Twitter is hoping to broadcast lectures and other academic content via its Periscope live video platform after a successful experiment at University College London.
A lecture by Daniel Miller, professor of anthropology at UCL, attracted about 2,700 views when it became the first lecture to be streamed under a partnership between Twitter and a higher education institution.
During the broadcast, accessible via mobile phones and tablets, viewers were able to connect to the lecture by posting messages or sending “hearts” to show appreciation.
Professor Miller told Times Higher Education that he was pleased to have shared his research with a wider audience.
But he conceded that his first Periscope lecture, from an MSc course in digital anthropology, had also highlighted some potential shortcomings of the platform in terms of the effect on students attending the lecture in person.
“This particular class, which is known to be reasonably interactive and vocal, was clearly intimidated by this kind of idea,” Professor Miller said. “I’m more used to going out to thousands of people – they are not – and I think they were not as interactive as one would have wanted.”
Professor Miller also said that there had been “some trolling” on the comments, and that the issue of how fee-paying students felt about course content being given away free needed to be addressed.
But he argued that, while this particular medium might be better suited to shorter clips, academics had a “clear responsibility” to reach out to audiences that might be interested in their work.
“If you have an audience that has already tended to coalesce around a particular platform, then you use that platform to reach that audience,” he said. “I want to get to a variety of audiences and, if Periscope is now established with an audience, then I would absolutely use it.”
Lewis Wiltshire, Twitter’s senior director of media partnerships, suggested that the social network would be keen to stream more lectures and other academic content.
“Periscope transports viewers to unique locations around the world to see compelling content in real time, which is why the app can be used as a highly engaging and creative educational tool,” he said. “We hope to continue developing a presence in the educational space, reaching new student and teacher audiences.”
Professor Miller’s lecture was based on the Why We Post research project, which saw nine UCL anthropologists spending 15 months living in eight communities around the world to explore how social media are impacting on daily lives.
The findings have also been made available through more than 100 films, a massive open online course, and 11 open access books.