How to cope with 1000 teachers on Facebook Live!

Andrew Smith – The Open University

Short paper

While many describe an international skills shortage in network engineering professionals (Tech Partnership 2017) – there is an equally immediate deficit skill set amongst educators – creating a long term pressure point for higher education as well as industry.

Solving the problem of the skill set is commensurate with its position as a Cisco Networking Academy Support Centre for the Open University. Reaching a community of 64 educational establishments as well as part of a wider national a global community of network engineering practitioners. The team created a free distance learning course to teachers, covering the ‘introduction to networking’ course from the Cisco Networking Academy programme.

With enrolment announced Dec 2016 for commencement in Feb 2017 … numbers, far exceeded expectations, with a final total of 1130 signing up for the opportunity. Forcing the team to scrap notions of using traditional web conferencing for the proposed teaching sessions. Based on prior experience using Facebook Live (FBL) (Smith 2016) delivering concise social media mediated sessions.

Each weekly session, offered on a Monday evening focused on each of the topics being covered by the students (who are teachers). This formed a combination of screencasts, demonstrations, assessment preparation and remote practical activities.

The course ran from, Feb17 to June 17, operating as an xMOOC (Downes 2015). With 880 from the 1130 opting to engage directly with Facebook and the remaining number, via VLE embedded Facebook live streaming. Evidence from the participation statistics show a typical live audience ranging from 5 to 10% and over a period of 24 to 72 hours the number rising to close to the broad population of the associated Facebook page.

This session will explore the technical affordances (in terms of flexibility, availability and the opportunity to deliver remote practical experiences) of Facebook Live, the successes and lessons learned around the demands of a large cohort. As well as exploring the interaction data and an analysis of the impact in terms of student performance on the networking course.


[1] Tech Partnership, The. “Factsheets”. N.p., 2017. Web. 9 June 2017.

Smith, Andrew (2016). Periscope vs Facebook Live – it isn’t a grudge match. In: 2016 Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference (SocMedHE16), 16th December 2016, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, England.

Downes, S. From MOOC to Personal Learning

Oct 05, 2015. Revista FGV Online, Year 5, Number 1 69-77, Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV)


Facebook; Facebook Live; Social Media; teacher engagement; livestreaming

Relation to the theme

  • reaching and engaging different groups of learners
  • innovative ways of meeting learning outcomes and enabling learning gain
  • building staff and student digital capability and confidence
  • scaling up excellence for broader impact