Periscoping to support MOOC

Working with University of Southampton Digichamp Hannah Watts, and FutureLearn Digital Marketing MOOC educator Dr Lisa Harris I helped run probably the first video broadcast using Periscope to support an online course in the UK. The Digital Marketing MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), asks learners to try out new social tools and think about how they may (or may not) work in a learning or a business context. So to demonstrate what this involves, Lisa decided to give this relatively new social video broadcasting app a try.

Periscope allows you to watch live videos from your mobile device and interact with the presenters in real time, either directly within the app or via Twitter. I’d had a go with the app a few times over the summer and found that it worked well in connecting with a reasonably large audience. We’d also seen Inger Mewburn on the edX Surviving your PhD MOOC, and the BBC Outside Source broadcasts, and decided it was time to take the plunge into a more planned approach to this new form of social broadcasting.

Using Periscope is very straightforward; you just download the app to your mobile device, sign into Twitter, log in to Periscope and then start broadcasting. But if you have an expectant audience and a message to deliver, you can’t leave much to chance. The plan was for Lisa to discuss questions from the MOOC, and from the live Twitter feed with facilitator Chris Phethelan at a prearranged time (15:00 GMT, 5 November 2015). We’d had network problems with previous attempts, so we had an additional camera on stand-by to ensure we had something for our audience to watch if the broadcast failed.

Periscope holding screen

Periscope holding screen

With a crew of two (me supervising the broadcast, and Hannah noting comments as they appeared – and passing on questions) we used an iPhone 5s as the broadcast camera set up in horizontal mode (Periscope broadcast in vertical video, but correct this on playback). In order to let our audience know where to find the broadcast (and with the iPhone pointing at a ‘holding screen’), we hit the ‘start broadcasting’ button 15 minutes before the discussion was due to begin. This automatically created a tweet on the Digital Marketing MOOC twitter account containing a link to the broadcast – which we copied and posted on the MOOC’s comment forum.

About 30 seconds before the start of the discussion I started recording on the standby camera, and used Quicktime to screen record the Periscope browser window. At 3pm the holding screen was removed from in front of the camera to reveal Lisa and Chris ready to start. Within seconds sound was turned on and the discussion could begin.

During the broadcast Lisa and Chris discussed comments from the previous week on the MOOC and also able to answer questions posted on Twitter during the broadcast. Altogether we had over 90 viewers watching and a high number of interactions during transmission – plus some very positive feedback.

You may wonder why we went to such great lengths to record the broadcast. Firstly, Periscope broadcasts only stay online for 24 hours, so we needed a copy to put on YouTube for those who missed it. Also, while the iPhone records the video, the quality is quite poor – and it doesn’t record the questions, comments and other feedback that are visible in the Periscope broadcast. So we needed to record the browser window off screen at high resolution (MacBook Pro with Retina screen) to ensure we had a copy that could be used later in the course – or possibly to support later iterations. Finally, apologies for the jerkiness of the video – although we were on a very high speed network, this seems to be how Periscope currently works.