The Office of Web Communications is pleased to have a hand in the following projects. It’s been quite a fall and we’ve seen our team stretched in new directions to good results.

Office of Government Relations

This is Your OSU: A Report from President Ed Ray

Office of Financial Aid

We’ve also expanded our numbers through the addition of a graduate assistant focusing on video and multimedia for the Web. Our first project is a profile of longtime OSU communicator and intrepid bluesman, Jeff Hino. We’re glad the new term has started and we’re happy to have new students on our team, reminding us of how valuable they are to the work we do.

Many Oregon State Web communicators use software called Drupal to manage their content. Content management is an efficient way to distribute editorial responsibilities. Also, by placing your content into a database-driven system like Drupal, it becomes easier to search, update, categorize, reuse and syndicate.

But this doesn’t mean that moving to a content mangement system from a static HTML-based site is easy. It’s challenging and also a lot of work. These facts often result in what I’ll call “content management backlash.” In some circles, Drupal is used like a four-letter word. But in truth, any content management system, with its array of advantages and disadvantages, would earn a similar level of abuse.

I have my own challenges in working with Drupal. I’ve worked with a number of CMSs over the years, including WordPress, Cascade Server, Microsoft CMS, TextPattern and Joomla, as well as some home-made options. Drupal is easier than some, and more challenging than others. The features it provides are, however, very similar. But a couple of factors make me feel good about working with Drupal.

First off, it’s an open source project. That means it’s free to use. It is developed by a worldwide collective of intrepid programmers all working for free. It isn’t completely selfless…many of these developers turn around and use Drupal on client projects and sell their services for support and maintenance. But as a Drupal user,you aren’t required to pay a dime. In higher education, where we’re always seeking creative ways to stretch our thin budgets, that’s a huge advantage. It always hurts in our field to sign those dwindling budget resources over to Adobe, Microsoft, Apple and the rest.

The next reason I feel good about working with Drupal is that our university plays a large role in keeping the Drupal project running. Drupal.org, the worldwide community of Drupal users and developers, is hosted right here in the basement of Kerr at Open Source Labs. OSL has played a role in a number of highly regarded open source projects, including Mozilla Firefox. With many Drupal users on campus, we also have a number of users who can serve as resources. There is also extensive Drupal training on campus.

So whenever I grow frustrated using our main content management tool, I try to recall all of those problems I’ve had using other systems. They’re all capable of giving you fits. Then I also try to remember that by using Drupal, I’m investing in a project in which OSU has a very large stake. But none of this means I’m a Drupal purist. In fact, this blog is running on another open source content management system that plays a significant role in higher education, WordPress.

Searches for Craig Robinson (red), Oregon State basketball (gold) and Oregon State University (gold) all show a noticable spike on August 26.
Searches for Craig Robinson (red), Oregon State basketball (gold) and Oregon State University (gold) all show a noticable spike on August 26.

If you haven’t yet experimented with Google Insights, it’s definitely worth a look. It combs through all Google searches for specific terms and produces reports based on time and volume. For example, you can see if there’s a peak of interest for the terms “oregon colleges” and “university admissions” and you might plan your Web marketing around what you find.

Based on a blog post about the importance of sports in higher ed, I decided to run the following terms through Insights to see if Coach Craig Robinson’s high profile DNC speech affected results: Oregon State University, OSU Basketball, Oregon State Basketball, Craig Robinson.  Notice a bump on August 26 on this graph, one day after the coach shouted “Go Beavs!” in his orange necktie as he introduced his sister Michelle Obama. What this tells us is that there was definite increase in searches for our university as a result of that event, and probably a bump in new viewers to our website. If we can learn to react fast and even plan for such opportunities, we might be able to convert some of this new traffic into measurable metrics.

Our YouTube channel currently features a mix of content, from polished commercials and official videos, to lectures and student-genereated pieces.
Our YouTube channel currently features a mix of content, from polished commercials and official videos, to lectures and student-generated pieces.

I’d like to say that we’re breaking new ground by launching an official YouTube channel for Oregon State. But in truth there are plenty other universities already out there. Perhaps the most trafficked and referenced YouTube presence even belongs to a school in our conference.

But I don’t feel like we’re arriving too late to be productive. We haven’t missed the dance; we’re just fashionably late. There’s no evidence that grassroots video is going anywhere. Nearly half the institutions referenced in a recent higher ed study on social media have an official channel. It’s becoming a serious forum for online outreach. Consider this:

Any doubts about the audience for educational video material have been dispelled by the experience of two University of Minnesota math professors, Jonathan Rogness and Douglas Arnold, whose short video, Moebius Transformations Revealed, has been viewed almost 1,300,000 times since its posting on YouTube in June 2007.

or this:

The UC Berkeley channel opened with more than 300 hours of videotaped courses and events on topics ranging from bioengineering to peace and conflict studies. The first video in a lecture series on integrative biology with professor Marian Diamond has been viewed 89,000 times. The first in a course titled Physics for Future Presidents, with professor Richard Muller, has been viewed more than 128,000 times. (Gulf Times)

or this:

Professors are the latest YouTube stars. The popularity of their appearances on YouTube and other video-sharing sites may end up opening up the classroom and making teaching—which once took place behind closed doors—a more public art. (Chronicle)

So we’re making a delayed but serious effort to learn how we can use YouTube to benefit our students and the institution. If you want to be a part of it, just let me know.