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What is the difference between livestreaming and webinars?

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It is fairly common now to want to share a session online, while it is happening. There are many different tools that let you do this, but in order to choose, you likely need to think about what type of session you are sharing - if you are hoping for an interactive session, with crisp content sharing (ex. slides) and easy set up, you are likely looking at a webinar. If you have a broadcast session, where you'd like to share video content to a wide audience (and you have the technical knowledge or a support team), then you might be looking at livestreaming.

This document will help you choose between a livestreaming event and a webinar.

Livestreaming is typically more of a broadcast. It often involves multiple inputs (more than one camera, display inputs, etc.) that requires more equipment and more set up. They require a team to set up, with preparation time, and require specialized hardware, including a switcher (if you intend to have multiple cameras). You can think of livestreaming more as a custom broadcast - you can imagine that broadcasting requires thoughtful preparation and expertise to set up. Other than a chat box and a question and answer function, they provide passive viewing. Attendees cannot share their cameras.

Webinar tools (Zoom and MS Teams Meetings are the institutionally supported and licensed webinars tools - to enable, see "How do I administer Zoom in my course? and Microsoft Teams Meetings"). They can be configured by an individual, as needed, and require no additional hardware (other than a microphone and a webcam). You can think of webinars as interactive online sessions that can be run (after a bit of training) by anyone. They are as interactive (raising hands, comments, sharing applications, break out rooms, etc.) as you'd like. Attendees can share their cameras.

Attribute Comparison of Livestreaming vs Webinars

Livestreaming Webinars
UofT Licensed Solution None; OBS and YouTube can be configured without charge but are not vetted by the institution. Zoom (also available via Quercus integration)
MS Teams Meetings (also available via Quercus integration)
Audience Usually public events Usually limited to a known (class, group, etc.) audience
Viewing  Passive Viewing (audience watches session only) Active Viewing (audience interacts with session)
Video Quality HD (up to 1080p) HD (up to 720p; video is often compressed by webinar tool)
Production Value High Medium
Set Up Time High Low
Lag Time 10-15s lag (delay) time No lag (delay) time
Number of Cameras Multiple Camera Input One Camera Input
Recording Options Yes Yes
Set Up Requires specialized equipment Requires application download, microphone and webcam
Internet Connectivity Requires a wired network connection Minimum: Wireless connection; wired connection preferred
Interactive Elements Chat box; Question & Answer Tool Status Indicator (away, etc.); Hand Raise; Attendance Tracking; Emotion Indicator; Chat box; Break out rooms; Application sharing; Multiple moderators/presenters; Attendee Camera sharing
ETO Software Set Up OBS and YouTube Zoom; MS Teams Meetings

Learn more about supported webinar tools by reviewing the guide: Which webinar tool should I use (and when)?

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