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Internet access speeds, lower cost of video equipment, and ease of video sharing has lead to an expansion of video content on the web.

3 former Google employees have launched a site that is positioned as a video based “how-to guide” to pretty much anything. In their words, “Imagine an ever-expanding universe of how-to knowledge, created for you and by you. That’s Howcast“.

The site also effectively uses Wiki technology to encourage collaboration / updates from users.  Examples include “How to clean your ipod”, “How to store an unopened bottle of wine”.  The site is well laid out and designed to capture feedback as well as commentary in line with today’s “conversational web”.  The videos follow a similar format where an instructor explains what is needed to complete the task, followed by step-by-step instructions explained in a voiceover. If users want to write their own “how to”, they can use the Howcast template; scripts are then sent to film school students for production.

The “How To” web market has a number of existing players such as Instructables and Expert Village which have been focused on text / image based content.   

Contributors to Howcast also benefit from distribution deals that syndicate content through other channels such as Joost, Verizon’s VCast.  This is a clever business model as it will enable Howcast to grow quickly. 

I couldn’t help thinking of the possibilities this structure has for mainstream education.  Howcast generates the “learning objects” and then effectively uses latest technology tools for teaching.  All you would need to add is a module that tracks what learning objects you have viewed, and testing to measure both the effectiveness of the learning object and to ensure students have grasp the concept being explained.