A Vision of live video
Only 15 years ago, only big tv stations could afford to transmit a live video signal via e.g. satellite from a live venue (e.g. a football stadium) to a studio from where it was broadcasted via antenna or cable to a range of spectators.
Now, live video has become one of the biggest internet trends in 2008. There are websites and services that allow for users to stream live video from webcams or even mobile phones over the internet to websites or applications. Although the quality is far from being perfect and many problems like data transfer via mobile networks or lacking common standards prevent the broad use of mobile live video, the estimation of this article is that now is the perfect moment for educators to start experimenting with live video, easily transmitted via webservices.
How can live video be of use for education?
While many teaching institutions already publicate educational videos on the net (e.g. UC Berkley or the MIT) little experience exist with the use of live video. Still, possible use cases are myriad in different scientific fields. Starting from setting up whole classrooms via webcams to virtual labs where educators can transmit live video from experiments to students who are not able to take part directly or time consuming experiments which can be supervised via webcam (cf. Rohrig & Jochheim 1999). Especially in distance learning the implementation of live video can be a very effective way to communicate with students – be it classes, workgroups or consultations.
Current examples especially exist in the field of medical education where video material (e.g. about surgeries) has been an educational tool for a long time already (cf. Mary Ann Liebert 2002). Live and pre-recorded surgeries are of use for medical students. In biology, educators could teach in real time about biological facts from the actual living environment while using a mobile phone camera or preinstalled webcams (there is even a list about webcam sites for teachers). In media studies and journalism students can practice news production under live circumstances and at low costs, and finally, discussions can be set up and recorded in video.
Which tools can be used for live video education?
Seesmic.com ist the perfect platform for discussions. Ordered like a conversation, users can ask questions while others can answer. Seesmic is like a forum with videos instead of text.
Figure 3: SeesMic.Com
MeBeam.com works for live discussions on a simple webpage. It’s like a video chat for many people. Everyone can create a room and invite people to it, so all the webcams streams to one site. MeBeam is the perfect tool for work groups.
Figure 4: MeBeam.com
Mogulus.com is a bit more complex. Here, we will find the role of a “director” who can control which stream or which recorded video is put live on a certain channel at a given time. Meanwhile, there is an open chat for everyone to discuss in text what they are watching. So Mogulus in the educational context is suited for prepared classes, for mixing recorded video with live material and for enganging students to take part in the class via chat.
Mogulus Directors view (Fig. 5):
Mogulus Spectator’s view (Fig. 6):
Finally, Qik.com (Fig. 7) and kyte.com are services based on an applications which need to be installed on a mobile phone and the let the user stream video via 3G transmission.
Here, a simple mobile phone becomes the camera which transmits video to the world. Whenever a class should take place from a certain event, these services could be of great help.
Boundaries and problems of live video use
With all developments we have seen in recent years, there are still many boundaries that inhibit the broad use of live video in general:
• The technical infrastructure of the internet is overstrained by the requirements of live video and will be ever
more with expanding use. Transmitting quality is poor, slows down computers and produces a lot of errors
• Many computers and mobile devices are not equipped with the right equipment: Cameras, processors that are able to reproduce streamed video via flash and so on.
• Different standards of mobile phones make it difficult to develop applications that run on most of the devices
• Cameras are of poor quality
• Users fear costs when transmitting video from mobile phone
Right now, live video is a media practice which is only used by technology enthusiasts and innovators. Still, it is an interesting field and will certainly be used a lot in the field of in distance learning. Especially the mix of different services like Mogulus, Qik, Mebeam and Seesmic provides educators with many possibilities to engage and reach out to people via internet video.
Further Services and resources
Inspired by the success of YouTube, sites like teachertube.com or howto.tv provide thousands of videos aimed especially on explaining and educating. Delicious collects many pages that link to educational video resources. The following websites provide services which are similar to the ones described above: