Articles

Biz Researchers Paving the Way for Groundbreaking Video Engagement Corporation

By Keith Morelli

Jim Marshall

TAMPA (September 11, 2018) -- Atlanta-based onQ is a company that knows how to engage. Its cutting-edge model of real-time video engagement is just getting started in the interactive video world. To understand more fully its market implications, onQ has embarked on an innovative partnership with a team of leading researchers in the University of South Florida's Muma College of Business.

The thrust of the research is engagement itself. What is it? How is it measured? What makes it a success and what makes it a failure? How can it be improved?

"Engagement has emerged as an important psychological concept that impacts human behavior and choice across many domains including education, employment, leisure and marketing," says the introduction into research conducted by six USF researchers, five of whom are with the Muma College of Business.

The paper suggests human engagement in the digital evolution has driven the nature of technology. Video games and digital use in education are examples of how such engagement has fostered technical advancements. Smart phone technology is all about human interaction, but ascertaining how engagement is measured remains largely unexplored territory.

USF researchers may have found the answer.

"To the best of our knowledge," the research concludes, "our measurement scale is the first instrument that has the potential to be applied across domains and contexts."

The research dovetails directly with onQ's business plan. The company started as a media resource business that helped small groups search for solutions to learning with and from each other online, using video as a starting point. The onQ solution has evolved into something that is unique and may hold clues for the future of online learning across education and business sectors and beyond..

"By partnering with the University of South Florida, onQ will be able to leverage the school's deep expertise in software systems, data science, analytics algorithms, behavioral science and group collaboration," said Jim Marshall, CEO of onQ. "This will ensure validation of onQ's innovative scoring models and user insights, which will ultimately help us deliver the greatest value for our customers.

"The five-year partnership represents a major opportunity for onQ to validate the efficacy of its product features — which include content engagement, sentiment, user-to-user interactions and influence ― in a university classroom setting," he said. "USF will benefit from utilizing resources of onQ while researching scoring, machine learning models and analytics."

Technicians at onQ have built a unique cloud-based application that makes online content and learning more communal, more interactive and engaging, more authentic and less cluttered. At the base of the experience is a video, or live streaming presentation. Instead of viewing the content, users participate by providing real time reactions, comments, questions and feedback.

"Nobody is doing this yet at our level," said Pablo Pittaluga, vice president of alliances and education solutions with onQ. "Users express their in-the-moment feelings through a broad set of emojis and through comments, which can spark discussions that flesh out what's being presented in the video."

The experience is like a classroom, but the students can be miles – even continents – apart.

"Participants have the feeling while watching a video that they connect within," Pittaluga said. "They feel like they're part of that community."

"The idea is to implement real-time give and take with videos that educate, train or market," he said. "By doing this, everyone involved is empowered with the ability to contribute, share, connect, learn and grow together. All participants have a voice."

Still, there remains the unknown, the deeper dive into what onQ is doing and where it all is headed.

Enter USF's own thought leaders, who admit in the introduction of one of their research papers that even though "cross domain acknowledgement of engagement is an important phenomenon of interest, there have been insufficient efforts to create a bridge that allows research across disciplines."

Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem is hopeful the partnership will lead to other collaborations.

"This partnership with onQ is unique for a number of reasons," he said. This is the first instance where we have entered into a long-term partnership where Muma College of Business professors and post-doctoral students work hand-in-hand to conduct research that strengthens onQ's groundbreaking business model. We expect this initiative and partnership will blaze a path into this new, unchartered territory of defining and measuring digital interactive engagement."

Initially, the team developed a scale to determine to what extent engagement could be considered a success or failure in two important domains: online learning and work engagement. The research sets the parameters for other researches to effectively define "engagement" and to measure its impact on other domains.

"This will increase the specificity with which researchers can report on their engagement studies and make it easier to compare and contrast empirical findings across studies," the research says.

One of the researchers, Stephanie Andel, a post-doctoral scholar with the Muma College of Business Information Systems and Decision Sciences Department, said in a related paper that "despite the critical need to reliably evaluate engagement, it appears that there are no agreed-upon and validated scales that measure user engagement consistently and reliably across disciplines.

"To establish a scale that can assess engagement levels of all users accurately, it is important to define engagement and identify its measurable and identifiable components that remain stable irrespective of the platform where it is measured."

The ultimate long-term goal of the research is to develop a scale that not only spans contexts, but is further validated within other contexts and populations, she said, such as online education, marketing and workplace employees.

"Our vision is to engage researchers to capitalize on the synergies of various disciplines," she said, "and seamlessly build upon each other's work."