The rapid rise of livestream content development and consumption has been nothing short of remarkable. According to Ceci (2022), 126.7 million users in the United States viewed livestreaming content on mobile devices in 2019; the same year, 23 percent of Americans livestreamed content themselves. In other words, a vast segment of the US population finds livestream content valuable to both consume and create. Not surprisingly, Gen Z students are heavy livestream users (Huang, 2022). Considering the sheer popularity of livestreaming platforms, especially among those of traditional college age, educators should pay attention to these phenomena and even try to garner a few teaching strategies that may align with livestream content.
Recently, the three of us conducted a study measuring motivations, information behaviors, and perceived credibility differences between livestreaming video and prerecorded videos on social media (Rubenking et al., 2023). Without digging too deeply into the results, we found, first, that our 369 participants—all aged 18–24—generally consumed non-live content more than live videos when they were targeting information-based content. Second, participants found edited content to be more credible than live content. Third, community and social interaction were not significant factors when participants chose to consume information live. From a teaching and learning perspective, what can we glean from these results?
Flexibility (still) reigns
During the COVID-19 pandemic, synchronous and HyFlex environments saw a renaissance (Mentzer & Mohandas, 2021). The issues surrounding these modalities’ implementation are well documented (Strawser, 2022), and as we continue to recover, it is important to remember that asynchronous learning can still achieve learning goals and in fact may be preferable for its flexibility and potential to communicate content in different ways (through visuals, editing, and other means).
Craving credible content
Not surprisingly, participants in our study appreciated non-live content that incorporated visuals or different ways to share information. This potentially entails some editing. While it may not be realistic for instructors to become world renowned video editors, having basic editing skills is appropriate for today’s classroom (Oranburg, 2020). (See this piece for tips on creating more engaging and interactive videos.) The fundamental issue here is that students want content that looks and feels credible. In many ways this is encouraging. The fact that students recognize differences between content that may or may not be trustworthy is a good sign that some semblance of information literacy is taking root.
Social is social anywhere
Our respondents indicated that the live social community was not a particularly strong selling point to join a livestreaming community. Instructors would do well to remember that social can be social anywhere and that the synchronous elements of community may not be important enough for students to opt in to live elements. Yet we know the importance of social learning (Chuang, 2021), and we also know that live streamers can teach us how to integrate with a live audience if we want to be engaging (Gonzales & Heck, 2020). The important takeaway here is to give students an opportunity to learn in a community when you can.
Livestream teaching tips
Our findings might indicate that livestream content preferences are still a future desire of our students, not a present demand. But the overwhelming number of livestream participants in other areas seems to indicate that, at the very least, our students may appreciate the ability to watch their instructor work out problems in real time. Here are a few quick tips for teaching using livestreams:
- There are several platforms for launching live content. From a cost and user perspective, YouTube is still the most popular. Our institution offers instructors the ability to use Panopto, a resource that has some livestreaming capabilities and offers easy to use or create interactive video possibilities. LinkedIn, Twitch, Restream, and countless others are also options if you are interested in creating and distributing live content.
- Consider different assignment possibilities that can integrate with livestreaming. These assignments can either be creation based, where students develop their own livestream content, or comment based, where they respond to different livestream elements.
- Livestream content has significant advantages, including the social community. While our respondents did indicate that the live versus non-live social context is not as important, we recognize that our students still want social and communal instruction. Instructors would be wise though to limit their communities and establish private social environments when livestreaming content.
- Students appreciate the flexibility that online content affords. While livestreaming is not as flexible as asynchronous material, the ability to view from anywhere is still important. Thankfully, livestreaming can also be a flexible modality for instructors as well. Assuming you have adequate lighting and audio capabilities, you can stream from anywhere (theoretically). And if you want to be even more prepared and align with our respondents’ request for edited content, most platforms allow you to integrate non-live content into livestreams to help with engagement.
- Repurpose live content when possible. A 30-minute livestream may become several finely tuned videos for an asynchronous course, a video series for working professionals, or potentially even a virtual conference presentation. As you livestream, think about how you can become a public scholar with this created content.
Livestreaming is yet another way to reach students. As such, when we consider a livestreaming content shift, we should keep in mind student needs and the end goal, student learning. Livestreaming can be a semiflexible, social, and credible means to teach a generation of students clamoring for relevant content. Be purposeful and intentional but not fearful.
Ceci, L. (2022). Number of live video viewers in the United States from 2019 to 2014. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1284059/usa-live-video-viewership
Chuang, S. (2021). The applications of constructivist learning theory and social learning theory on adult continuous development. Performance Improvement, 60(3), 6–14. https://doi.org/10.1002/pfi.21963
Gonzales, E. B., & Heck, A. J. (2020, October 7). Managing the chat in online teaching: What we can learn from live streamers. Faculty Focus. https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/online-course-delivery-and-instruction/managing-the-chat-in-online-teaching-what-we-can-learn-from-live-streamers
Huang, K. (2022, September 16). For Gen Z, TikTok is the new search engine. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/16/technology/gen-z-tiktok-search-engine.html
Mentzer, N., & Mohandas, L. (2021). Student experiences in an interactive synchronous HyFlex design thinking course during COVID-19. Interactive Learning Environments. https://doi.org/10.1080/10494820.2022.2124423
Rubenking, B., & Strawser, M. G. (2023). Learning from a live stream: Differences in motivations, psychological needs, perceived learning, and information behaviors across live streaming and nonlive social media video viewing. Technology, Mind, and Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1037/tmb0000115
Strawser, M. G. (Ed.). (2022). Higher education implications for teaching and learning during COVID-19. Lexington Books.
Oranburg, S. (2020, March 13). Distance education in the time of coronavirus: Quick and easy strategies for professors. Duquesne University School of Law Research Paper No. 2020-02. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3553911
Perrone, V. (1994). How to engage students in learning. Educational Leadership, 51, 11–13. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ477517
Michael G. Strawser, PhD, and Bridget Rubenking, PhD, are associate professors and Erica Kight, PhD, is an associate lecturer in the Nicholson School of Communication and Media at the University of Central Florida.