As a 21st century student who consumes the ‘college campus’ brand primarily in a digital space through emerging media platforms such as —LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Fan Pages, blogs, YouTube videos, Skype Conversations and Twitter streams— it’s nostalgic to think back upon a day when tall glass cabinets held countless relics that illustrated a school’s history, progress, and pledge to future advancements. Today instead of looking at microfilm images in the basement of a school’s main library, a newcomer to campus can just as easily click through a Flickr album online and enjoy these scanned in photographs whenever they like. And in-depth research assessing the changing trends in educational collaboration, notes that constantly evolving technology and social networks are undoubtedly the key factors behind the shifts taking place among students, professors, and administration staff internationally.
In order to achieve a stronger, more profound understanding when it came to studying modern day educational collaborations, I needed to approach the analysis at hand several ways. Therefore by combining a holistic review that included a mirco-level scholastic case study, a real time interview between two international students, a video database inventory journal and a collage interpretation related to all of the above, I began to see clearer connections that brought a myriad of unique academic institution cultures separated by continents and oceans together across the vast and open Internet range. Each artistic development within this portfolio bridges typical spaces that can be found at any given University, but goes beyond the concrete elements and instead focuses on highlighting the community narratives which speak to certain qualitative insights that had been previously buried and remained unknown.
Yet despite this expansive review of colleges from around the world, lingering questions remained long after I had completed the finishing touches and revised the last sentence. Where were the campuses that even with the technological advances and media rich content readily available online for learning, were still struggling to help teach their campus populations and engage in an effective dialogue beyond the classroom, and why were they struggling? Reluctantly, these questions must wait for now.
Monologue tangents that impede inspiration, philosophical influence, and historical context aside, during any process proper credit should be awarded to those helpful people, places and things that proved the difference between a quality resource and an eminent resource. With this particular portfolio compilation, everything that sprang forth creatively can indeed be traced back to one awe-inspiring article. In February 2010, higher education resource website CollegeSurfing.com posted the selected winners that would be honored in the inaugural Web 2.0 College Olympics. In keeping with Olympic tradition gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded to the most innovative campuses that were using a gamut of social media platforms to engage the campus community. With such a convenient sample pool already processed and organized for me, I culled through the recipients and selected LaTrobe University, located in Victoria, Australia for the subject of my first portfolio piece.
Opting to use the case study formula and show how LaTrobe University used online communities and social media vehicles such as iTunes University to develop interesting educational collaborations fit perfectly together. Breaking down an outline in this manner juxtaposes the commerce/finance perspective and social initiatives (i.e. education) against one another and more importantly slates the more ‘humanitarian’ goals against the corporate goals. As campus brands slowly begin to resemble Fortune 500 models, it was important that I not only studied educational collaborations as an initiative that leads to a higher return on relationships amid a university, high school, or elementary campus between parents, teachers, students and staff but its also paramount to consider how educational collaborations lend way to a return on investment as well.
In one particular example, it was interesting to interpret how LaTrobe University placed such a high internal value on their various social media milestones and celebrated what long terms effects this would have on their university (i.e. increased enrollment, better relationships/tax brackets from government, more research grant development, etc). In addition to using certain social networks like Twitter and Facebook, LaTrobe’s iTunes University channel offers an extensive podcast library. In preparing to design the sound piece for this portfolio, I decided that the podcast medium would be the best. My thinking being, that if it worked for LaTrobe so well, perhaps I would be just as fortunate.
Using a combination of free software for download called Audio Hijack and Skype (both were free, very cost effective) I worked with two international students from Hong Kong and Sao Paolo respectively to capture their thoughts and insights about educational collaborations and how digital media affects the way they engage and consume their individual campus programs. In asking Sam about how he consumes a campus brand and what types of collaborations took place in his program, he responded that when certain, traditional standards and protocol between a student and professor, coach or admissions counselor certain formalities fall away as everyone starts using online channels like Twitter DMs, Facebook Fan Page wall posts, LinkedIn messaging, or something else to communicate important, pertinent information around campus.
On the other hand, Elisa shared that she used a university’s active (or lack thereof) social media presence as a way to a gauge and rank a school’s overall quality. In the above portfolio element, I was only able to listen and experience educational collaborations taking place at LaTrobe University from a peripheral vantage point. However, by discovering a way to produce a short podcast program, in the future I’ll be able to create more pieces like this interview with Elisa and Sam. Perhaps over the next six months, I can strive to create my own podcast series that represents a set of conversations about education, collaborations, and digital communities with a point of contact at each school recognized in the Web 2.0 College Olympics.
Let’s take a moment and review a couple of interesting, and even somewhat shocking facts about YouTube before we get ready to discuss the next installation within the portfolio. According to reports from industry sources like Mashable and YouTube’s homepage as of February 2011, “YouTube has 490 million unique users worldwide per month, who rack up an estimated 92 billion page views each month; On average there are more than 400 tweets per minute containing a YouTube link, and Facebook over 150 years worth of YouTube videos are watched every single day.” One must also consider that when it comes to Internet bandwidth, in a 24 hour period YouTube will use a percentage, the same percentage that in 2000 was sufficient to operate the entire Internet. So we’ve discussed the hard numbers and facts, but how does that relate to educational collaborations and analyzing how current students consume a campus brand. Well when YouTube is the #2 search engine platform behind Google, it’s clearly evident that online videos play a pivotal role when it comes to collaborating and debating within the academic context.
The revised collections of 12 videos that I selected all represent unique stories and illustrate a narrative about how two, three, or 44 people came together through networks, connections, and colleagues to help make the world’s learning environment better for students. Business leaders are lending a hand to help principals, superintendents, and deans back new programs and progressive additions to out dated curriculums; other volunteers continue to donate their time so that future generations will enter the work force with an adequate skill set that will help them personally and professionally. Students are also using the online sharing video sphere to showcase their campus’s diversity, student demographics, and extra curricular programs. Again, each video selected for this highlights an aspect of learning that incorporates some type of digital educational collaboration.
To bring everything full circle, the last component in this portfolio series is a custom designed image that features the word ‘Learn’ spelled out where each letter represents a certain theme to accompany the phrase, “Learn through Leadership, Excursions, Application, Risk, Now.” The Internet and Adobe Photoshop were the two primary materials used to make this piece. In working with collages in the past, I was challenged to translate an analog process and duplicate it using only digital tools such as screenshots, editing buttons with Photoshop and of course numerous creative common photos from digital archives like Flickr and Bing.
Not deterred nor intimated that I was going to need a mouse instead of scissors, glue and paper, I started the process by making canvas molds so that each letter ‘background’ piece would be consistent. I did not want each ‘letter’ piece to be the exact same font so I then selected a different style for each character. Cutting out pieces from pulled images online was actually much easier than I anticipated and through the course of designing the pieces I became obsessed with the lasso tool so that my shapes were not reduced to sharp edged rectangles and plain circles.
When any artist comments on their work, viewers sometimes feel like they’re learning about some special secret that took place backstage, or behind closed doors. Take a look at the black and white backdrops behind each letter. Each piece is a photo from different campuses represented in the Web 2.0 College Olympics article. Thankfully, these images put the final touch on this expression supporting my thoughts about digital educational collaborations and the new ways students are consuming campus brands.
Today’s instructors, study abroad coordinators, students and governing school officials stand at the beginning of a new and vastly different landscape than history’s ever seen before now. In order to solve global concerns like HIV/AIDs, Global Warming, and World Hunger future leaders must not only be proficient when it comes to technology but more importantly, they must know how to use certain online tools at their disposal which will make learning, collaborating and preparing for a future in the work force all the more easier and exciting. Accordingly, shifting patterns in student life, emerging online community platforms, and expanding networks that bring global virtual resources together despite geographic limitations will also affect campus brands around the world. In preparing students for their forthcoming professional aspirations, mentors, professors and colleagues must also prepare them to serve as world citizens; the two roles are not mutually exclusive. Digital educational collaborations must lay a strong, knowledgeable foundation.