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Video Conferencing vs Live Streaming: What’s Best for Distance Learning?

Video conferencing and live streaming have been front and center in education, especially in recent months. While both of these distance learning solutions offer superb advantages they aren’t always equal to one another. For every class, student, or teacher there will be specific advantages and disadvantages. 

Continue reading to find out more about video conferencing versus live streaming in education.

When deciding how to deliver a virtual lesson or plan for distance learning the first tools that are likely to cross your mind are video conferencing tools. These are very popular collaborative tools that have proven themselves as useful in a business environment. And as you dig deeper you might be wondering the differences of video conferencing vs live streaming.

However, before you take these tools and apply them to online education it is worth asking yourself if you have ever considered live streaming. Whether you are a student or an educator, it is clear that live streaming is fast becoming a popular teaching tool. The only question that remains, is which teaching tool is right for your classroom and your students? Let’s take a look at some of the advantages, disadvantages, and differences between video conferencing and live streaming.

Still new to distance learning? Check this out: What Is Distance Learning? And Why Is It So Important?

The Benefits of Video Communications

In general, there is quite a bit of overlap when it comes to the advantages that live streaming and video conferencing bring to education. For example the ability to reach students in remote locations or those who aren’t lucky enough to have access to the traditional classroom. It also offers the convenience of access, so whether you are stuck at home or stuck in traffic you won’t have to worry about making up or missing a lesson. Just so long as you have a decent internet connection that is. 

Cutting Cost

Both live streaming and video conferencing help save schools and students time and money. Most students and teachers already possess everything they need for video communications laptops or smartphones. So at the end of the day while schools are able to save money on space and school supplies students are able to save time and money on costs such as transportation.

It is important to manage the technology gap, however, especially for remote learning.

Bringing In the Experts

Another commodity that video conferencing and live streaming bring to the classroom is expertise. This is especially true for isolated school environments where certain professionals might be hard to come by. Let’s say you are a principle looking for a suitable french teacher for your rural school. While at one time this may have seemed a daunting task, access to professional teachers is now relatively easy with tools like video conferencing and live streaming.

Information at Your Fingertips

Imagine you are a science teacher but are now able to invite a specialist within a specific field for a Q&A or to give a small presentation. Perhaps your in an area with no access to impressive museums or zoos but with live streaming, you are able to show your classroom inside well renowned national zoos. Suddenly your teaching material has increased by ten-fold.

Benefits of Video Conferencing

When Is Video Conferencing Best?

Education is about more than just lessons. It’s also about the collaboration between peers and effective communication with teachers. Video conferencing is ideal for collaboration in distance learning. Its features are ideal for quick, clear communications with a small group of people. 

Take a look at these benefits of video conferencing to see if this is the best solution for your lessons.

Two-Way Communication

Video conferencing works by connecting two or more computers for direct communication. This allows for multiple people to share audio and video chats freely and in a more natural manner. Of course, it also allows features that aren’t available in live conversations, including the ability to turn off the camera or mute the microphone. 

But also like a real conversation, there is an upper limit to how many people can participate. In fact, anything more than 6 to 10 people very quickly gets messy. 

Multiple Screen Sharing

Since much of the work we do these days is digital, it can be very helpful to share one’s screen. This is especially true for academic tasks that require processing data or media. And while live streaming allows the teacher to share their screen, one of video conferencing’s biggest advantages is student’s ability to share their screen. This means that students can collaborate with peers or get extra guidance from the instructor. 

But again, this isn’t always necessary. And in large groups, it can get very distracting. So this is also a feature reserved for group work or online office hours.

Agility On-Demand

Video conferencing is a very agile communication tool. It’s as quick and easy as a phone call or text message to just jump on a video chat, chat and communicate as necessary, and then go on your way. This makes it great for asking – or answering – quick questions among just a few students who need it. 

And while quality can drop significantly, it’s also possible to join a group video chat on mobile devices. Be ready to chew up a lot of mobile data, but it is an easy way to open up communications wherever you are.

Benefits of Live Streaming

When Is Live Streaming Best?

Live streaming is a relative newcomer in the remote learning world. Popularized with media influencer – especially in the gaming industry – live streaming has demonstrated an incredible ability to share live video content to a broad audience. This medium is an ideal choice for teachers to deliver lectures and content to large and spread-out groups.

Check out these benefits of live streaming and see if they suit your needs.

Reach a Larger Audience

While the smaller groups of video conferencing is ideal for some, live streaming possesses a clear advantage in reaching more people at once. Live streaming enables you to reach hundreds, thousands, or more potential students quickly with just a few clicks. 

This can be especially beneficial if you are a teacher who is putting out lessons free of charge or if your goal is to simply get as much exposure as possible. But even if you’re teaching to a now-standard class of 40 students, live streaming is a much better option. 


Another benefit you will find with live streaming is instant sharing. Even after a lesson is done, it is normal for automatic recordings to be saved and for students to have the ability to revisit lessons that have passed. 

Related to accessibility is also the fact that since the live stream is hosted on a third-party service, no one connection can ruin the whole group communication. Each person connects individually – including the teacher – meaning that there are less lag and clearer video. 

Learning On the Go

Another big difference is the ability for students to view lessons while on the go. With live streaming offering a way to transmit information with less bandwidth it is easier to connect from a cellphone or mobile device, while video conferencing could be a greater strain on your computer. 

It is also typically expected that you are in a suitable perhaps quieter location suitable for video conferencing.  While live streaming it is easier to simply listen in, so it may be easier for students to view lesson materials while on the bus or while laying in bed. 

Video Conferencing vs Live Streaming: Which Is It?

In the end, the decision of video conferencing versus live streaming comes down to what you are using the tool to accomplish. 

Video conferencing is the best tool for collaboration. With its two-way communication, multiple screen sharing, and ease of setup, it’s ideal for small groups that need to communicate quickly and efficiently for classwork. However, its high bandwidth requirements and multiple channels of communication aren’t scalable to large groups of participants. 

Live streaming is the best tool for teaching. A live stream is much more scalable to large groups in terms of both accessibility and mobility thanks to streamlined formats and reduced data usage. However, live streaming is inherently limited in how participants can collaborate with the presenter and each other, so while it works very well for large-scale lectures and lessons, it doesn’t work very well for collaboration within smaller teams.

Ideally, an effective distance learning program would include elements of both video conferencing and live streaming at different points in the lesson. Neither tool is a magic bullet, but together they can help address many of the issues faced by remote learners.

Check out myViewBoard’s distance learning solutions to implement both video conferencing and live streaming. Or click here to learn more: What is distance learning?