Students speak, we publish it!

An an experiment, we videotaped and published two student panels from last weekend’s admission open house. Inspired by our recent work on a new web site design, I wanted to provide content that directly meets a priority audience need and fits how our audiences consume content.

We know that watching video has become increasingly popular online, and that it doesn’t have to be very high quality to meet people’s expectations. In fact, lower quality may connote greater authenticity than a highly polished product. We have also learned that middle and high school students, not their parents, are increasingly making choices among schools. We figure that students are even more likely to enjoy consuming information in a visual format.

We also know that prospective families want to find out directly what the student experience is like. What better way to learn than to hear from students themselves. Admittedly, the students were answering questions within the context of an admission open house, but their relaxed nature and eagerness shows the truth to the words they speak.

Simultaneously, I broadcast the events to uStream in order to practice this for the first time. It was so easy to do, aside from the fact that the audio didn’t publish! I connected my DV camera to the Mac via FireWire, and then specified DV for video and audio input on uStream. One key lesson is that uStream dramatically reduces file transfer and processing time. Even if we are not interested in broadcasting live, the moment the event is over, we have a web-enabled, embeddable movie. Brilliant.

We will track statistics and listen to anecdotal feedback to determine whether we should post video or schedule interactive experiences more often. I can envision interactive chats with the Head of School or the broadcasting of sports competitions, arts performances, and distinguished speakers. Alumni in particular might enjoy tuning in to a substantive presentation from their old school. Parents might be able to watch a presentation from home that they could not attend in person. Automatically archiving everything is wonderful. Making the process really easy helps with adoption.

2 comments

  1. Peter Zingg says:

    I got your post about broadcasting and recording your open house. We’re going to try to do the same for a parent education talk this evening. I just did a quick test with uStream, and rather than read the manual, I thought I’d ask you for advice.

    1. Not sure my audio is going through – I have a Canon GL2 camera, with both a built-in and and external mic possibilities. Even with the uStream volume all the way up, I don’t hear any sound. You mentioned problems with audio, so I wonder what your fix was. I don’t want to go to the trouble of getting a USB mic or USB audio interface connected to a wireless lavalier UHF receiver if the camera will suffice.

    2. After you create and save a "Show" in uStream, you can hit the "Broadcast Now" button to bring up the recording window. I did two tests. First time I pressed "Start Broadcast" and did monitor the broadcast at the show’s URL. Second time I pressed "Start Recording". Can you do both simultaneously? I didn’t try it.

    3. Publishing a recording. When you finish, you can upload the video and it goes to the my videos page. Then what? How do others get to see the video? I went to the Clips panel of the show, and checked "Rotate through my favorite clips (the clips which appear at the top of your clips list on the show page)". Now that it’s off the air, they see the saved clips below and can click them. Is that what you did, or did you just take the clip and send it to YouTube?

    4. Is there a time or size limit on the recorded video? The talk tonight might be 90 minutes long…

    5. Can you run the DV tape in the camera at the same time you are broadcasting/recording? It seems as though uStream grabs the output from the GL2 and the tape’s not running. I’d like to have a backup in case uStream goes down in the middle of the broadcast/recording.

  2. Richard says:

    Hi, Peter. I can answer some of your questions.

    1. I had the same problem and haven’t spent more time on it since. I took the admission event to Blip.tv instead, where I am able to save videos at higher quality. uStream indicated that it was using DV for both audio and video. I’m not yet sure why it didn’t work.

    2. Yes, you can do both simultaneously.

    3. I took the embed code from the saved clip and pasted that into our school web page.

    4. I don’t know. I did two 30 minute videos.

    5. I did exactly this. Because the audio failed, I put the tape version through iMovie, uploaded the QuickTime product to Blip.tv, and published that. I think that it’s an excellent idea, both for backup and quality.

    Having this experience led me to think more deeply about when it would be ideal to use uStream. I concluded that it’s only really best either when the event is so impressive that people will really tune into a live broadcast, or when interaction is possible and likely. So now I am thinking that I will direct people to uStream for sports events, distinguished speakers, and perhaps a live discussion with the head of school. Then I will need to decide whether uStream is still best for events that only need an archive, because I can bring less equipment to the event (no computer), and upload in higher quality to Blip.

    Let me know what you learn from your experiences!

    Richard