Business school creates jobs with hugely popular scribes

Imagine creating content so popular that you had to hire people to meet the demand for more. The Robert H. Smith School of Business is doing just that. We found out how they entertain and inform with whiteboard video.

The Smith School of Business made its first ‘sketchpad’ scribe animation in December 2014. We think their Where Money Comes From video is the perfect example of how to turn an infographic into a video.

We spoke to the school’s Director of Strategic Communications, Daryl James, about how and why they use whiteboard video.

It’s a pleasure to meet you Daryl. Tell us, how would you describe the audience for your videos?

The videos are made for Smith Brain Trust, a weekly newsletter produced at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

The target audience is business professionals and policy leaders in Washington – but they’re also for students, prospective students and peers at other business schools.

The school is a leader in management education and research. How do your videos contribute to that?

The specific goal [of the videos] is to build recognition for the school as a source of relevant, timely research. We want to be top of mind when business and policy leaders in Washington go looking for executive education solutions.

How do you turn an academic paper into a sketchpad animation?

The first step when we start a new project is to get buy-in from the professor. Most are excited to see their research promoted visually.

Next, we develop a script and make a storyboard.

Then we record the audio and import the file into VideoScribe. Rather than using professional narration, we like to use the professor’s voice to create more authenticity.

Then we create the drawings and synchronize them with the audio inside VideoScribe.

What made you decide to use whiteboard animation?

Most business school videos look the same. You point a camera at smart people and let them talk. We wanted to do something different. We wanted to create a series of videos that entertain and inform at the same time.

The goal is to make our faculty research accessible to a wider audience, and whiteboard animations are a great way to do this – especially when we combine humour and metaphor.

Most people cannot draw, so they are fascinated when they see pictures emerge on the screen. This is the same reason people will stop and watch a portrait artist at a festival or carnival.

… and why VideoScribe?

We first did our animated video without any special software. We simply mounted a camera above a desk and started drawing by hand.

We quickly discovered a range of problems. For starters, the artist’s head kept getting in the way of the camera. We also had problems with lighting and shadows. We also found the process to be unforgiving when the artist messed up.

Eventually, we threw out this approach and went looking for whiteboard animation software. We looked at a few options and chose Sparkol VideoScribe. This greatly improved our efficiency.

How do people react to your sketchpad videos?

Shortly after we started producing these videos for Smith Brain Trust, our professors started requesting similar videos for the classroom. The whiteboard animation format works well for online and blended courses, which combine traditional classroom instruction with distance learning.

To meet the demand, the school recently hired two art students from the University of Maryland. Our videos also have caught the attention of other schools on campus and they are exploring VideoScribe solutions for their own needs.

What’s next in the pipeline for the sketchpad series?

So far we have produced five whiteboard animations with VideoScribe but, now that we have two additional artists in place, we can start scaling up our production process.