It's only been a year, but what a year it's been.
When University Communications launched a UCLA channel on YouTube in September 2008, no one could have guessed that a minute-and-a-half-long video of UCLA's women's rugby team playing its macho sport in prom dresses would rocket to the top of the charts with a quarter-million views.
Or that a tribute to UCLA's Fields Medal winner, mathematician Terrence Tao, complete with snapshots from his early years as a child prodigy in Australia, would capture 55,137 views.
t's not surprising, then, to hear that UCLA's YouTube channel just logged its millionth view, a milestone for the team of people in External Affairs who have worked hard to broaden the channel's appeal with faculty lectures, fresh features, profiles of researchers explaining their work, glimpses of student life, performances and other special events. Departments from across the campus have all contributed to this success by posting more than 880 videos so far.
Prom Dress Rugby is the most viewed video on UCLA's YouTube channel. Shot by Seth Odell of Newsroom, it became the top sports video on YouTube on the Saturday after it was posted.
Visitors to UCLA's YouTube page this week can share the exuberance of Coach Rick Neuheisel celebrating a victory with his wildly cheering football players in their locker room; see Assistant Professor Aydogan Ozcan explain how he is incorporating microscopes in cell phones to make remote diagnoses of diseases possible; or relive the rush of UCLA Volunteer Day through the eyes of students.
The variety of videos, ranging from lighthearted entertainment to serious academics, is what's keeping everyone watching.
One viewer, Vinay Kumar, a graduate student at Columbia University, was having trouble following the concepts of Bayesian Inference and graphical models in his class in machine learning because he hadn't taken a course in probability, he said. So over three days, Kumar hunkered down and watched the first 13 lectures of UCLA Professor Emeritus Herbert Enderton's class on probability, through the university's YouTube channel for UCLA courses.
"That has given me a lot of confidence and knowledge," Kumar told Enderton in an e-mail thanking him and UCLA for posting the video lectures. "Machine learning has been relatively smooth sailing after that. I am eagerly waiting for summer break, so that I can finish watching the remaining 15 videos."
It's the array of subjects, from political science and psychology to modern civilization, that keeps people coming back to the channel. There are now 3,000 people who have signed up to become subscribers to the channel and get UCLA content delivered to them as it is being uploaded.
"Viewers have responded to the channel because departments from across campus have come together to share interesting videos," said Genevieve Haines, director of Integrated Communications, who leads the YouTube project for the Marketing and Communications Services in External Affairs. "The departments benefit because they find a larger audience for their content. And alumni, current students, prospective students and fans benefit from access to a one-stop shop for UCLA videos."
One of the initial challenges for the new channel was amassing a selection of videos that was large enough to attract attention.
"Working with partners from across the campus gave the channel a critical mass of videos — meaning that videos on the youtube.com/ucla channel are less likely to get lost in the sea of video content on YouTube," Haines said. "The upshot is that UCLA faculty and staff now have a way to deliver UCLA videos directly to an audience of people who are eager for our content."
The vastness of that audience became clear to Professor Robert Goldberg when he started getting feedback from YouTube viewers from all over the world to his course on the controversial topic of genetic engineering. "The positive aspect of having your course on YouTube is that it gives you a broader audience. You're getting reaction from different parts of the world. The people who view the class say my class is very different from anything they've seen before."
YouTube viewers' responses are primarily non-scientific, gut-level reactions that range from "How can you say that? These kinds of things are poison!" to "I would love to take a class from a professor like you." He also has his lectures webcasted. Those tend to be viewed by people who are more attuned to the science, he said. The viewers of YouTube, he said, tend to be more diverse and reflect the general population.
A UCLA distinguished professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology, Goldberg was recently featured in Newsweek in an article headlined, "In Search of Great Professors." One of his undergraduate courses made it onto the list of "America's 10 Hottest Classes" compiled by the Daily Beast, a website founded by former New Yorker editor Tina Brown.
UCLA recently adopted YouTube's new channel format that allows folks to browse through and watch new uploads, favorites and playlists — all without leaving the channel. So people who start watching videos on UCLA's channel are more likely to continue watching more UCLA videos. "Of course, that's good news for us," Haines said.
Linkin Park guitarist and alumnus Brad Delson's commencement speech at UCLA has been seen 37,346 times.
Faculty and staff who are interested in getting involved can become subscribers by going to www.youtube.com/ucla and signing up. To post videos, go to youtube.ucla.edu and click About/Contribute. Everything you need can be found on that page. Read about the 10 easy steps to get started.
"We're eager to add more videos from campus to build on UCLA's success – and to continue sharing with the world what makes UCLA such an amazing place," Haines said.