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Digital Asset Management lessons for higher education

DAM is solving content management challenges in higher education

From alumni communications to sports broadcasting – digital asset management is solving content management challenges in higher education.

Why should higher education care about DAM?

Education and DAM

In the digital age, educational establishments are the custodians of huge and ever-growing collections of digital files. Whether this is assets for the marketing team, collegiate sports content, learning and alumni management resources, or digital art collections, asset management has become a major challenge in education. So, what are the pain points, and how does digital asset management (DAM) provide solutions?

Universities and colleges have always been powerhouses for content. As engines of original work and research, and keepers of dynamic libraries, educational establishments are no strangers to managing vast collections of assets. The British Library, for example, hosts over 170 million items over 764 km of shelving. Its digital collections consume a petabyte of storage that is “equivalent to almost 3.5 years of non-stop HD-quality video footage.”

In recent decades, however, the nature of these assets has changed. In addition to physical books, journals and collections, institutions now grapple with an ever-growing number of digital files. Research materials, publications, learning and other assets all need safe and orderly storage, while academics need easy tools to catalogue and retrieve their work.

At the same time, the world is changing. With staff and students now more able to work and study remotely, institutions need the technologies to support remote delivery, sharing and collaboration. Facing more competition from far-flung competitors, institutions need tight control over their brand and its resources. Sensing new opportunities, marketers need consistent playbooks that help them tap into emerging markets. And institutions – as content creators and curators – need the tools to open up and monetise their archives.

In this complex and fluid environment, education institutions face multiple challenges around asset management across the operation. Each area has its own problems and pain points, with each requiring different things from the solution. Here we break down five major content demands and look at how digital asset management (DAM) can satisfy them.

1. Brand marketing

Brand marketing

Colleges and universities across the world rely on digital strategies and visual content to increase recruitment, drive funding and engage with students and alumni. Remote learning – already on the rise before the pandemic – has opened up new markets for the most innovative institutions, creating new opportunities to deliver video lectures and rich media course content directly to students. While leading providers might be courting remote students from around the globe, other global schools now compete more strongly for the same pool of domestic students.

Against this background, institutions need to strengthen their brand, and deliver a focused and consistent message. But working with multiple teams, and communicating across many channels, it’s hard to ensure this consistency. This is a particular challenge in higher education, where stakeholders might include professors, administrators, coaches, students and more. Without powerful and centralised tools, it’s too easy to get bogged down by administrative overheads.

Marketers working in higher education need platforms and workflows that help ensure the consistency of brand assets and visual resources. It’s here that a DAM comes into its own, offering a centralised resource where marketing assets can be readily viewed and retrieved by stakeholders and the marketing team.

With inbuilt support for approval processes, a DAM can help with higher education marketing work. Liaising with creatives, freelancers and other stakeholders, marketers can iterate resources without the confusion of overlapping edits or improvised file sharing. And when assets are signed off, fine-grained access controls ensure the right people have access, and that only the approved versions are used.

By bringing order and structure to a complex operation, digital asset management for higher education helps marketers better manage and distribute their media, visuals, content and communications materials. Fulfilling a marketing resource management or brand asset management role, a DAM helps ensure tight brand messaging across external channels. At the same time, marketing teams can ensure all departments, campuses and partners can quickly find and use approved assets, amplifying every opportunity.

2. Sports and athletics media

Sport and athletics using DAM

College and university sports are often the proving ground for the star athletes of tomorrow. Particularly in North America, varsity competition drives the intake for major leagues, with junior and collegiate athletes among those selected in the NHL, NBA and NFL drafts. Varsity teams and their rising stars are hugely valuable. On the one hand, colleges need to make the most of their marketing and revenue-generating potential. Meanwhile, college athletes are keen to attract sponsorships from big brands.

Modern varsity competition is a goldmine for unique and valuable sports content. There’s a widespread demand for game or competition and training footage, while interviews, ‘day-in-the-life’ and other formats provide yet more bankable content. But with tens of games in a season, plus hours of other supporting material, storing, organising and sharing hundreds of hours of visual content can become very challenging.

Throw in archives which may stretch back decades, and the typical varsity team could be sitting on countless photos and thousands of hours of footage. But the demand is immediate, with fans, sponsors and broadcast partners clamouring for instant content, and the archive material to set it in context.

A good DAM solution gives varsity athletics clubs and teams the ability to store live content as it’s created, and securely share it to commercial partners. It allows photographers and camera operators to upload content as it’s recorded, making it available on the night to satisfy demand at its strongest. Social teams and marketers know where to find the shots and clips they need, too.

Colleges such as Auburn University have used a DAM to go further, creating a self-service portal through which their media partners can directly find and download the content they need. Not only that, but by using analytics data, Auburn can see what its audience is interested in, sculpting its content strategy and production to fit.

With the rise of sports documentaries and their insatiable appetite for archive footage, a DAM system can easily extend to support licensing requests and clip sales.
In short, by gathering all content into a searchable, shareable archive, a DAM allows college sports to extract the greatest value from their content – now and into the future.

3. Collections management

As mentioned earlier, universities and colleges tend to have vast collections of content, gathered from different sources – and used for different purposes. Whether it’s educational resources or reference material, public collections, or simply the result of decades of research, the sheer volume of assets can make them the largest collections of their type.

While these collections and many others are predominantly physical, digital capture and storage represents an opportunity to share them more widely, or create new revenue streams – for example through licensing. However, it’s hard to manage the large number of assets and associated metadata of a sizeable collection. Without a specialised platform, institutions face challenges with security, storage and providing manageable access to staff, students or third parties.

Digital asset management solutions help institutions manage their digital collections, whether they’re a private research resource or intended for the widest possible audience. Based on robust and secure cloud storage, they ensure high integrity and availability for the archive. Configurable with branded access and search portals, a DAM can provide a private or public gateway to the college’s collections.

A DAM’s organisational features – including metadata-powered search and the ability to group and iterate files by department, project and so on – make it easier to structure and sort items in the archive. And with the archive more organised, it’s easier to create new revenue streams through clip sales and content licensing. More than anything, a DAM empowers institutions to make more of their content available online, increasing the appeal and reach of the resource. The Digital Asset Management system at the University of Aberdeen, for example, hosts a searchable library of:

● The full text of electronic PhD and MSc theses
● Digital versions of archival, manuscript and special collections material
● Digital versions of photographic material
● Digital images of Museum objects
● Digital versions of past exam papers

This content is, with a few exceptions, accessible by all University of Aberdeen staff and students, as well as being open to the wider public.

4. Alumni management systems

Alumni Software

A college’s graduates undoubtedly represent one of its best recruitment tools, and its most valuable pool of donors. Alumni are one of an institution’s strongest assets, and building and managing the alumni community is one of the administration’s most important roles.

For alumni relations offices tasked with managing global alumni communications, video, photography and other rich media are essential tools for sharing news and community events – and maintaining the personal connection back to the college. Video and multimedia can be used as a ‘giving catalogue’, by bringing the ask to life with the sights and sounds of campus. These might include a patient’s own words about a researcher’s potentially lifesaving work, an architect’s animated rendering of a lovingly restored campus building – or almost anything else.

Despite the potential, universities often struggle with the assets necessary to fully support their alumni programmes. Without a purpose-designed system, it’s easy to lose files or revisions as material is put together. And without the ability to share files securely, valuable content can end up poorly protected on freemium sharing services. Just as significantly, where there’s no overall asset management solution, the alumni office has to waste time requesting existing assets from whoever manages the library.

At a time when higher education is increasingly competitive, the alumni relations office needs better tools, allowing it to build more content and support higher levels of engagement. Much like the marketing team, it needs to get campaigns to market quicker, and slash the time taken to create and personalise content for past students.

Using a DAM removes the common delays and inefficiencies involved in alumni communications. With a structured and centralised library, assets can be found quickly through search, rather than an email or phone call. It’s easier to iterate new material and repurpose old content, freeing up time, and helping the office establish a more personalised outreach to different donors.

5. Learning Management Solutions

The pandemic has rapidly accelerated existing remote learning trends, further heightening the importance of learning management solutions (LMS) and other remote learning tools. Upcoming generations of students will rely on rich media assets to help provide a more immersive out-of-class experience.

But while the typical LMS helps manage a large repository of learning assets, LMS platforms often struggle to deliver large video and multimedia assets. And without the ability to search within video files, or add time-coded markups and comments, it’s not always possible to conveniently share exact course materials. To compensate, some teams have to manually add links and other data to ensure students have access to the relevant content.

Where the LMS struggles with rich media, a DAM can work alongside to provide a stable, highly flexible platform for the sharing of videos, photos and other digital assets. Engineered to support fast downloads and reliable streaming of even the largest files, a DAM platform ensures that students aren’t inconvenienced by poor performance – even at peak times.

Powerful categorisation and tagging means that students and academic staff alike can easily retrieve the right content, and snap to the scenes or other areas of interest. Moreover, with support for time-coded commenting, students and tutors can flag and discuss exact moments and areas within course material, enhancing learning and ensuring a more complete understanding. In addition, with built-in clipping tools, content can easily be reused across departments.

Used alongside – or tightly integrated with – an LMS, a DAM adds the rich media functionality that’s otherwise missing. By integrating efficient video management with existing learning materials, a DAM allows colleges and universities to get the most out of their video content.

Why a DAM delivers cross-disciplinary improvements in higher education

DAM for higher education

These five use cases each show how a digital asset management platform can address common file and media management issues in higher education scenarios. By simplifying the storage, search and retrieval of academic, marketing and other asset collections, a DAM delivers efficiency savings and accelerates results in multiple areas of activity.

In addition, DAM solutions can provide the engine for new ways to promote, organise and drive revenue for the institution. For example, used as the backbone for digital collections and distribution, a DAM supports the creation of new and accelerated revenue streams such as clip licensing or content streaming.

Many benefits apply across multiple departments too. For example, by storing marketing and alumni comms content in the same, easily accessed platform, colleges can improve the exchange of current, approved assets, reducing the time to market for both marketing and alumni outreach activities. By serving up collections via a robust digital platform, universities can satisfy demand – and potentially raise revenue – from students and academics worldwide.

As higher education institutions adapt to increasing competition, a rise in home learning, and ever increasing asset libraries, their existing tools are coming up short. Digital asset management provides the necessary support, helping every facet of an organisation do more with increasingly crucial digital assets.

Learn more about our collaborative DAM

Organise your digital assets, provide better support to staff and boost collaboration with Imagen’s smart, intuitive content management solutions.

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