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Expanding the BUniverse

BU’s new video-sharing Web site wants you


Watch this video on YouTube

In the video above, Ben Agoes, a lead designer for New Media, demonstrates how to upload your videos from YouTube to the new bu.edu/buniverse in less than 60 seconds.

Costume-clad LipDubbers coexist with Noam Chomsky. BU’s executive chef cooks up Sargent Choice recipes alongside testimonials from Alternative Spring Break volunteers.

All are part of the new BUniverse, BU’s one-stop repository for video content and a kind of YouTube for students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

The site, which launches today, is the product of a yearlong collaboration between BU’s New Media and Information Services & Technology departments. Their ambitious aim: corral BU-related content from around the Web — from BU Today videos to taped School of Medicine lectures to student vlogs on YouTube — in a single, easy-to-use place.

Ultimately, creators say, the success of BUniverse is in the hands of users. Anyone with an active BU log-in and Kerberos password can upload videos and comment on existing videos.

“We want to have the campus step forward, and through their videos, better describe what BU really is,” says Scott Dasse, creative director of New Media.

For example, he says, a couple who work at BU could post a video of their wedding in Marsh Chapel. Broadcast journalism students can upload the newscasts they produce for class; a cappella groups can post their concerts for the world to see and hear.

To date, only a handful of people have posted content, but Tracy Schroeder, vice president for information services and technology, says the site’s creators would like it to evolve into an online microcosm of academic and social life at BU.

“My hope is that it will take on a life of its own, that it’ll be very vibrant,” Schroeder says. “I think it will provide a great resource for teaching and learning.”

Justin Hook (COM’09, CAS’09) recently uploaded episodes of “Microwave Tinfoil,” a series of comedic Web shorts he created while at BU. He’s already received feedback from viewers on the videos, he says, and he’s confident that more interested viewers will discover the show on a BU-specific video site.

“I’ve tried to post videos from the Bostonia Web site to my blog before, but you can’t embed them,” Hook says. “To be able to just go to BUniverse and know that all BU videos will be there — that’s pretty handy.”

In its first incarnation, BUniverse posted lectures by BU professors and guest speakers on campus. The new BUniverse will still offer lecture-taping services, but unlike the old site, it will include user-submitted content and allow video sharing.

“We drew a lot of inspiration from YouTube,” says IS&T application developer Kevin Grinberg, who coded the site. “But in key ways there are different goals. We wanted BUniverse to have an academic focus, and we wanted to make it as easy as possible to contribute and share videos.”

Aaron L’Heureux, a New Media Flash developer, who built the video player for BUniverse, says the site’s developers hoped to improve on YouTube. They created a site with what L’Heureux describes as an “extremely clean user interface,” intuitive search features, and clear messages to users as they navigate the site to upload videos.

While BU isn’t the first university to launch an online video repository — across the river, MIT hosts TechTV — it is the first to give users free rein in posting content, according to Ben Agoes, a lead designer at New Media.

As with YouTube, videos uploaded to BUniverse will not be prescreened, Dasse says, although the site’s administrators reserve the right to remove offensive or illegal content or videos that violate copyright.

“We’re expecting some controversial stuff,” he says, “but we’d like to ask people to avoid posting abusive content, to be respectful.”

Users can also comment on videos, although not anonymously. Commenters will be identified by their BU aliases, Agoes says, to encourage “pointed, interesting discussion” rather than the vitriolic back-and-forth found in most YouTube videos’ comment sections.

“We had many discussions about the legality” of hosting user-submitted content and comments, says Dasse. “We just had to convince everybody that it’s worth the risk.”

Ultimately, he says, the new BUniverse taps into the trend of universities embracing social media “in a way that utilizes and enhances the educational experience, but doesn’t trivialize it.”

“There’s a deep interest in becoming more social,” Dasse says. “All universities are scratching their heads, trying to figure out a way to embrace social media.”

For help or to report problems with the new bu.edu/buniverse, call the IS&T service desk at 617-353-HELP or submit a ticket here.

Katie Koch can be reached at katieleekoch@gmail.com; follow her on Twitter at @katieleekoch.


5 Comments on Expanding the BUniverse

  • serious student on 04.21.2010 at 6:32 am

    How is this improving my education?

    I would like to know how much money was spent developing BUniverse.
    How is this helping me academically? With the current job market and the economic crisis, is this making me a more competitive candidate?

    Quite frankly, I’d rather have free printing to help me write my papers or lower tuition than rip off of YouTube.

  • Anonymous on 04.21.2010 at 8:36 am

    This is amazing, finally something to compare to MIT opencourseware – and it seems to have more than just lectures. I would be even more excited if any multi-part lectures or videos, such as those for a specific course, could be grouped under sub-categories when searched for – or at least when “browsing”. =)

  • Anonymous on 04.21.2010 at 9:48 am

    To the first commenter, it’s not all about you.

    Well done, BU. This is an impressive site.

  • Anonymous on 04.21.2010 at 4:46 pm

    Re: "how is this improving my education?"

    Lower tuition? Can’t really argue with that, but you’re not seeing the bigger picture. There is a lot more going on than you can see at the University, which is taking care of tens of thousands of students and over 2,000 employees. You’re tuition pays for more than YOUR education.

    Free printing will not help you write better papers but save you a few bucks here and there. Buy your own printer and ink; over 4 years it’ll be cheaper.

    The role of the IS&T team is more than making sure you have access to Facebook (or BU Today at 6:30am) and YouTube. This particular project was a very, very small piece of the IS&T pie, which also makes sure that you have wireless campus wide (I’m sure that helps your education, no?).

    This is a forward thinking project as BU considers how to enhance education with technology, similar to recording classes and posted podcasts to educate those not necessarily in the class in the first place. Note: there is a difference between getting educated and sitting in class because you’re required to in order to graduate.

    Just give it some time, see what posts are made, and see what you learn from them. Keep an open mind and a less self-focused outlook, or your education won’t matter. Employers don’t want individually minded people, they want team players. Sometimes, what’s best for everyone is best for you, too…

  • Nick B on 05.03.2010 at 10:12 am


    I was really impressed by this site and thought it was great use of BU resources. “How is this improving my education” needs to take a break. Take a look at all of the resources and activities provided to you at BU. It’s not just about the few hours a week you spend in class. I’m sure you haven’t joined any clubs or been to a hockey game either.

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