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#HigherEdScope: A New Frontier in Digital Development

By Jon Ernstberger, Melissa A. Venable / April 2019

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About a year ago we decided to launch #HigherEdScope, a broadcast focused on higher education (sometimes called higher ed) topics and professional development. This broadcast series stretched the boundaries of our devices and skills, especially as we worked to create a live feed with both of us “on screen,” but from two different locations. We were already having regular conversations about higher ed and educational technology (i.e., ed tech) and wanted to build a community to improve upon what we already knew about tools for teaching and learning.

#HigherEdScope was inspired by several broadcasts on different platforms, including #3WEDU, Topcast, and Teaching in Higher Ed. However, alongside our fascination with social media, we were curious to try something that was at the cutting-edge of technology in higher education. We offered a broadcast via the Periscope platform—a livestreaming, mobile, social video app—which could be helpful and reach a new user base. Ultimately, the project provided many lessons in technology and collaboration for ourselves and others.

Why Periscope for Higher Ed?

Periscope is mobile, uses Twitter’s incredible search capabilities, allows for real-time interaction through text chat, and viewers can share positive feedback in the form of “hearts” given to the broadcast. When a broadcast is finished, the video recording becomes available for download. Instructors may use, edit, and re-publish that content for archival purposes or for continued pedagogical and student growth. Since the mobile device becomes their studio, the need for costly equipment is removed.

Why did we choose Periscope for this project? Periscope’s affiliation with Twitter was a plus, since we planned to promote the broadcast on this platform. We were already active with multiple Twitter accounts, each with a dedicated following that might provide a foundation for a #HigherEdScope audience. And while Facebook Live is thriving as a similar tool, it’s not the platform of a traditional, college student demographic. Approximately 75 percent of Periscope’s 10 million users span the ages of 16 and 34 [1]. Periscope was also a new tool for each of us, and one that offered the opportunity to step outside of our social media comfort zones.

Getting Started

We recognized the need for a name that was descriptive, easy to remember, and available as a username in Periscope and other social platforms. Coupled with serious brainstorming, we settled upon #HigherEdScope.This project also required us to think about creating a central account or landing page for #HigherEdScope so that followers could find out more and know what was coming next. We settled on a Google+ page that allowed for easy updates, announcements, and posting YouTube recordings as an archive. What followers you might ask? That was one of the biggest parts of the project, figuring out how to attract viewers. We developed a plan to concentrate on #HigherEdScope Twitter and Google+ accounts, sharing the responsibility for posting updates.

Some of our favorite podcasts used a gimmick or recurring hook, e.g., #3WEDU shares favorite wines and Topcast shares favorite coffees along with higher education conversation. In an attempt to add this strategy to #HigherEdScope we decided to feature a “stretch,” which happened as we pushed the envelope of our expertise, technology, and experience each month.

Finally, we then developed a workflow that began with selecting a topic, involved addressing logistics of each episode, and ended with posting a recording to YouTube.


After getting an initial working broadcast together, we established a procedure to prepare for each episode. This included creating a script (a shared Google Doc) that served as an outline for the episode. We ran dress rehearsals on Periscope that allowed us to flesh out each topic outline, determine transitions, and adjust our setups in both locations.

Production Challenges

Melissa Venable usually served as the primary host, controlling the Periscope feed and bringing Jon Ernstberger in remotely to be on screen, creating a picture-in-picture effect (see images below). Venable’s setup was comprised of the following:

  • MacBook Air and Facetime
  • television monitor with Apple TV
  • iPhone running Periscope App on a tripod with phone adaptor,
  • lamps to create sufficient lighting

Figure 1. Venable's hosting setup for #HigherEdScope.
[click to enlarge]

Ernstberger was regularly the co-host for which the set-up was less complex. He employed the following:

  • Macbook Pro with built-in camera for the Facetime call
  • Macbook Pro tethered to second monitor displaying notes/comments
  • iPad Pro running Periscope and using bluetooth keyboard to leave commentary, links, and respond to viewers’ comments

Figure 2. Ernstberger's co-host setup for #HigherEdscope.
[click to enlarge]

The teleconference-like nature of #HigherEdScope made the generation of good audio challenging. We had acoustics that were particular to our “studios.” Because we relied upon audio output from a monitor at the host’s location to share the audio of the co-host (via Facetime), we generated an additional layer of audio adjustment. In order to keep audio synchronized, only the Facetime audio was used with everything else completely muted. We also relied on wireless networks (and their connectivity rates) as well as the Facetime application to create the primary nuance of the broadcast (co-hosts). WiFi difficulties and Facetime errors generated roadblocks more than once.

Lessons Learned

From planning to execution, this experience provided lessons for us as we tried new things, adjusted our approach, and faced technical challenges.

One of the primary lessons we learned is that not every broadcast is a “win.” Sometimes it just doesn’t work, whether the topic is poorly chosen, there are unexpected technology issues, or the broadcast just doesn’t click for some reason. These create opportunities to reflect, evaluate, regroup, and plan for the next episode.

We learned that it is important to find a third-party that is both knowledgeable and willing to provide constructive feedback. We were fortunate to have a colleague who provided us with thorough notes for each of the first few episodes. These included encouragement as well as suggestions for improvement, which helped motivate us to keep going. We were too close to the project and needed an objective perspective to weigh in.

Last, but not least, we learned you can’t assume that because the process or technology or approach worked last time it will automatically work next time. We struggled with audio throughout the series, even when we had tested equipment and settings thoroughly. We learned to double check our setup before going live, every single time.

Future Higher Ed Uses of Periscope

As an educational tool, Periscope could be used to present not only course content, but also extend the learning environment. Activities might include videos posted by the instructor or expert speakers, for example, saving on travel costs. Virtual field trips are also an option that could be easily generated with the Periscope platform to reach current and prospective students from locations beyond the physical classroom or online course site. The platform is also suited for live question and answer sessions with students, as well as a way for instructors to quickly and widely respond to questions multiple students may be submitting around a specific topic.

As an alumni engagement tool, Periscope could be used to extend the reach of campus events. Everything from sports to lecture series could be broadcast [2]. This kind of activity may also help build relationships with parents and others in the college community.

As a professional development tool, faculty and staff development events (including conferences and workshops) may be easily facilitated via Periscope broadcasts. This format may also be a way to connect colleagues across campuses and institutions as a way to collaborate and share expertise.

As you embark on your own Periscope experient, remember that you don’t have to figure it all out by yourself. There are many skilled Periscope users. Explore community forums, such as #Peri10k, for general tips and ideas for solving problems [3].


[1] Buckle, C. 3 in 4 Periscope users are 16-34. GlobalWebIndex. Blog. (March 23, 2016).

[2] Leung, A. How schools and teachers can use Periscope. Blog. (May 11, 2015).

[3] Varbanova, K. 8 Periscope communities: Which one? Peri10k. Blog.

Additional Resources

Ruffalo Noel Levitz. 2015 E-Expectations Report.

Scott, R. The best way to use Periscope: 8 tips for broadcasters. Lean Labs. Blog. (August 21, 2015).

Siracusa, F. Periscope: Connecting classrooms to the world. Edutopia. (December 28, 2015).

Smith, C. 17 interesting Periscope statistics. DMR. Originally published December 21, 2016. Updated January 26, 2019.

About the Authors

Melissa A. Venable, Ph.D. is an Online Education Advisor at, a role that includes writing, research, and social media management. Her background includes experience as an instructional designer in industry and higher education. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction-Instructional Technology from the University of South Florida in 2007. Melissa currently teaches graduate-level instructional design and project management courses online at the University of South Florida and Saint Leo University.

Jon Ernstberger, Ph.D., is an Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and an Associate Professor of Mathematics at LaGrange College in LaGrange, GA. He earned his doctorate in Applied Mathematics with a Computational Concentration from NC State University in 2008 and has research interests focused on pedagogy, student success, and computational applications of mathematics. He has also served at LaGrange College as Director of Online Instruction and as Faculty Chair of Graduate and Adult Programs.

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