HomeTechThe Role of Live Streaming Services in Education and Learning

The Role of Live Streaming Services in Education and Learning

Higher-end systems often possess good audio and video, with some enabling real-time or delayed two-way communication between students and lecturers. While this potentially mirrors the communication that occurs during face-to-face lectures and can be invaluable in distance education, it is often achieved at the expense of the abstraction and indexing features that are possible with pre-recorded content, reducing the overall accessibility of the material. Broadcasts using systems like these are frequently not stored for any great length of time, limiting when students can view the content and detracting them from planning their own schedules around the live event. Such systems possess great potential for enhancing the live educational experience but can demand such a high opportunity cost from educators as to make them unattractive.

Currently, there are still some technical problems being faced by teachers and students using live streaming, resulting in an impediment to full exploitation of a system rich in potential for enriching the educational experience. Live streaming lecture systems range from those with simple webcams and video cameras to those using expensive telemedicine equipment. Issues with low-end systems include non-integrated or poorly integrated methods for presenting supplementary materials, such as slides, or inability to provide good quality audio or video. Audio and video quality are frequently sacrificed to maintain a small data footprint, partially due to the difficulty of providing high-bandwidth internet access in large university buildings with outdated network infrastructure.

Benefits of Live Streaming in Education

With live streaming services, students can interact in real time with their lecturer through online chat or other means. They can ask questions in real time when the lecture is delivered. This can also enable a wider understanding of the topic as other students might also ask questions that are on the minds of other students. This real-time interaction is also very suitable for private tutoring and small group discussions. This also enables distant learning students to not feel as if they are left behind compared to on-campus students.

The benefits of live streaming for educational purposes are to make education more accessible to students who are not able to go to traditional schools. For instance, people with disabilities, students who live far away from schools, or even rural areas that find it hard to find good quality education. By using live streaming, this will enable students to access knowledge from schools and universities in urban areas. This will balance education accessibility between urban and rural areas. This will help people who can’t go to schools or have difficulties gaining knowledge.

Increased Access to Education

In traditional education, one of the important aspects that is often overlooked is access to education itself. Not everyone in the world has the same opportunity to get access to education. It could be caused by geographic location, societal status, or even physical problems. Education is demanded to be universal and must be accessible for everyone. Here is where modern distance education has found a way in the form of online learning. With live streaming technology, for example, a live video broadcast of a lecturer in the class to students in a remote location could be a valuable tool to improve access to higher education. Students living in rural areas and small towns can participate in higher learning opportunities without the need to go to the big city. People with physical disabilities who in the past may not have been possible to get higher education can now get access without leaving home. Live streaming can also reach a larger audience, a phenomenon which is also known as Mass Open Online Course (MOOC). An event when a professional made a live video broadcast of a class that can be attended by thousands of participants anywhere in the world. This is an actual portrayal of “bringing the classroom to home”. With today’s rapidly advancing internet technology, live streaming could be as simple as a one-click of a program, becoming an alternative way of education for many people.

2.2. Real-Time Interaction and Collaboration

Real-time interaction and collaboration among the students and between the students and the instructors is an important characteristic of any educational activity. This is also a feature which distinguishes live streaming lectures from recorded ones. Live streaming sessions provide a platform where students can ask questions and clarify their doubts instantly. Live chat, discussion forums, asking questions via a microphone or a video are some of the ways in which students can interact with the instructors during a live streaming session. Increased interaction between students and instructors leads to better understanding of the concepts being taught. Instructors can get real-time feedback about the students’ understanding by asking questions and students’ response to the questions. Real-time interaction is also beneficial in long-distance education where there is a lack of face-to-face contact between students and the instructors. Live streaming also allows a virtual classroom environment for distance education students where they can interact with each other as well as with the instructor. Group discussions or activities are possible between the students at the same time. This type of interaction is not possible in recorded video lectures. Interaction between the students themselves is also an important learning tool. For a student to explain a concept to his peer requires a better understanding of the concept. Peers can also help each other in problem-solving and it is easier and more efficient if help is available immediately during a live session.

Flexibility in Learning

The same can be said for students in transitional living situations such as apartment residents or students who must relocate for seasonal jobs. University students often travel for academic programs or co-op placements with mixed results in transferring credits or maintaining progress toward their degrees. Global accessibility would allow these students a more continuous education during times of travel with less negative impact toward time to completion.

Another important aspect of flexibility for adult learners is that of geographical flexibility. The ability of students to access coursework from any location with an internet connection can create global opportunities for education. Adults who are trying to re-enter academia or continue education usually have numerous financial obligations. This forces many adults into undesirable work and/or living situations as they may have to sacrifice better employment to work more hours. An adult learner based in a rural area can spend countless hours driving each week just to keep up with the coursework provided in an urban area. The ability to access course materials from home can free a significant amount of time that may be applied toward educational activities.

Flexibility is essential for adult learners who may have work and family obligations. The capacity for live streaming services to provide archived lectures and materials for future review can help these learners during the times they are able to dedicate back to their education and at their own pace. When these students are able to set their own objectives and learn at their own pace, they are more likely to succeed. The ability to pause, rewind, and review streamed content is not typically available in lecture settings.

Challenges and Considerations

Technical Requirements and Infrastructure Live streaming requires a significant amount of technical hardware and software which may not be available in all education institutions. The minimum requirements are a video camera or web camera, microphone, an encoder, and access to a server that hosts the streaming application, i.e., live streaming service. High-quality audio and video are achieved using digital or analog sources which are then encoded into a digital format such as Windows Media, Real Media, or MP3. Software encoders are generally standalone audio and video encoding tools that are installed on a computer. The encoded source is then sent to a streaming server that is configured to receive it and broadcast it on the internet. This server has to be reliable and have the capacity to handle many concurrent broadcasts. This could put considerable strain on an institution’s network and access links. High demand for bandwidth can result in a poor quality stream or, in extreme cases, cause network failure. Live streaming is thus not guaranteed to have good results due to the lack of resources compared to other sectors like corporations who also use the same technology.

Many critical considerations confront educators and administrators who are contemplating the implementation of live streaming in education. These considerations are focused around the technical requirements and infrastructure that is necessary to support live streaming, as well as the privacy and security concerns with respect to the access, control, and dissemination of educational material.

Technical Requirements and Infrastructure

Finally, on the topic of bandwidth, it is also worth noting that schools and universities may have rural or overseas students who wish to partake in live streaming. Given that internet connections in these areas are often of a lower standard, it is clear that many educational establishments may face difficulty in providing an equal level of service to all students.

Higher education establishments are thus faced with assessing their current level of bandwidth and comparing it against what they consider the standard for quality online learning, which is generally accepted as high-resolution video with stereo audio at a rate of around 1.5 Mbps. If a disparity exists between the two, it may become necessary to invest in higher bandwidth capabilities. This investment may also call for integration of multicast protocols, which, although not essential, can effectively reduce server and bandwidth loads when streaming to multiple recipients.

One study highlighted the variability in required bandwidth due to factors such as bit rate of the stream, resolution of the video, and complexity of the content. They found that streaming a video at 10 frames per second with no audio could require as low as 50 kbps, while a video at 30 frames per second with stereo audio could require as much as 2 Mbps.

When considering the viability of employing live streaming, it is important to address a number of technical difficulties. Among the most frequently brought up is bandwidth. It is well recognized that live streaming is a significant strain on bandwidth. Despite this, it is hard to quantify what level of bandwidth is required for fluent streaming.

Privacy and Security Concerns

An issue of more recent nod has been video site user accounts set up by students to communicate and to access streamed class resources. Depending on measures taken with video access restrictions, there can be students who view information from fellow students not in the same class. A direct example being an exchange student and the student’s regular classroom peers. Measures may need to be taken by instructors to recommend that all students view information directly from the source.

Live streaming can also bring security concerns of its own, especially if available streaming events are intended for closed audiences. An event that was genuinely supposed to be available only to students who voluntarily wanted to attend can still potentially have student-specific information. If the event is streamed to a general location such as that of the instructor’s home, now streamed student-specific information can be accessed by those who it was not intended for, which bears resemblances to the previously mentioned privacy concerns. Redefining of educational privacy policies will likely be needed to distinguish streamed events and ordinary ones to respond to these issues.

It is a fact that unsecured computers contain a lot of information on the people who access them. Privacy can be breached without going to great efforts. The work on the computer can tell a great deal about a person. If the computer is accessed by others, it can be hard to prove that the cause of certain personal problems were not due to accessed information. The invasiveness of others knowing what is done on one’s computer can also cause uneasiness, and the fact that there may now be additional unidentifiable persons present in it will only lead to more questioning and concern for the individual.

Future Implications and Potential Developments

Although VR is a costly investment at the moment, it is said that it can be beneficial if implemented together with live streaming. VR has the potential to become the next big platform after mobile for live streaming. Imagine a scenario where students can watch a live recorded surgery in a virtual reality world and each of them has a tablet for live streaming to ask the surgeon if there are any questions. It is much cheaper than flying an entire class to a hospital and can reduce the risk of contamination.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), both are said to be the future of learning tools. AR and VR take the classroom from the school and project it into a digital self-contained environment developed by students. It allows the students to interact with 3D models and objects on a certain topic. Moreover, it’s a more convenient method of learning as there is a lesser amount of things to carry; everything can be done through the laptop. Teachers can also guide students in a VR world. They can use the VR world to demonstrate how things were at a certain timeline in history or simply to dissect a frog, which does not require an actual frog. On the other hand, AR is all about implementing 3D models in the real world. For instance, in biology, we can use AR to implement 3D models of the human body and show the functions of each part by interacting with it. It is said that by using AR and VR, it’s easier to understand complicated systems and mechanisms. For example, AR models can be used to simulate the dissection of complex organs and VR can be used to simulate the mechanisms of automotive engines built in cars.

Integration of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Another study has been conducted using High Fidelity, a VR platform. The experiment simulated working in a hotel. The results were promising with high ratings of presence and immersion by participants and results being good enough to use in a real workplace. This shows that VR and AR can also be used in vocational education.

An area of concern is the cost of the devices and development. Currently the cost of the devices is high, therefore providing quality education is a cost the education sector cannot yet afford. Once costs are lowered and devices become more affordable, students from all over the world will have an opportunity to experience a better quality of education. Lowering the cost of development is also essential for third world countries who can benefit greatly from stimulating learning environments but cannot afford high-end devices and development.

Developments in technology are in constant progression. By the time this is read, there will be another advancement in technology. Many believe that virtual reality and augmented reality will be the next big thing. This is apparent by Facebook’s £1.2 billion purchase of Oculus Rift, a virtual reality company. These two technologies are a more sophisticated form of simulations and overlays. They immerse the user in a 3D environment, using a headset for virtual reality and provide an enhanced experience of the real world with overlays for augmented reality. This is done with the use of 3D models and environments that are interactive. An example of its uses in surgery, simulations have come a long way in medical education providing students a very close experience to the real thing, however it is still far from reality and can be quite costly. With VR and AR, students can have a fully immersive experience. A study of Microsoft’s HoloLens; an AR device, showed that 90% of information was retained by students when compared to other methods. This can be linked to dual coding theory. This theory explains that high quality verbal and visual information is processed better and thus, more likely to be retained.

Personalized Learning Experiences

Predicting future developments in live streaming services leads to the question of how the rising technology could benefit the future of education. To begin with, streaming services could lead to major developments in the way of providing personalized learning experiences for students. No two students are created equal, and in today’s era of information, the learning environment often shifts from a focus on teaching to a focus on testing. Students are taught a topic and then tested on it to see how well they retained the information. There is no real concern for the actual learning that takes place, just the final result. Oftentimes, this can result in many students being left behind. If the test scores are poor for a large number of students, it is considered to be a failure of the students, when it’s truly a failure of the system to teach effectively. Through the use of informative streaming services, educators can record their lessons and make them available to students to access as many times as needed. This allows the student to learn a subject at their own pace, and since the lectures are always available, it’s easy to backtrack and review previous material. Additional supplementary material such as PowerPoint presentations or links to outside sources can also be made available within the stream. This all helps to ensure a solid understanding of the topic being taught. Finally, a feature that would revolutionize education in the information era is the ability to interact with a teacher or tutor asynchronously. The ability to post a question on a particular topic and receive a response from the educator could clear up many issues for a student who is confused on a topic but wouldn’t necessarily communicate this in a typical classroom setting.

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