Photo of Rhiannon Aarons, Glenn Zucman & Bree Olson sitting and smiling in front of a red brick building on the CSULB campus

Rhiannon Aarons, Glenn Zucman & Bree Olson at the University Theater at CSU Long Beach on the occasion of Olson’s visiting artist talk with Art110


The streaming mobile video app Periscope launched in Spring ’15. I spent some time watching and thinking about it over Summer ’15. And then in Fall ’15 I Periscoped every Tuesday class of my Tuesday-Thursday Art Appreciation class. I said that Thursdays, our days at the School of Art (SOA) Gallery Complex were required attendance. I said that Tuesdays were required attendance too, but that students could choose to attend F2F or via Periscope.

Student Adoption

The first few Tuesdays of the semester, almost everyone attended F2F. By the last few Tuesdays it had dramatically shifted and most students participated via Periscope. A big turning point was Week 6 of the semester. Two things happened this week: first it was our “Periscope” week, so in addition to the weekly ‘scopes I’d been doing, the students were trying their own this week, and second, our visiting artist was Periscope star Bree Olson. The students were very inspired by Olson’s talk, and then actually trying to broadcast with Periscope themselves made the platform much more tangible and accessible. Correspondingly, there was a significant shift from F2F to Periscope on Tuesday of Week 7.

Periscope isn’t Sustainable?

It was cool to offer this flexibility, but I ultimately felt that Periscope was not “sustainable.” Not “sustainable” in 2 different ways.

First, in the last weeks of the semester the F2F room had pretty spare attendance and the general-ed-class’ reluctance to participate was amplified. Since the class was in the largest room on the CSULB campus, the University Theatre, UT-108, with 378 seats, having only a fraction of the 127 enrolled in a 378 seat room doesn’t work so well. At that point it seemed like you either needed to make it all Periscope or all F2F. 35 students in a 378 seat room is a little ridiculous.

All-in-all I thought the Periscope experiment went very well, and I was happy we tried it. A lot of students thanked me for it! And many of them asked if I’d do it again in future semesters. While it had proven interesting, it didn’t feel like something I’d want to repeat. The 2nd “sustainability” issue I felt was the “slippery slope of virtual attendance.”

That semester I required students to “attend” the Periscope classes live. They could attend from their dorm room or anywhere else, but they still had to “attend” from 11am – 12:15pm every Tuesday. I wanted them to be able to use Periscope commenting so that we’d still have everyone “in class” and participating.

I think though, that if you continued to use Periscope and it moved from unexpected gift to standard course format that students would increasingly not want to be bound to that specific hour. I’m fairly certain they’d want to add time shifting to location shifiting of the class. So by not sustainable I mean that sooner or later, Periscope would sort of eat itself and want to become just YouTube.

Hybrid Class

The following semester, Spring ’16, we went back to a regular F2F class. Which brings us to now, Fall 2016. Between 2005-2016 I’ve taught 23 F2F sections of this course. Between 2013-2016 I’ve taught 4 100% Online sections of this course. And in 2 weeks I will, for the first time, be teaching 2 Hybrid sections of the course.

In one sense, the Hybrid class is the “Periscope Class” having followed its progression down the slippery slope to YouTube. Last year’s format had Tuesdays as Discussion days and Thursdays as Activity days. Now we’ll have Wednesday Activity days, and Discussion will be online discussion revolving around various videos I post. Asynchronous videos & discussion that don’t require a specific hour. It might not look exactly like last year’s Periscope Experiment, but I anticipate that it will be a richer and better version of that.

F2F is really great for Activities. But particularly for a Freshman, Non-major, General Ed course, 70% of whose students self-describe as introvert, I believe that Online Discussion tends to be richer and more robust than large room F2F discussion.

And maybe a little Periscope too?

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve used Periscope now. It was pretty interesting last fall, but as I’ve described, not something I felt compelled to continue. Now that I’ll be making so many short YouTubes for this hybrid class, it’s a thought to mix in the occasional Periscope. We’ll see.

Written by Glenn Zucman

BA, Psychology, University of Hawaii, MFA, Intermedia Art, Long Beach State. Host of American Public Media's "Border Patrol." Host of KBeach Radio's "Strange Angels." Interested in Identity Art that explores our Oracle-at-Delphi-like straddling of corporeal and virtual realms in our new media century. Civil rights in online space. 10 years...
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