Listening to a lecture at Westmont just got easier. Last year, the college began publishing high-quality videos on the Internet easily accessible on computers and mobile devices. Seeking to stay at the forefront of technology with cloud computing and its own iPhone app, Westmont is now delivering content to both YouTube and iTunesU.
“Hundreds of millions of people are familiar with and already using these platforms,” says Reed Sheard, vice president for advancement and chief information officer. “We hope more and more people will view events at the college that center on Kingdom work and our mission.”
Watching videos via the Internet is one of the fastest growing segments of the Web thanks to YouTube and iTunes. Sheard notes the differences between the two.
“The ease of YouTube has led to the explosion in the amount of video content on the Web,” Sheard says. “While that’s a great thing, the challenge is that we have minimal control over what associations YouTube chooses to make with our content.”
On the other hand, iTunes allows Westmont to structure categories for courses, chapels and lectures. Videos from iTunes can also be transferred to a laptop, iPod, iPhone or iPad and played offline. “People can download a chapel service, a classroom lecture, or a Westmont Downtown talk and have it with them whether they are on the Internet or not,” Sheard says.
The public affairs office works with information technology staff to upload high-quality recordings of chapel and campus lectures in a timely manner. Doug Conrad, associate director of academic and institutional technology, oversees this effort. “Doug has provided outstanding leadership in this important initiative,” Sheard says.
“With video content easily available, we hope to encourage conversations among students, parents and friends of the college in ways that we haven’t been able to do before,” Sheard says.
Gifted speakers have delivered memorable chapel talks over the years, which the college recorded and stored on CDs. By January 2011, the audio of all chapel services from the past eight years will be available on iTunes. Eventually, Westmont will add talks going back to the 1970s.
“This is where the navigation is so important,” Sheard says. “It’s critical for the user to be able to easily search through all the chapel talks and find what they are looking for by date or topic.”
Although Westmont has no interest in putting full courses online, there are segments of classes that use videos as a supplement. For example, Randy VanderMey, professor of English, and David Newton, professor of entrepreneurial finance, have embraced this opportunity, recording more than 60 videos — most less than 10 minutes long.
“Reading poetry and hearing poetry are two very different things,” Sheard says. “Economics and business students can go back and review discussions of complex financial models to gain mastery. We’re using tools to enhance and strengthen learning that takes place face-to-face.”