Academic Video Online | Database Reviews, Nov. 2019

Academic Video Online has been a popular choice in libraries for many years, and with good reason. Its catalog is large and diverse, with strengths in many different subject areas. Overall, this is an excellent resource for libraries serving educational organizations at any level.

Academic Video Online
Alexander Street/ProQuest

By Rob Tench

CONTENT Academic Video Online is one of the largest video subscription services available to libraries, with a catalog of 68,000 documentaries, interviews, shorts, and TV shows from more than 800 distributors, producers, and filmmakers. Approximately 14,000 titles are exclusive to Alexander Street Press. Although hundreds of feature films are available, the focus is on educational content, with rich and varied offerings related to U.S. and world history, business, education, health, science, performing areas, and dozens of other subjects.

USABILITY The interface is user-friendly, though not as effortless as mainstream home streaming services. The landing page displays a search box in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. A red button just below the search box lets users filter results by subject, publisher, person (e.g., Barack Obama, Ken Burns), content type, and release date. A drop-down menu permits sorting items by relevance.

A toggle menu on the upper left-hand side includes several options: "home," "highlight," "channels," "collections," and "about." Selecting "home" opens a screen with a colorful shot from a popular film as background, with the tabs "popular selections," "exclusive" (videos only available via this database, including Planet Earth and Blue Planet), and "360 VR video" prominently visible. Clicking on the "browse channel" box opens another screen that groups films by type, including American Civil War. Channels can be filtered by type (historical event, series, collection), and popular channels (CNN, PBS, etc.) are listed at the top.

Browsing for titles is quick and seamless. Doing a general search for "global warming" yields just under 2,000 titles, including 2018’s Sinking Cities, a PBS documentary about New York City during 2012 Hurricane Sandy. Selecting "music & performing arts" under "Academic Video Online channel" leads to about 8,900 possible videos. Winnowing results down to concert documentaries released between 2008 and 2013 retrieves seven films, including Everything Is a Present: The Wonder and the Grace of Sommer Herz, a documentary about a pianist who recalls performing while imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp.

The resolution and sound quality of the titles is first-rate, although not quite at the high-definition level of Netflix and Hulu.

While viewing, users can read an abstract about the work, create a clip, share the video with others, or cite the video in APA, Chicago, MLA formats. On-screen transcripts are available. 

Many features enhance the experience, especially for educators. For example, teachers can create, annotate, and share video clips in and out of the classroom and remotely. They can also embed titles in learning management systems such as Blackboard.

MARC records and COUNTER statistics, as well as an easy-to-use dashboard with links to multiple metrics measurements, are helpful administrative tools. The database works with all major discovery services such as EBSCO Discovery, Primo, and Summon and with authentication systems including OpenAthens and Shibboleth. Scrolling transcripts of dialogs and plots enhance the experience.

PRICING ProQuest’s fees are based on a tiered pricing methodology, and customers are segmented by type of institution, geographic location, and size (usually measured by the total number of full-time students enrolled for academics and students enrolled for schools). ProQuest may offer additional discounts to customers for advanced payments, prenegotiated multiyear contractual agreements, product packages or bundles, or ProQuest promotions.

VERDICT The demand and popularity of streaming video in libraries are undeniable and growing at a steady pace. Academic Video Online has been a popular choice in libraries for many years, and with good reason. Its catalog is large and diverse, with strengths in many different subject areas. It employs desirable modules for educational institutions, offers customization options, and provides administrative tools for retrieving data and reports. Overall, an excellent resource for libraries serving educational organizations at any level.

Rob Tench is a Librarian at Old Dominion University Libraries, Norfolk, VA


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