Monday, March 31, 2008

What Our Competitors Are Doing

In case you missed this . . .

Since its beginnings in 2005, YouTube has been known as a major source of
online video entertainment, racking up billions of visits and hosting
everything from music videos to strangely hypnotic clips of laughing
babies. Until recently, however, “academic” content on YouTube was
mostly limited to in-depth how-tos or the occasional commencement speech.

YouTube’s reputation as an entertainment-only venue began to change late
in 2007 when several higher educational institutions began cooperating with
the online video community to serve truly academic content like classroom
lectures and hosted talks. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
was among the first universities to work with YouTube to offer UNC-produced
content via the site.

Gary Marchionini, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor at UNC’s
School of Information and Library Science (SILS), led the efforts to get
video productions created at UNC at Chapel Hill on YouTube (see

The effort began when Marchionini proposed a video series titled
“Information in Life” and, with support from YouTube, developed the
series in 2007. The idea was to record lectures on key information topics
presented by SILS faculty, guest speakers and students and to augment these
lectures with interviews with faculty from SILS and the UNC campus.

SILS students Larry Taylor, Brenn Hill, Nicholas Johnson and Travis Roscher
worked with Marchionini to record presentations and interviews and to
design the site. Recorded presentations ranged from SILS professors giving
intimate talks, to prominent speakers like Cory Doctorow presenting large
lectures. Interviews consisted of a set of questions about the scholars’
research and teaching and the roles that information plays in their work.

When recordings were complete, they were packaged with a short credit
screen developed for the series that includes a fugue created by Taylor
that morphs from piano to synthesizer. A simple metadata template is used
to describe each video and the recordings are compressed for upload. The
files and the corresponding metadata were then sent to YouTube and appeared
on the UNC “channel.”

There are currently more than 100 videos—approximately 75 hours of
content—in the Information in Life Series, with more than 60 lectures by
SILS faculty, students and visitors and two dozen interviews with UNC
faculty in fields ranging from public health and pharmacy to folklore and
popular culture.

Based on the work to develop the Information in Life series, the UNC
YouTube channel was expanded to incorporate the entire campus community and
include videos produced outside of SILS. There are currently more than 250
videos now available in different playlists on the UNC channel.

The UNC/YouTube relationship proved so successful that management of the
channel is currently transitioning to the campus Department of University
Relations. The Information in Life Series will continue to add lectures.

The videos are free and available for use in multiple ways, including
classroom settings, home-schooling, research and more. SILS encourages use
and reuse of the materials available and promotes frequent visits to the
site to view the latest additions.

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