YouTube channels the latest trend in college, government outreach

In addition to the numerous mailings, brochures and Web site links, colleges and universities now have a new way to reach current and prospective students and faculty -- channels on YouTube.

Last month, Old Dominion University became one the latest schools, and the first in Virginia, to establish a YouTube channel. According to ODU public relations specialist Lisa Snowdy?, YouTube channels are becoming a popular way for colleges and universities to reach out to students and faculty members.

"Because of the nature of sites like YouTube, video content is just going to become more and more prevalent, and something students are going to use as a tool," Snowdy said. "I think that, for any university, it would behoove them to have a presence there."

A number of other schools have also created YouTube channels, including the University of California-Berkeley, Duke University and the University of Southern California.

A perusal of these Web sites reveals videos featuring class lectures, speakers, faculty interviews and other campus-related videos.

The ODU channel currently provides an overview of the campus, including virtual tours and highlighted faculty members, Snowdy said. ODU hopes to digitize course material and get full course content onto the channel in the near future, she added.

Colleges and universities are not the only ones exploring the possibilities of reaching out online. ODU's channel was created in conjunction with a larger technology initiative for the Virginia state government. Last April, the commonwealth announced a partnership with Google, the parent company of YouTube. According to Virginia Secretary of Technology Aneesh Chopra, the commonwealth has been exploring ways to leverage the Internet's power to improve the Web applications of government agencies, including universities.

"We think we can fundamentally change the ways universities provide community service," Chopra said.

Colleges using interactive channels, however, also have to deal with the challenges the new media creates.

According to Snowdy, ODU's official channel is called an "enhanced" channel, which allows the university to use branding, logos and external links.

"The channel is very monitored," Snowdy said. "The office of university relations acts as the gatekeeper for all content, comments, video responses and ratings."

According to Snowdy, this policy has kept the channel protected from profanity and inappropriateness.

Despite these challenges, Snowdy predicted such channels will eventually become as standard as Web sites for colleges and other entities.

According to Greg Roberts, University of Virginia associate dean of admissions, the University is considering -- but has not yet moved forward with -- the idea.

"It's not something that we're against," Roberts said. "If we do move into that arena [collaborative Internet media] we want to make sure that we put out something that's interesting and informative and high quality."

Based on the initial success of the partnership with Google, Chopra said the commonwealth plans to create and refine existing YouTube channels for various government entities, including colleges and universities.

"We are hopeful that every university in the commonwealth will begin developing strategies to digitize course lectures and develop models in which that information can be distributed to citizens in the commonwealth and throughout the world," Chopra said.

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