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It seems like in the world of technology right now, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a free option for live streaming an event, or course even, to Twitter. This goes beyond our current university solution of Panopto, allowing you to stream live, or in the case of Periscope, to have users access the item after the fact too.

However, one of the drawbacks of traditional lecture capture tools is that they focus on the front of the room alone in terms of both audio and video. Want to hear what the student in the back of the room is asking on the video? You can repeat their question for the mic, I guess. Want to walk over to the board to write something interesting for your students? If it’s off camera, the online students will never see it. And you can just forget about walking freely around your room, or capturing a seminar-style class of discussion.

This is what Swivl attempts to address. Swivl uses a mobile device as your camera, and pans and tilts to follow a microphone paired to the device, so that whoever is speaking is both on camera, and has a good quality microphone in hand, so that everything is captured in a conversation. Check it out in the video below:

Neat right? And it’s actually fairly simple to setup and use (with a few caveats). How it works is this

  1. Prop your device on the Swivl base (make sure you have plenty of hard drive space to accommodate a large video file)
  2. Plug an audio cable from your device to the Swivl base
  3. Install the Swivl app (iOS, Android)
  4. Pair the included marker to your device as a Bluetooth microphone (standard Bluetooth issues apply – must stay within a roughly 30 ft range of your device)
  5. Launch Swivl app
  6. Record your class, and watch the Swivl pan and tilt (slowly, so as not to induce nausea in your web viewers)
  7. Watch as the Swivl app counts down how much more time it can record based on your hard drive space
  8. Save the video to your camera roll once you finish
  9. Upload video to your hosting solution of choice

They actually have a video hosting service as well, but who really wants to pay extra money for that, when you can grab the video off of your device and put it up in ShareStream for free? You can even use a DSLR instead of a tablet or smartphone for capture! Best of all: we have one for check out in the CII, so you don’t have to shell out $400 for experimental hardware!

So, let’s run down the pros and cons:


  • captures every participant in a conversation, not just the front of the room
  • works with a standard smart phone, so you don’t have to wait for hardware to be installed in your classroom
  • is fairly simple to set up
  • is free for you


  • less automatic than Panopto
  • limited by the amount of space on your device’s hard drive (you can check out one of ours if you like)
  • even a simple set up is more complicated than just pressing “record”
  • microphone has to be within 30 feet of the base
  • the base, since it’s connected to the device, doesn’t get a full 360º pan range

We just got this device added to our checkout system, so it’s as new to us as it is to you (now that you’ve read my little screed about it). We’ve played with it to see how much fun it can be, but we’re nowhere near pro (maybe pro-am?). But if it sounds like this could help in your course development efforts, stop by, we can show you what we know, and can help get you set up for using Swivl in your class.