PCS Video – Feature Overview
We have developed our PCS Video Course system with obvious shortcomings of other types of video-based education in mind. What we came up with is a combination of software, video content and external resource integration that is tailored towards making your learning experience as simple and enjoyable as possible.
Of course, for any video course on any give subject, the actual content, the style of teaching and the presentation techniques are the most important factors for your learning success. And with PCS Video Courses, you will get top-notch content (check out our Hands-on Photo Tips for examples).
However, using the right technology can make a great video even better and more accessible. In this overview, we will discuss the technical features and explain how they affect your learning experience.
Let’s start with an obvious question.
What’s wrong with existing video courses?
You can download videos about photography or watch them online anywhere on the web. What you usually get when you do this is one or more video files and maybe as set of accompanying resources (e.g. original RAW photos). Navigating those videos, finding the right resources relevant to the lesson you’re currently watching, restarting the video where you left off previously, and remembering at which time index certain information can be found – all of this is your job, and this can be a very inefficient and confusing way of learning from video.
The technology used to play back bare-bones video courses was made for watching movies, not for working with multi-media training videos!
The PCS Video Course Features
PCS Video Courses are different! They are interactive, tightly integrated with additional resources and tailored for learning, not just for viewing!
It’s not a new video technology that’s doing the trick. The videos can actually be watched in any video player software and behave like those normal videos. Instead, it’s a clever combination of video, meta data and software that gives you the following advantages over old-fashioned video content you can get elsewhere:
A living course library: Each course you acquire is stored in an easily accessible library. Switch between courses with two clicks. No searching on your hard drive, no fiddling with video files.
On top of the convenience of having all your courses in one place, your PCS Video Course library extends itself over time. When you install a new course, it is integrated with the previous ones by adding new cross references to those existing courses wherever appropriate. The course installer detects your existing courses and adds the necessary information automatically.
Simple course navigation: A handy lesson menu lets you jump between the different lessons of a course quickly and conveniently. Each course is divided into a set of lessons. So even a multi-hour-long course still has a structure that makes it easy to navigate unlike other products where such a course is one big chunk of video or where you need to fiddle with multiple files and load them into your video player software manually.
You always have an overview over the available lessons, their content and their length.
Non-linear viewing: The PCS Player provides different ways of cross-referencing other lessons and courses (bookmarks, the Lesson panel, cross-reference resources etc). You can use any of these to jump to a different part of the course at any time without losing track.
This is achieved through simple Back and Forward navigation buttons similar to the navigation in your web browser. The PCS Player keeps track of where you’ve been and where you went from there, and the navigation buttons let you go back and forth in that history. This enables you to take detours through a course matching your personal preferences and requirements. When you’re done with a detour, you can continue on your original track seamlessly. Thus, you can effectively set your own pace!
Powerful bookmarking: Whenever you come across content that is of particular interest to you, you can easily create a bookmark and give it a meaningful name. Using this function, you can build your own library of content within a course. Simply bookmark all the stuff that’s important to you and come back to watch the respective section whenever you need to.
The additional Quick Bookmark feature lets you set a temporary marker anywhere in the course. Use it, for example, to mark the start of a section that you are currently working on while you visit other parts to collect related information. You can always return to the Quick Bookmark with a single click.
Resources integration: A PCS Video Course does not only contain video content. It also comes with other resources that really give your learning experience a whole new dimension. Source photos, Photoshop projects, presets, cross-references and links to external resources are only a few of the things that are easily accessible through the Resources panel.
This will end the days when you had to go to your file system and manually find the stuff that the instructor was talking about in the video. It’s all there, just a single click away.
Real-time resource notifications: Resources and bookmarks are more than just lists that you have to scan through manually. They are deeply integrated with the video content.
Whenever you watch a part of the course for which a resource exists, you get notified visually. Thus, you can always easily identify and access resources.
Similarly, the bookmarks panel indicates visually when you come across one of your bookmarks in the video. This helps you keep track of where you are in the course at all times.
Seamless restarts: When you have to stop watching a normal video and you’re trying to resume where you left off later on, finding the right spot can be a real pain and a waste of time.
The PCS Player always keeps track of where you are. You can stop the video, exit the player and even reboot your computer. When you restart the player, it continues exactly where you stopped watching. And what’s even more important: The PCS Player stores its entire state (viewing history, quick bookmark etc.) and retrieves it when it restarts. Thus, you can continue straight away.
Works on all platforms: The PCS Player is running entirely in your web browser. It is not a native application that requires a specific operating system to run. Instead, we have created it as a web application.
All you need is the Chrome browser for your operating system, and your good to go. Chrome is available for virtually all operating systems, and the installation only takes seconds. Even if you are using another browser to surf the web, you can install Chrome and use it just for the PCS Player.
Summary and Comparison
To be fair, it’s not easy to make a comparison with other video learning technologies because the variety of available courses and systems is so large. Also note that online training websites like lynda.com, kelbyone.com are actually an entirely different category of educational systems. Some of them are very powerful and the diversity and number of different courses they offer is huge. But they operate based on an entirely different model: You pay a monthly fee to get access, and when you stop paying you will lose access to all the videos entirely.
This has advantages and disadvantages. Personally, I have always been reluctant to pay a (comparably high) recurring fee to get limited access to the content I need. Usually, the stuff that interests me is only a small fraction of the overall content for sites like these. Paying 25$ every month to watch one video every 3 months was never really the right value for money for me personally. I’d rather pay a given fixed price for something that can then watch as often as I need to for as long as I want to. And that’s exactly the type of model underlying the PCS Video Course Series.
So, conventional offline video is really the opponent that the PCS Video Courses have to compare with, and our mission was to bring some of the additional features of online training sites (and a bit more actually) to offline training to get the best of both worlds.
With these things in mind, here is the quick comparison table between the three types of video-based training:
|Feature||PCS Video||Offline Video||Online Video|
|Tight resource integration||yes||no||no|