Live Streaming: Students on the World Stage

StreamingYou’re walking into the lunch room and the principal corners you, 

“Can you meet me in my office after school?  We need to talk.” 

“Sure,” you say.   Hmm, wonder what this could be about?  We had a pretty good show this morning, the anchor did lose their place once or twice and there was a misspelling on one of the graphics, but that’s not so
 unusual you think.  Did any angry parents call?  Did we forget to announce the band’s bake sale?

After sweating it out all afternoon you walk in.  You see the principal, the head coach and your district’s public relations director.   “Whew,” you think, “I don’t think they would assemble this group to yell at me.”

“Mrs. Cronkite, thanks for coming,” your principal says.  “We have a project for you.  You and your students have been taping the football games, and doing a nice job, but we want to take it to that next level.  We want to broadcast to the world!”

“The world?” you answer.  “I don’t think we can afford a satellite truck, and what TV station is going to air our games?”

“No silly, we mean the internet,” the PR director chimes in.  “We have alumni all over the world, deployed in the military and plenty of older folks who just can’t make it to the games.  Also, what about all those kids at college?  They would love to watch our games.”

“And if you can get this to work, we could stream baseball, softball, graduation ... the possibilities are endless,” the coach says.  He wants you to know it’s not just about sports, even though you know it really is.

“No problem,” you say.  Plenty of other high schools are doing it.  It can’t be that hard to get this going and it will be a good showcase for my broadcasting program.  “I’m in, let’s do it,” you say as you walk out the room.  Rounding the corner, reality begins to set in and you start to think, “what now?”  You turn around, peek in the door and ask, “what’s the budget for this?”

“Don’t look at me,” the principal says turning to the coach, who turns to the PR director who turns to you and says, “Well, we have no idea how much this costs.  We thought you would know.” 

“OK, I’ll work on it,” you say as you make your second exit.

Well, fortunately Mrs. Cronkite, it’s not as hard as you might think, and there are quite a few options.   In this article I will explain how we muddled through it with a little trial-and-error and the help of our Center’s tech site coordinator, Brian Gough.  We will also explore some lower cost alternatives.

If you are just starting in the world of live streaming the options can be a little overwhelming.   In the education world, the biggest question is should you use a pay or free streaming service.  I searched through a year’s worth of email on the RTNDF email list to get a feel for what other High School broadcasters are using.  The most popular seemed to be iHigh.com and uStream.tv.   Both of these offer free streaming through their site, but they embed advertisements in your broadcast.   I have put links to these sites and a few others at the bottom of this article.

Both iHigh and uStream offer good quality at no cost for the streaming with the only “cost” being lack of flexibility.  This is where we decided, in our situation, we would like the ability to give our site a custom look with our own domain name.  We also have an Interactive Media course at our school and wanted to make this more than a broadcasting project and have them collaborate with my students to design and build a custom live streaming website.

What we ended up with after using two commercial services, which were very costly, was a SchoolTube Premium channel and two websites hosted on BlueHost.  Those links are listed at the bottom of the article.  This is where I asked Brian Gough to chime in and explain the technical side of our setup.

Notes For Setting Up A Streaming Service:
By: Brian Gough, Satellite Center Tech Site Coordinator and Interactive Media Facilitator (Teacher)

So you want to set up a streaming video website for your school, but don't know how to start. Well hopefully the following notes on how we have done this for the past 4 years will help you avoid the obstacles we have had to overcome in the past.

To begin, I would suggest purchasing a premium channel from SchoolTube. This premium channel allows you to set up a channel for your school with branding and allows you to stream live events through their website. It costs $995 per year, but if you want to begin streaming multiple events, it is by far the cheapest way to stream video in the school environment. Why do I say this? Three words, internet filter systems. All content is moderated by teachers and SchoolTube.  It is very easy to get this website unblocked in most school systems and thus reduce the headache of your services being blocked during the school year. This alone is worth the money.
 
In addition, there are no restrictions on how many people can view the live streaming event or how much bandwidth you can use (at least we have never approached this threshold...and we have tried). Most streaming services either charge you by how people are connecting to your "stream" or how much bandwidth you use. Other free services can work, but as mentioned before do not always make it though your internet filter and do not offer the phone support SchoolTube provides. This is a must during any live event, as we have found out first hand.

Now you have a choice. You can use the SchoolTube channel as the way viewers will experience the live stream, but we feel as though this page doesn't do enough to give the entire experience to the viewers. In my opinion, the only way you can get this is by providing them a website to watch the event on. You can use your existing website for this or create a new one. Since we always want to establish the "full experience” for each event, we always choose to create a website for each event.

We begin by purchasing a domain and hosting through a reputable company, such as Bluehost (who we have used for 5 years). When looking for a hosting company for your website, support and ease of use are everything. Bluehost, has the best support that I have come across and the administrative control panel is very easy to navigate.

In addition, Bluehost offers a service called “simplescripts” that is already installed on the server and is a feature in the control panel. This allows you to install content management systems (such as WordPress) on your domain, which you will use to create a website. We use WordPress, again, it’s ease of use and multitude of easy to use templates to get you started quickly.

The reason we use a hosting service and not the free version of WordPress is because the free version does not allow you to embed video code into your website and only allows you to link to a video. We want to embed the video on our site.

For WordPress templates we have had good luck with Elegant Themes, Woo Themes and Rocket Themes. Each has great support and forums to review for fixes to issues that will definitely come up at some point.  We joined the club for each company which entitles us to all templates the company creates now and in the future; a must to stay current in your website designs.

After the website is up, now it is time to embed the video code on the page (or article depending on how the site is set up).  Just go to your SchoolTube channel, copy the live streaming embed code and paste on the page of your newly developed site.

Voila….you have created a viewing experience for your audience!

====================

Thanks Brian.  Mrs. Cronkite will be pleased!


Links Mentioned In Article:

SchoolTube “Live Streaming Guide”
http://www2.schooltube.com/Educators/AboutST.aspx

iHigh Help
http://www.ihigh.com/ihigh101/article_50579.html

From RTNDF Email List - Recommendations From Teachers
http://www.youcastr.com/
http://www.livestream.com/
http://useducationtv.com/corp_index.html
http://www.ustream.tv/
http://www.ihigh.com/

Satellite Center’s Streaming Sites All SchoolTube Embed:
Football Battle On The River Site
http://www.battleontheriver.scppslive.com/

Non-Football Sports:
http://sports.scppslive.com/

Hahnville and Destrehan Graduation Websites:
http://hhs.scppslive.com/
http://dhs.scppslive.com/ 


Albert Dupont has been the Advanced TV Broadcasting Facilitator (Teacher) at the Satellite Center in Luling, Louisiana since its opening in 2005.  The Satellite Center is a “satellite” facility of Hahnville and Destrehan High Schools.  The schools are a part of the St. Charles Parish Public School System located near New Orleans.

Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Dupont was a news and sports videographer for WVUE-TV in New Orleans for twelve years and news producer at WAFB in Baton Rouge and KATC in Lafayette for five years.  As a sports photographer, Mr. Dupont was a field videographer at the New Orleans Saints games from 1994 to 2009.  He also was a videographer at two Superbowls and numerous college national championship games in a variety of sports. He is an Avid Certified Instructor in Media Composer 5.

Brian Gough has been the Interactive Media Facilitator (Teacher) at the Satellite Center in Luling, Louisiana since its opening in 2005.  The Satellite Center is a “satellite” facility of Hahnville and Destrehan High Schools.  The schools are a part of the St. Charles Parish Public School System located near New Orleans. 
 
Mr. Gough has worked as an educator or in the education field for 15 years. He has served as an educator of networking, web development, computer architecture, and science. In addition, Brian has served as Technology Coordinator for three schools, Systems Analyst for St. Charles Parish Public Schools and on the advisory board to create the Digital Media and Advanced TV Broadcasting courses at the Satellite Center. He currently serves as the St. Charles Parish Webmaster in addition to his duties as an educator.