Wake Forest University's School of Divinity - Building Community and Engagement Through Live Streaming with Assistant Dean, Mark Batten Q&A

Thu, Sep 28, 2017

University live streaming with Wake Forest University - an interview with Assistant Dean Mark Batten

We often hear about how and why schools should adopt live streaming into their sports games, assemblies, graduations etc., but the video industry often neglects one particularly large sector of schools that benefits greatly from streaming: higher education!

Lectures, sporting events, concerts, campus events; universities have copious opportunities for live streaming that are wholly different from what K-12 schools have. These broadcasts ultimately translate into better engagement with students, faculty, parents and the college community.

The School of Divinity at Wake Forest University (a nationally ranked Top 30 university by US News and World Report) has been live streaming since early 2016. We recently sat down with the Assistant Dean of Admissions and Strategic Communications at the School of Divinity, Mark Batten, to ask him about the school’s decision to implement live streaming and how the VidiU Pro allows the school to stream high quality video with confidence.

Could you tell me a bit about the university’s School of Divinity?

The School of Divinity, a graduate school situated within a top 30 national University, is a dynamic theological learning community that prepares students to engage their minds and hearts in classrooms that are connected to faith communities and the world. Offering the Master of Divinity degree and several joint degrees in law, bioethics, counseling, education, and sustainability, and a dual degree pathway in business, our curriculum continually evolves to equip students for ministry in an ever-changing world. With a set of required courses across theological disciplines, faculty and students alike are able to thrive in an innovative environment where discovering, knowing, and transforming are forever connected to thinking, feeling, and doing.

Wingate Hall Wake Forest University
Wingate Hall, Wake Forest University

With a mission to educate creative and expressive religious leaders who are committed to justice, reconciliation and compassion, our fundamental promise comes down to inviting people of faith to join us on a journey to discover how they can lead and effect positive change in communities, ministries, and congregations.

Grounded by the Wake Forest University motto, Pro Humanitate, our task as people and communities of faith is to be aware and appreciative of the things that bring people together, like kindness, compassion, and caring for the marginalized and the stranger. Declaring that we want to live in a just society where all humans flourish is also to embody seeing, serving, loving, and being with those who are culturally different, as well as to communicate appropriately. We invite students to bring their religious convictions and what inspires them to this community, and join others who are seeking clarity about how we are to embody God’s love for the world.

Wake Forest is one of only five ecumenical divinity schools that are part of U.S. News & World Report’s Top 30 National Universities. The others: Harvard, Yale, University of Chicago and Vanderbilt.

And a bit about your role as Assistant Dean of Admissions?

I lead our communications positioning strategy as we work to attract one of the most diverse student bodies in theological education. With the aid of my leadership and creative efforts we have seen a 23% increase in applications, 25% increase in size of student body, and 35% increase in ethnic minority representation among the student body.

I have the opportunity to leverage social, print, and digital technologies to connect a variety of populations to the school in creative, new, and compelling ways. My work also expands beyond communications and PR into the admissions office where I manage our CRM, which we use to track our inquiry pool of interested students and applicants, and to increase our effectiveness in regards to enrollment and providing personal attention to our inquiries and applicants.

What made the School decide to go the live streaming route?

Wake Forest School of Divinity Assistant Dean Mark Batten
School of Divinity students in lecture.

Our alumni base now totals 461 graduates - our first graduating class was in 2002. We have also expanded our lifelong and community learning commitments. Live streaming provides us the opportunity to:

1. Engage attendees who might not otherwise be able to travel to Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

2. Increase future physical attendance at events; research has shown that those who attend a live stream are likely to attend a similar event in person in the future.

3. Increase interactions with the event and our learning community by live streaming and simulcasting across services - we utilize Livestream and Facebook - those who engage the live stream live or after the fact by interacting with it being posted are likely to share across their social media circles, which increases exposure to the topics our live streams address alongside of exposure for the school. This will have trickle down effects on increasing our visibility for enrollment but also for our community engagement and learning programs. The events can also serve as conversation starters among friends, study groups, colleagues, and leaders.

4. Live streams inherently create virtual communities given that platforms like Livestream and Facebook have the capability for live chat and interaction. Additionally, it can be a way for those joining from afar to engage Q&As at events. We’ve done this via Twitter before at physical events, having those in attendance tweet their questions (giving voice to those who are not always comfortable speaking up in front of an audience).

5. Archiving - live streaming provides us a recording of the event that can be watched over and over again. It can also be linked to by the speaker, sponsoring organizations, and the like.

6. Though some investment up front - camera, encoder, and outfitting certain spaces to be more live stream friendly - live streaming provides a relatively inexpensive way for us to share what we deem as valuable information.

How has the VidiU Pro helped with the live streaming efforts?

Teradek VidiU Pro in college and church streaming
VidiU Pro live streams HD video directly to all major online platforms.

The VidiU Pro has provided us an avenue to live stream easily and with confidence. The VidiU app is a lifesaver when it comes to setting up the encoder. Instead of going through the menu on the encoder device you can efficiently update which service you want to live stream to, video and audio settings, and much more.

How do you think live streaming can impact the education world?

Beautiful campus with shot of Wingate Hall at Wake Forest University.

Aside from live streaming making information available that would otherwise not be accessible by some, it brings learning communities together. As alumni go out across the nation and world to fulfill their vocational aspirations, live streaming provides them an opportunity to come back home, to sit around a table for conversation, to relive, remember, and engage their professional formation.

Live streaming from our type of setting invites diverse groups of people to join together and be inspired for service, for good, Pro Humanitate (“for humanity,” our University motto). Because our community is deeply involved in community engagement and work like addressing poverty, child welfare, LGBTQ advocacy, chaplaincy, palliative care, community-supported agriculture, racial justice work, community organizing, refugee resettlement, prisoner reentry, disability accommodation, and advocacy for victims of sexual assault, the events we live stream address the continuation and necessity of our collective work.

We believe our live streams will help empower others to live out their visions and dreams for a better world.

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