Films on Demand: Netflix for Education!


“Educational Video” tends to be a term that everyone reacts to. You might think of happy high school days when you could get out of “real work” to watch a video. Or you might think of old, boring videos that put you to sleep. Or maybe you have fond memories of campy videos that you might look up on YouTube (check out School House Rock’s Conjunction Junction with 2.4 million views)! But the library’s Films on Demand database provides a new experience that we hope will change how you think about videos and education.

Films on Demand is a subscription database bought for you by the CSI Library. You can use it anywhere on campus, in class, or at home, at any time, simply by logging in with your SLAS/FLAS. It has 21,387 shows, documentaries, and archival films that are broken into 245,704 segments. “Segments” are handy clips that cover one small topic in a larger film. Each segment can be searched for and browsed individually, so you don’t need to watch a whole video to get information on one topic. Want to get some ideas for audition monologues? Search “monologues” and be inspired by a one minute performance of Juliet’s “Come gentle night… speech preformed at the Globe Theater. It is a segment in one of the 400 Videos in the English > Drama and Theater collection. Confused about a science topic you have never heard of, like chemical spectroscopy? Take a look at how the BBC explained it to a general audience by showing a model of the world’s first spectroscope in a 5 minute clip (“Revealing Unique Color Signatures of Elements”). Writing about the home front in World War II? Check out a contemporary patriotic newsreel. The database covers all sorts of academic and cultural topics including business, health, social science, engineering, career counseling, education, and world languages, so a quick search can produce unexpected results!

Films on Demand is easy to use. Not only can you search from a convenient interface, you can browse 25 collections each with many topics and sub topics. Videos stream right in your browser (although they sometimes don’t work well in Chrome). All students, faculty, and staff members can use it and can create their own account if they want to create playlists to share with others. Users can email the URL for any video, segment, or playlist to anyone in the CSI community. Every video has a direct, permanent link that can be used in class websites or in Blackboard. If you need to find an exact spot in a video, you can search an interactive transcript of it! Most films have scrolling transcripts that move with the streaming film and highlight each word as it is spoken. By clicking on any word in the transcript, you can jump to that exact section of video, making close, repeated viewings easy. Just let us know if you have any questions about using Films on Demand.

Finally, remember that many of the films in the database were developed not just to educate students, but to inform and entertain the general public, to broadcast current events, to document theater and dance performances, or to improve scientific and cultural literacy. You can watch episodes of the American Experience, Frontline, Nova, and other PBS shows. Documentaries by Ken Burns, TED talks, and Bill Moyers discussions are all available for research, class assignments, or in-class viewing. From international politics (Wide Angle) to the Pythagorean Theorem, Films on Demand has something for everyone.

-Christine McEvilly