Instructors from all disciplines have incorporated video into their syllabi, and—unsurprisingly—streaming video is now the dominant format to which they turn. Faculty and students appreciate the flexibility of streaming video, which students can access on a variety of platforms ranging from YouTube to subscription services licensed by university libraries. Libraries are now making significant investments to license streaming content for educational use and anticipate that their spending in this area will double over the next five years. As the cost of licensing streaming content rises, librarians will benefit from understanding how instructors identify and locate video content, and how they incorporate it into their teaching in order to assure that the content they are licensing is well-aligned to instructor’s practices and needs.

Today, Ithaka S+R is releasing findings from a large-scale investigation into how instructors use streaming video in their classrooms. These findings are based on 244 semi-structured interviews of faculty from a wide range of disciplines, conducted by librarians from 24 colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, and Germany. The interviews provide a uniquely comprehensive window into the reasons faculty use video as pedagogical tools, where and how they find and access video content, and how video content fits into larger conversations about minimizing the cost of course materials. Key findings include:

  • Instructors value streaming video when it has the ability to meaningfully reinforce their course content, introduce diverse perspectives and narratives, and promote student engagement and learning.
  • Instructors from all disciplines draw on many genres of video for classroom use. Most often, instructors prefer using short videos and clips in synchronous classes over feature length films.
  • Poor access to international and independent content, especially content created by people from marginalized groups, limits choices for many instructors, particularly those teaching film, performing arts, foreign languages, and area studies.
  • YouTube is one of the most common sources of videos used in undergraduate classrooms. Many instructors outside of the arts and humanities make little use of library subscriptions.
  • Keeping costs low for students is a priority. Few instructors feel comfortable asking students to pay even nominal costs to access video material.
  • Discovery challenges, constant changes in the selection of content available on streaming services, and technical challenges are common barriers encountered by faculty.

In tandem with S+R’s earlier reporting on libraries’ licensing and purchasing practices, the report released today provides decision makers with rich, actionable evidence about how best to use their purchasing power to support student learning. It also provides insights into the support services that libraries, centers for teaching and learning, and other campus units can offer that will help faculty navigate the complex and shifting landscape of streaming video.

What’s next for Ithaka S+R?

Ithaka S+R is continuing to develop research that will help libraries and other units understand instructors’ practices and support needs on important and emerging topics.

We are exploring the possibility of fielding a national survey of faculty focused entirely on their teaching needs in 2024. The survey would have a special focus on urgent topics such as teaching in the age of  “divisive content,” academic integrity issues, and the implications of student’s use of cell phones as primary computing devices. For more information, please contact Danielle Cooper (

We are also exploring interest in a third cohort of universities to  participate in our data support services project, which focuses on campus wide coordination of essential services that support academic research now and in the future. If your institution may be interested in participating, please reach out to Dylan Ruediger (