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Studio in a Box: Our Pop-Up Solution for In-Person Video Production

Written by Luyen Chou on Apr 10, 2020

Related content: Curriculum Development, Leadership

When I joined 2U this fall as its chief learning officer, one of the innovation projects I was really excited about was our use of remote video production. The idea was to empower faculty to record video for their courses remotely with the support of our expert in-house production team. In addition to reducing the burden on our busy production studios, this innovation was a way to fit filming into instructors’ busy lives and to make our videos feel more up-close-and-personal by putting the camera in the center of the action.

This innovation project, which we quickly dubbed Studio in a Box, was still in early ideation mode when COVID-19 made headlines.

By mid-March, we had activated our response plan and closed our studios in Los Angeles and Arlington, Virginia,, and in Cape Town, South Africa, to protect our employees and partner faculty. Even location-based filming was impacted by the crisis—a team of our Cape Town-based video producers traveling to London to film at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), a 2U university partner, was turned away at the airport as a result of the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic. We knew we needed a continuity solution in place fast to facilitate learning content production virtually.

High-quality online learning means much more than moving physical classrooms and lessons to video conferences. It’s only when you combine live (synchronous), faculty-led instruction with all the benefits of on-demand (asynchronous) content that you get a truly engaging and impactful online learning experience. Over the past decade, 2U has invested in building world-class studios for instructional live video, animation, and content production to bring learning alive for hundreds of thousands of students on their screens. In 2019 alone, we created 4,654 hours of asynchronous video content for 567 new courses. But building online learning content—and in particular video content—in the context of social distancing is a far greater challenge than using video conferences to implement remote live learning.

Enter Studio in a Box.

Through Studio in a Box, we can send instructors everything they need to create educational video content in their own setting—a high-quality and hi-res webcam and USB mic, compact studio light system, converters and cables, and high-capacity storage for recording, as well as a backdrop and foldable stand. But it’s not just a physical package of equipment that they receive. The shock-proof box is accompanied by the white glove service we’re known for providing across our portfolio. There’s a personalized Zoom call to guide faculty through the setup process, collaborative and consultative sessions with 2U course strategists and producers, and more. We’re facilitating the production of high-quality video online remotely with the support faculty need to design, create, and deliver meaningful learning for students around the globe.

Today, Studio in a Box is being used by faculty across the world. It has quickly become a necessity for 2U’s business during a time of great change in education delivery.

Listen to Kathleen Brandt, who teaches a capstone course at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, as she shares her perspective on the Studio in a Box experience while leveraging equipment from Studio in a Box.

While Studio in a Box won't ever fully replace the exceptional state-of-the-art production work our teams can do in our physical studios, the early feedback and results of the remote rollout have been pretty amazing. With many universities concerned they may not be able to charge tuition in the fall—let alone the summer—unless they build out more robust courses, Studio in a Box has been seen as a positive solution for building sustainable, high-quality content. And our faculty partners have appreciated the convenience and safety of filming from their remote locations, while also viewing Studio in a Box as an opportunity to develop a new capability that they can apply beyond the specific course we're building together.

We are still at the beginning of the learning curve in terms of figuring out how to make Studio in a Box work as effectively as possible, but I can say that Studio in a Box is here to stay. Beyond COVID-19, it will empower us to work with our partners in new ways to create high-quality content and support the development of high-quality content creators. I’m proud of the work we’re doing and the lives we’re changing.

To learn more about the creative thinking Luyen’s team is known for, check out the Learning Design & Development team page.

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