Back to school season is here — but this year, it looks a little different. Since the novel coronavirus first forced school closures back in March, live streaming for education has become “the new normal,” and students, faculty and families around the world are learning to adjust. In the first post of this two-part blog series, we’ll cover the top live streaming for education platforms, while our next post will provide examples of how you can use them to capture school culture at home.
With over 900 of America’s school districts returning to classrooms by way of livestreaming in the fall (and others pushing start dates or using a hybrid model), teachers and school administrators must choose the right video platform for education. There are a number of options for school streaming, and the best one will depend on your budget, student population and streaming needs.
No matter which workflow you choose, Switchboard Live allows you to easily deliver distance learning to any number of students on any platform anywhere in the world. It only takes three easy steps to connect your video feed to all of the top educational video streaming sites so class can stay in session!
Even before the COVID-19 closures, live streaming for education was becoming more common, with some colleges and universities offering online courses. Online learning provides a classroom-like experience that can be accessed with only an internet-connected device and a reliable connection. Even high school and elementary school students in many districts now use laptops, tablets and other online tools to aid homework and learning.
Now that teacher streaming is the main mode of instruction, it’s important to choose a reliable platform that students can easily access. With online learning currently replacing classroom coursework, a platform that allows live videos to be recorded, organized and easily shared to students with different needs and access points can help schools best serve students.
When it comes to school live streaming platforms, there are a range of options you can choose. These platforms are known as “encoders” in a live streaming video workflow (learn the basics in this guide). The right choice will depend on your budget, requirements, student needs and the level of streaming experience teachers and faculty have.
There are a number of free, basic options for live video streaming that allow you to go live from your phone or computer with a basic camera and easily reach students who have created accounts on the platform. However, schools with a little more budget and/or expertise can benefit from choosing a professional video platform for education. These solutions offer tools for customizing, managing and sharing video content, such as creating and organizing playlists, adding privacy settings and embedding video on your school or district’s website or social media page.
Here are some of the best free platforms for school live streaming, along with instructions for connecting each one to Switchboard Cloud:
Facebook Live: Easy to use and widely accessible, anyone can go live instantly from a phone or laptop to any student with a Facebook account. Videos can be made public or private by enabling group and/or video settings. It offers one-to-many streaming, with interactivity limited to chat and emojis.
YouTube: As the king of free, online video, YouTube offers a live-streaming feature that can be enabled on any account; videos can be publicly available or restricted to a certain class or group with privacy settings. Streaming is one-to-many, with interactivity only offered through chat.
Twitter/Periscope: Periscope is the live-streaming app of social media platform Twitter. It offers straightforward one-to-many streaming for public or private audiences of any size, with interactions limited to comments and hearts.
Twitch: This popular gaming platform is also used for reliable broadcasts of live events. Twitch allows multiple streamers to go live at once, though viewer interactions are restricted to chat, emojis and gifts.
Of course, not all students will have the same access and preferences — so your best option is to go live on multiple channels at once. Teachers, professors and faculty not only need an easy way to simulcast streaming, they need to be able to go live to large numbers of viewers at once without relying on often-unstable home internet connections.
With Switchboard Cloud, Switchboard Live’s streaming solution, it’s easy to send one, outgoing live stream to all of the destinations you want to reach students on at the same time — from Facebook Live and YouTube to your school’s website or proprietary platform. Best of all, you can easily scale your audience up or down, from huge lectures to one-on-one instruction, without overloading your internet bandwidth.
Here are some of the top paid platforms that offer native integration with Switchboard Cloud:
Zoom: The leading video conferencing platform is used by corporations and organizations around the world to take their live events online. The best part of this solution is the ability for multiple video callers to join, so students, teachers, parents, coaches and more can interact with each other face to face and in real time. A “presentation mode” can also be enabled for times when teachers need to speak to students before opening up feedback, and screen-sharing enables presenters to share notes, lesson plans, PowerPoint or video clips with viewers.
Zoom does offer a free version, but it is limited in the number of participants and caps stream length at 40 minutes.
Open Broadcaster Software (OBS): This is a free platform that is specifically designed for live streaming and pre-recorded video. It allows you to combine multiple video and audio sources into a single stream, so streamers can bring in other instructors, speakers and guests, share videos or add feeds from presentation software, such as PowerPoint.
DaCast: This is an easy-to-use streaming solution designed to help organizations deliver high-quality, reliable live and pre-recorded video at scale. Their expertise in both live events and working with organizations that may be new to live streaming, such as schools and houses of worship, makes them a good fit for schools that want to deliver reliable content with limited streaming expertise.
Telestream Wirecast: Wirecast is a leading solution for professional, high-quality education live streaming. It may be a better fit for users with some live streaming video experience, but is still relatively straightforward. It allows you to broadcast a broad range of educational content, from sports games and awards ceremonies to classes and lectures, with advanced features for adding multiple audio and video feeds, mixing and editing content, adding graphics and overlays and delivering top-quality video that looks just like the pros.
Custom streaming destinations: More advanced users can also add any custom destination for school live streaming through Switchboard Cloud, such as your school or district website, a custom app or a third-party distance learning platform.