Livestreaming at the Union

Universities are increasingly using livestreaming and live webcasting services to expand audiences, increase interaction, and offer content and services. Once the domain of commencement ceremonies and sporting events, livestreaming has taken on broadened appeal for educational institutions as a way to share academic information, artistic events, and public offerings like lectures, debates, and presentations.Livestreaming art

Student unions are implementing livestreaming in a variety of ways as well, and many are seeing student-initiated livestreaming activity. Some of the most frequently observed livestream offerings are student government and union board meetings and events, as well as academic assistance that is often live-chatted with question-and-answer sessions on credit transfers, advanced placement credits, and other items seen on a student’s “academic requirements checklist.” Whether it's generated by a handheld smart device connected to a service or by a series of connected microphones and robo-cameras that can often be controlled by a single operator, livestreaming has the power to increase union services, empower student organizations, and tell the union story in a new way. 

Individuals are producing more video than ever before—more than half-billion unique people were watching videos on Facebook everyday last year—and Cisco predicts that by 2020, online video streaming will represent more than 80% of all consumer internet traffic, with 13% of that being live. A recent study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth found that 86% of the more than 450 institutions polled had an institutional presence on YouTube. 

Universities are posting and maintaining livestream calendars at their websites, and many are offering case-by-case consultations for scheduling and hosting livestream events. Recognizing that livestreaming events enhance a union’s profile while developing new partnerships, networks, and initiatives, many facilities are offering carte blanche services for livestreaming throughout the facility—from the conference room and performance space to the games room and lounges. 

University of Maryland’s Adele H. Stamp Student Union is a good example of the diverse offerings livestreaming has facilitated. International student organizations and ad hoc groups of international students have livestreamed “family night” presentations meant to be viewed either live or through archives by relatives in their home countries; and the union has livestreamed dance competitions and Veteran’s Day Memorial services. One group of students even requested livestreaming of a rock-climbing contest inside the union’s games room. 

Stamp Union uncovered an unexpected source of revenue when it became the venue for livestreaming a statistics class on a regular basis that drew more users online than in person. The balance between offering the course at the union where there were resources like food services and catering with a livestream version that was more affordable for students was determined to be a success. 

Livestreaming Tips 
  • If you’ll be livestreaming longer events, like conferences with multiple speakers, then get a subscription to one of the streaming services where you can create a site for the event and individual sessions can be archived.
  • If you want to offer livestreaming services broadly, consider purchasing a computer-based recording and video-switching system preconfigured by one of the streaming services. These can include a set of pan-tilt-zoom cameras, or robo-cams, that can be operated remotely from a laptop by a single person, cutting back on staff costs.
  • Basic gear to offer your guests might include phone mounts with articulating arms, tripods for holding a smart phone, and microphones for a smart device.
  • High-quality video is great, but audio is king. An event with lower quality video and clear audio is better than poor audio, especially if it’s an interactive event with live chatting.
  • Try out live chatting with someone monitoring content. 

 

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