Twitch teaching tools: UI professors employ popular streaming platforms for class

Say goodbye to Zoom and hello to Twitch and Vimeo. These streaming platforms are being used by University of Iowa professors to deliver education in new, fun ways.


Nathan Charles

A stream of an online lecture produced by Lecturer and Filmmaking Nellie Kluz is seen on Twitch.

Tatiana Plowman, Arts Reporter

For a year, many University of Iowa professors have taught their classes online instead of in person. Zoom continues to be the most frequently used service for virtual instruction, with the UI logging 2,457,091 meeting minutes in the first week of the fall 2020 semester, but some professors have chosen other platforms.

Some professors have recorded videos on Panopto, known on campus as UI Capture, or YouTube, and uploaded them to their specific ICON courses. But there are now other streaming and recording services professors use in the classroom.

As a UI film professor, Nellie Kluz wanted to make sure her students could learn their material through the best virtual format possible. Learning the art of film requires watching other filmmakers work and how they apply specific concepts in their pieces. She hosts her discussion sections through Zoom, but she didn’t want to deliver lectures over the clunky platform.

For this semester, Kluz is teaching Modes of Film & Video Production, Film Festival, and Business of Film.

After seeing the nonprofit film organization UnionDocs start streaming content for its viewers through Twitch, a popular livestreaming site, Kluz knew that was how she wanted to deliver lectures.

“I was looking for a platform that would allow for strong audio and visual quality to be displayed,” Kluz said. “It has extremely good quality and easy-to-use features.”

For her first semester of virtual teaching last spring, Kluz uploaded YouTube videos to ICON. She quickly learned she didn’t like that method because she couldn’t connect with her students. She also noticed that the film clips she used for examples became pixelated and distorted when she uploaded them to the platform. Kluz said she can share clips easily and at their highest quality through Twitch.

RELATED: UI spent hundreds of thousands to upgrade Zoom, other online learning software.

Belle Wickman, a freshman double majoring in cinema and art, is enrolled in Kluz’s Modes of Film and Video Production course. The class is Wickman’s only course that uses a platform other than Zoom.

“Learning through Twitch is really nice because we do watch a lot of video examples,” Wickman said. “The chat feature through ICON allows for everyone to also voice their thoughts without interrupting compared to Zoom where everyone usually is.”

Twitch is a public streaming service, meaning that anyone around the world can watch the content. One of Kluz’s video lectures once reached over 2,000 viewers, with only 40 of them being her students. Many of these outside viewers showed interest in the topic, but Kluz never engaged with the chat feature. Instead, she uses the chat feature on ICON to communicate directly with her students in real time to talk about the content and ask questions.

UI film professor Christopher Goetz uploads his weekly lecture videos asynchronously on ICON for his course titled Video Games and Identity. After encountering multiple internet issues with Zoom, he searched for a different platform to educate his students. Because of his familiarity with Vimeo, a livestreaming and uploading video platform, he decided to use the service.

“While these lectures can be watched asynchronously, I do host a Zoom session during the assigned time so if a student needs to drop in, they can ask a question,” Goetz said. “The students haven’t had any problems with the Vimeo videos either.”

While there are many benefits to these online platforms, both professors said they are hoping for the connections that are created in the classroom again.

“People have often associated Twitch with only being a video gaming platform, so it appears to be informal or a bit more playful,” Kluz said. “However, the platform can be used in a lot of other ways that are still being discovered each day.”