Live streaming events and learning online with MOOCs

Canberra Live is a website which aims to provide a catalog of local events that can be viewed online. These may be events staged by educational institutions, the community, not-for-profit groups, businesses, or the ACT Government.

It was through this site that I watched a live streamed event:

Teachers to the Node: Rethinking Science Education in the Digital Era.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) are a growing phenomenon in the higher education sector, opening doors to students who might not have had the means to pursue tertiary-level education. Now anyone, anywhere, can have access to the world’s greatest minds and the opportunity to study any subject at their own pace. MOOCs can help deliver a taste of on-campus offerings to future students who aspire to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through ‘taster’ foundation courses without having to pay expensive tuition fees. Increasingly, Australian universities are rethinking the delivery of their educational programs by making the foray into MOOCs to complement existing face-to-face courses. Though MOOCs are still in their experimental phase, they are emerging as a powerful contender for the future of higher education. Expect plenty of healthy debate from our accomplished educators and science communicators, featuring:
  • Professor Brian Schmidt AC – Nobel Laureate and Distinguished Professor of Astrophysics at ANU,
  • Dr Paul Francis – prize-winning educator, science communicator and astrophysics researcher,
  • Professor Ian Chubb AC – Australia’s Chief Scientist and former Vice-Chancellor at ANU,
  • Dr Iain Hay – Assistant Professor of Education in the Faculty of Education, Science, Technology and Mathematics at the University of Canberra and
  • Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington – Deputy Vice-Chancellor at ANU.

This panel discussion, moderated by freelance science journalist Rod Taylor, will be an opportunity for students, educators, lecturers and distance learners to hear local perspectives from Canberra-based academic leaders about the opportunities and challenges of MOOCs.”

It was a great opportunity to experience a live streamed event as a viewer, as well as observing this sort of event from a tech perspective.

We now have the technology to produce and deliver live video content over the internet. While we have the tools to be able to do this there is technical knowledge and expertise which can really enhance or hinder the success of the event.

The panel was using a combination of lapel microphones and hand held microphones. The lapel mics on two of the panel members were places on their left lapel, however the panel convener was on their right so they were facing away from their micrphones and it was difficult, and sometimes impossible to hear what they were saying. The audio had some issues early on and lost sound entirely for a time.

Rather than see this as a failure I found it very valuable to see this scenario and will keep it mind should we use this technology in the future. I also believe that it is better to have a go and to have it not work out perfectly rather than not do it at all. There were some really great questions from the live audience and responses from the panel members. One panel member was talking about digital natives and said that “this is their world,” referring to online spaces, internet and computer technology etc. and that really resonated with me. This demonstrated a genuine understanding of the audience for MOOCs, and that in order to respond to students expectations and needs and develop innovative ways to deliver content using new technologies we need to acknowledge and embrace this reality. The virtual/’real’ divide is not necessarily as far apart it is often imagined to be.

Teach with Smarthistory has created online courses including this one on Modern Art. Interestingly they also have information such as How to Watch and Listen Critically which gives tips and advice for students who are learning online, How To Cite Smarthistory, and Thoughts on Teaching & Images.

MoMA has been running a few MOOCs to try them out: https://www.coursera.org/#moma

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6 thoughts on “Live streaming events and learning online with MOOCs

  1. Gavin Tapp says:

    Hi Amelia,
    Thanks for your post on the video stream of the ‘Teachers to the Node” event. I was operating the stream on the night, and can tell you a little more about how it was operated (and the problems!). Forgive me if I go into too much detail – but its rare for people to show much of an interest in what happens behind the scenes 🙂

    Firstly the problems – there were four wireless lapel mics and two handheld wireless mics. These were setup as part of the normal equipment of the lecture theatre, which is managed by one of those crestron-style integrated systems where the volume is controlled from a touch panel at the front of the room. These integrated systems also do some sound processing such as compression (where soft sounds are made louder) and gating (where quiet sounds are muted). Unfortunately, there was some sort of interference in the system causing a buzz. This was was made worse by the compression which made the buzz louder – and the gating which made the loud buzz switch on and off in a noticeable fashion. The interference may have been made worse by local interference from other equipment or fading batteries in one or more of the lapel mics.

    Unfortunately, these problems weren’t apparent until the session commenced, and got worse over time. We didn’t have anyone onhand with experience with this sort of integrated system who could fix it on the fly. In the end, we improved things by turning off the lapel mics, and using the handheld mic instead. The other fall back that we had was to use the audio from the mic built into one of the cameras – but unfortunately, the converter this signal was travelling through was incorrectly configured from a previous job.

    Such is life – sometimes a series of options all fail, and you are left with something imperfect. Audio is often the part of the video process that is neglected, and we were guilty in this case. We provided the video stream as part of our ramp up of the Canberra Live website – so there is fairly basic level of help we provide. Just one person in this case.

    Having said that, we also brought a pair of Sony BRC-H900 cameras to the event that can be operated by a single person, while they also do vision switching and (in most cases) manage audio. It keeps the person quite busy – so when problems occur such as the one described above it can be a problem.

    Until April 2014, we are open to providing the same level of of support to events in Canberra that fit within a few criteria – people can get in touch via the email below or the ACT Government Information Office http://gio.act.gov.au

    • ameliabowan says:

      Hi Gavin, thank you for taking the time to give a more detailed behind-the-scenes account of the event from a technical perspective. I found it very interesting and valuable. A lot of work goes into producing these types of events which I can see more clearly now and it sounds ike the circumstances weren’t the easiest for you!

  2. lyndakelly61 says:

    Hi Gavin and thanks for your comment. We were just chatting then with admiration about you guys giving this a go – so we do appreciate that! I was wondering whether there was anywhere that there may be notes/transcripts of the conversation as #MOOCs are something we’re really interested in here??

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