Live streaming is coming to a school near you soon.
With school closures come a huge need for school districts to get up to speed fast on using live streaming for school communications and remote learning. Whether it's urgent news about a pandemic, ongoing, or regular opportunities to reach your school community, live streaming video could be part of your school communications strategy.
Live and then some
Live-streamed video means viewers can participate and watch in real-time. It is the future of video and presents a world of opportunity for school communications and distance learning. It is not only a great way to capture and share events when they occur, but a way to automatically build a video library of all your important school communications and engaging school stories.
Once these live-stream videos are created, they can be stored and repurposed for your future content needs. With a little planning and research, live streaming can become a core element in your district communications content strategy.
Not only are live stream school videos easy to view and share, but they are also easy to create with the right equipment and training. Anyone with a phone can participate in creating this content for your school – that includes teachers, students, parents, coaches, and administrators.
What makes a good school live video?
There are endless sources of raw material for live-streaming content:
- Online classrooms
- Schoolboard and PTO meetings
- Superintendents/principal messages
- In-service and other meetings
- Sporting and special events
- Pep rallies/assemblies
- Graduation and other ceremonies
- Plays and concerts
Any event that involves your school offers an excellent opportunity for live streaming. This effort will be very meaningful to parents and other family members and other school community members who are unable to attend these events but still want to experience them.
Live streaming meets remote learning
There are ways to break the mold using live streaming for your school, but of all the practical if not necessary applications of live video, remote learning has catapulted to the top of the list.
"Some schools are scrambling, some have remote learning programs in place, others still are duct taping theirs together," said Steve Williams, CEO and founder of SchoolNow. "But wherever your district is with remote or hybrid learning, one thing for sure is that live streaming is going to play an increasingly bigger role in the K12 experience – even beyond this current crisis."
Imagine a weekly – or even daily – live morning announcement originating from your school principal's office, giving parents, students and your entire school community real-time updates.
Classroom management, parent-teacher meetings, and in-service and staff meetings top the list of ways schools are putting live streaming to work. And it doesn't all have to be strictly teaching and meetings. In addition to regularly scheduled events, streamed announcements could include live interviews of teachers and students for fun “spotlight” profiles.
Tom Wilkinson, technology coordinator at Lumberton Township School District (NJ), is a practitioner of using video and live streaming and offers up these tips for using Zoom for reaching students with remote learning.
During an extended school closing – like the 2020 pandemic – imagine a weekly – or even daily – live morning announcement originating from your school principal's office, giving parents, students and your entire school community real-time updates.
Live-streamed videos can easily be ruined by poor production value. Use these tips to ensure your audience is getting the most out of your live stream.
Producing videos is simpler than ever with the gear available today. Your videos don’t need to be complicated in order to be effective, and there is a variety of easy-to-operate, affordable equipment available. Check with suppliers on school discounts, or, even better yet, donations!
Any modern smartphone has the capacity to record high-quality video. Most adult community members (teachers and staff) already own them and can contribute to your live stream. Phones also make for a highly mobile piece of video equipment, so they can be easily transported to off-campus events.
Also lightweight and easy to transport, webcams are very affordable and offer more high-quality video than most phones. They also offer an additional level of stability because they clip onto a solid surface, tri-pod or mono-pod, whereas phones rely on the steadiness of the videographer’s hand.
A simple webcam might be a good choice for streaming the school announcements, as the camera can be permanently set up to capture the proper angle.
Though they often provide a better video resolution than phones, webcams are still a limited production tool: most lack zoom and focus features.
They cost more, but HDMI cameras are some of the best tools available for producing video. HDMI cameras start around $200 and provide you with a lot of manual control features to produce exactly the live stream you’ve imagined.
Keep in mind that HDMI cameras will require an additional piece of equipment, called a capture card, for live streaming purposes. Check with your IT department to find the right one.
Sound quality is a vitally important element of video production. Even with the most engaging, perfect video, poor sound quality can be a major turnoff for viewers.
There are several scenarios in which you might want to capture a school video but the audio setting is not ideal. School assemblies in large, echoing spaces like gyms or auditoriums can be a challenge. Unless your space happens to be high-quality concert auditorium with excellent acoustics, your camera’s built-in mic will have a hard time capturing the right sounds (namely, the people speaking).
Instead of relying on the camera microphone, purchase a cheap hand mic (there are solid, affordable choices) or a high-quality lapel or ‘lavalier’ microphone.
Once you’ve decided on a set of equipment for capturing your video, it’s important to teach staff and students about how to properly use the equipment. Not only will this protect your investment and keep it from being mishandled or broken, but it will also ensure that you’re providing your audience with the best possible live stream experience.
Training doesn’t have to be a major undertaking. Run through a simple training session at a staff meeting, then allow teachers to impart their knowledge to students who will be using the gear.
Don't forget students. They are not only an excellent resource for videographers, but some may even be video enthusiasts and ahead of the technology curve (i.e., experienced with video and audio recording.)
Here are four of the most popular, free ways to live stream your school videos:
- Zoom: A very popular app for schools wanting to get started with streaming, Zoom can be used for online classrooms or any kind of school meeting. Teachers and students can get free accounts by filling out a K12 verification form.
- Google Hangouts Meet: Built into the Google for Education suite, Hangouts Meet enables teachers and administrators to connect with parents and students in real time, and even includes a "teachers lounge" for sharing tips.
- Facebook Live: Facebook’s live streaming feature is perhaps one of the easiest and most direct ways to stream your school video.
- YouTube: The mother of all video services, YouTube has a live streaming feature that can be enabled on your existing account.*
* ACCESSIBILITY NOTE: Youtube features the ability to generate Closed Captions then edit later. SchoolNow recommends using Youtube's Auto-CC, editing, then linking to a transcript on your website.
There are plenty of other services available for live streaming, but be aware that most come with attached fees.
Sharing your live stream school videos
Promotion is all the more important with a scheduled live stream than with a static piece of content. Though your live stream video can be saved and viewed later, you still want your viewers to experience the event in real-time – that’s what makes this tool so unique. Give your live streaming a chance to succeed and grow by planning, promoting and posting.
Try to plan all content capture in advance. You don’t want to find yourself scrambling at the last minute to throw together a video or set up a live stream. Incorporate video into your content calendar.
Also consider adding a video test run to your content calendar. For example, if you are planning to live stream the school play, try to attend the dress rehearsal to test your sound quality and find the best spot for the camera.
Because live streaming is a relatively new technology, many parents and school community members won’t know that it is available. Introduce the community to this new tech with an email that explains live streams and how to access them. Promote the start time and content of your planned live streams to ensure people can tune in.
You want to promote this capability as much as possible. When you have a scheduled live stream event coming up, talk about it on your social media accounts.
If you haven’t already set one up, create a YouTube channel for your school. A school YouTube channel is one of the most direct and simple ways to promote videos.
Your school website should be a hub for promotion, too. Post announcements about upcoming live streams on your school’s home page. Don’t forget to link to the live stream’s location.
Take 1, take 2 –just take 'em.
Live stream videos won't be perfect, especially for your first few broadcasts. This is part of the beauty of this tool: people can be present for the real-life experience of bumbled lines in school plays and sideline hijinks at a sporting event.
As you become more adept at using your equipment and promoting live streams, you can get more creative about the content for your live stream school videos and the way you produce them. With the right equipment, training, streaming service, and promotion, your live streams are sure to become a hugely popular part of your school’s content strategy.
Are you using live stream videos for your school yet? Do you have some video production tips?
About the author
Marketing director and content strategist for SchoolNow, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.