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Moving Beyond Lecture Capture with Campus Live Streaming

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Moving Beyond Lecture Capture with Campus Live Streaming

By: -
23 Mar 2018

My favorite SXSWEdu session this year was on what I’ll call guerrilla streaming.  What’s that? It’s figuring out how to use streaming video in an educational context that goes outside the classroom.  Why do I call it guerrilla?  Because it calls for random but strategic acts of pushing the envelope, innovating in terms of content selection, marketing, and technology components.  It sometimes even calls for a bit of stealth, just doing it if the institution isn’t yet quite ready.  And it is decidedly not lecture capture, which has grabbed so much educational market mind share for so long.  I wrote about B2C and C2C live streaming coming of age two years ago. Here’s a fresh look at how that’s happening on campuses.

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Dartmouth College, and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) jointly presented “Live from the Quad,” a session at SXSWEdu on how each institution is finding new use cases for live streaming.  Three universities, three different sets of products, and three different “styles.”  It does take a job role that I’ll call “on the front lines” producer.  Introducing the panel: Laura Kelly, Social Media Manager at CMU, Erin Supinka, Assistant Director of Digital Engagement at Dartmouth College, and Keith Kaufelt (Social Media Specialist) and Anne Dreyfuss (PR Specialist) at VCU.

Here I’ll cover each institution, describe some of what I heard as best practices, and then wrap with what I think are the implications.

  • Carnegie Mellon has jumped onto Facebook Live, and has delivered 1) more than 60 live streams, 2) dual-location live streams from the Tony Awards in New York City, and 3) live streams delivered from SXSW every year for its Master of Entertainment Industry Management program to show what they are learning and experiencing – and get the experience of producing an event.  The school also uses both Periscope and YouTube.  They offer Periscope as a second-screen for some special events, like their 50th Anniversary Celebration Kickoff.  They use YouTube for more traditional lectures and conferences as an embed on the webpage to tune in to watch.  As an example, here is a link to a live stream they did with one of their students interviewing the creative team of a musical the student brought to campus.
  • VCU, which has multiple health science schools as part of its undergraduate and graduate programs, has developed content channels specifically for Facebook Live.  There are multiple goals: serve the local community, such as helping people trying to make health decisions for their families, while also trying to recruit students and be a source of information for the broader community outside of campus.  The school held an event with a local history museum to promote an exhibit on the Latino presence in Richmond, hosting interviews at the museum and advertising on local Spanish radio stations.  Separately, VCU explored the opioid crisis by conducting ten weekly interviews.  (See VCU’s School of Medicine hosts a White Coat Ceremony in the fall to mark the beginning of their medical students’ education, but because many students attend VCU from around the world, their families cannot attend the symbolic event.  To provide broader access to the event, VCU broadcast the White Coat Ceremony on Facebook Live. Just setting up a phone on a tripod could get boring for the hours-long event, so staff divided the event into 11 segments, with pre-event coverage, interviews of students, and specific short elements of the ceremony.  The number of VCU’s Facebook page’s followers increased as a result of the live event coverage, creating connections around the world and reaching 62,000 followers.
  • New Hampshire-based Dartmouth has a tight-knit community of which as many as 1/3 may be off-campus at any time.  Thus, it has turned to live streaming to support alumni, prospective students, the local community and the student body, and faculty.  Among the events it has streamed are a corpse flower blooming (happens only every seven years, so there was a lot of interest), and a special event with’s Harry Enten, a celebrity alumnus who held a special event on polling data with one of his former Political Science mentors.

Some of the best practices I heard:

  • The streaming audience is just a click away from something more interesting, so follow VCU’s example and break up longish events into segments, as they did with their White Coat Ceremony.  
  • Respect your audience’s privacy, especially for live events.  Some attendees will not want to be on camera.  Solutions include changing the camera angle or making sure they are shooting from different spots to help balance privacy concerns with public moments.  VCU provides yellow badges to those who don’t want to be on camera. If you are a producer, let attendees know they should tell you if they have concerns.
  • Think quality over quantity. Don’t create content just for sake of creating content. Add value:
    • Do live interviews. Dartmouth holds interviews with Admissions officers, 7-9 pm at night, who provide guidance regarding admissions and financial aid.
    • Be timely with your content, e.g., VCU hosts live interviews with infectious disease doctors during flu season.  Often, local news will air segments of VCU’s interviews on their evening broadcasts, thus helping turn “owned content into earned content,” as one of the panelists said.
    • Partner for content.  VCU matched its own dietitians and nutritionists with a science museum that has a test kitchen, jointly producing live events on how to cook tasty, healthy food. The net result is that each of the institutions, VCU and the science museum, cross-pollinated their Facebook pages with one another’s followers.
  • Audio is key. As a veteran of video conferencing, it was pleasing to me to hear this group of producers has learned what we have known for a long time: “people are more forgiving of bad video than bad audio.”  Old news but true news.  So, some of these folks encourage good lapel mics and making sure you’ll have good Internet when you get to streaming.

What I think

These examples and a recent article I saw in Campus Technology about how Princeton has used MOOCs to transform its delivery of video has me thinking the new world of campus video is finally arriving.  For years, lecture capture has dominated the campus video discussion, but now a very quiet transformation has begun to take place.  Non-classroom-oriented stakeholders, which include admissions, marketing, and alumni relations, are taking advantage of live streaming.

I see guerilla streaming becoming campus video everywhere. Ten years ago, I began arguing that alumni relations “would be” the secret killer app for campus video. Turns out I was half right.  It’s also marketing and admissions. At the time I thought simple virtual tours would be enough when it came to admissions.  But no, if you can reach your prospective applicants with live streaming by showing off some snazzy events such as Tony Awards ceremonies or flu prevention sessions or corpse flower blooms – you are enhancing your brand.  Not so shabby to hold sessions with Admissions and Financial Aid counselors, too.

Finally, read that Campus Technology article.  Where lecture capture has been about dropping appliances and AV equipment and PCs/Macs into the classroom, leavening with a bit of learner-generated recording, and tossing in a bit of faculty training, campus video everywhere is about accepting change and a potpourri of consumer, prosumer, and educational technologies. A guerrilla marketing approach.  And as one of the panelists said, “it’s OK if it’s not perfectly polished. Social video is very different from doing a large event simulcast.”  Look at what you are recording and streaming and adjust accordingly.  Your Admissions Directors, Chief Marketing Officers, and Chief Academic Officers will appreciate you even more, not to mention the rest of your online and local stakeholders!