsewhere without commercials. Even if the Plus option does have a lot of extra material, students will avoid spending money by simply finding other sites which offer educational videos at no cost.

Overall, Backpack TV has a fantastic collection of education videos available at no cost. However, the site can be improved drastically if the hundreds of videos were organized into an order which would allow users to navigate through lists of videos easier.



Custom Essay said...

I am desperately waiting for for this website to launch!!

Joe Wagner said...

Sean, thanks for the post on Backpack TV. I am clearly biased, but I certainly agree with you that we have excellent education videos from top notch schools and teachers, like Khan Academy and PatrickJMT. So, we are really excited about our content.

You also are correct that we need to do a better job of helping students find videos on the site. We will be introducing a playlist feature this summer that should help quite a bit.

As for the addition of a paid option, our plan is to always have the site be free, but some videos will have ads so that we can pay certain teachers for the use of their videos. Some students, parents, and teachers might be willing to pay a monthly fee in order to avoid ads, but this will be optional. In sum, watching videos for free will always be a big part of Backpack TV.

Please let us know if you have more suggestions. Feedback is always appreciated. Thanks again.

Joe Wagner
Founder, Backpack TV

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wow! awesome. every student of the world are waiting for this cool educational site.
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Darryl said...

Joe: I think it is vital that the top notch teachers be paid from ad revenue. This will help Backpack TV attract the best of the best teachers.
Darryl from