Campus / News / May 18, 2011

Knox goes online to reach alumni

Last Thursday, Knox hosted its first live webcast on the Knox website. The hour-long webcast featuring Professor of Political Science Bob Seibert, ’63 and Professor of Economics Roy Andersen discussing political turmoil in the Middle East was an effort made by the Office of Advancement and Alumni Relations to extend Knox events to alumni and possibly prospective students.

Director of Advancement Communications Megan Scott and Vice President for Advancement Beverly Holmes said the webcast went very well and that a live webcast has been an idea floating around in the Office of Advancement for a while.

“We’ve wanted to do some kind of streaming,” Scott said.

When the tenth edition of “Politics and Change in the Middle East,” a book written by Seibert, Andersen and Professor of Anthropology Jon Wagner, was released in 2010, Scott said, “it was the perfect opportunity. If we were going to try it, this was the time.”

Seibert said in the webcast, “There doesn’t seem to be readily available some kind of pattern of responses,” that could be applied to the several countries in political turmoil in the Middle East. “Surprisingly, social media has been a very important factor in these demonstrations,” he said.

Andersen agreed with Seibert that there could not be a prediction about one country’s future that would work for any other country that is currently involved in what is being called the Arab Spring in the Middle East.

“Every country is a special case,” Andersen said.

Scott and Holmes knew that there had been times when alumni wanted to bring Seibert and Andersen to speak at events away from Knox, but saw a webcast as a way to make the discussion available to all alumni with access to a computer.

The Office of Advancement completed their first-ever full alumni survey this January and a question included in the survey asked people how they felt about the communications Knox keeps up with its graduates.

Holmes said an issue for many people was that they do not live in an area where there is a Knox Club, a group that organizes reunions and events for alumni in local areas across the country. She said many of these people wanted to feel like they could connect more to campus.

“Fifty-six people watched it live,” Scott said.

As of the morning after the webcast, 20 more people had watched the webcast, which Advancement kept posted on the live stream’s website.

The webcast was not only meant to be a lecture over the Internet. People were able to either send in questions for Seibert and Andersen before the webcast, send in questions during the webcast via typing questions onto the live stream website or by sending a question to The Knox Student’s Twitter account. Throughout the hour-long discussion, the two professors took questions from viewers.

Holmes said it only took about 10 minutes before the first questions came in.

“The interaction amongst all of them was exciting to watch,” Scott said.

The original vision for the webcast and for future webcasts was one in which there would be a live audience as well as an online audience. Scott said they wanted to test the waters before determining if it would be possible to have live audiences in the future.

“We learned … it was a bit more technically difficult to moderate questions coming in and moderate a live audience,” Scott said. “Students, people can still watch online … but that [a live audience] was our original vision.”

Scott and Holmes also thought the webcast might be a good tool for the Office of Admissions in the future.

Holmes said that President-elect Teresa Amott is also very interested in webcasts and live streams such as last week’s, but that the Office of Advancement and Alumni Relations carried out the first one on its own.

“[Amott] really wants to do this kind of thing,” Holmes said. “She’s very supportive of trying new things, different things. What a great way to introduce her to the alumni.”

Annie Zak

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