By Jessica Garcia
Last fall, Pitzer College welcomed a new upgrade at the
university level: a course designed to teach students about the ins
and outs of the Internet-based social medium YouTube. The subject?
“The Internet has become more powerful than people expected,”
said Holly Chan, a second-year Cal Poly computer science student.
“Social Web sites like MySpace and Facebook are infiltrating the
workplace on a daily basis. I think the creating of a YouTube class
was only a matter of time.”
The Pitzer course, called “Learning from YouTube,” is similar to
a class now being offered at Stanford University, called “Create
Engaging Web Applications Using Metrics and Learning on
“Students post videos of themselves as their final projects,”
said Alexandra Juhasz, class instructor and media studies professor
at the small liberal arts university in Claremont.
Fueling the Pitzer professor’s ambition to develop a YouTube
course was what she has described as her “disappointment” in the
online social mediums. She claims to have been “underwhelmed” by
YouTube in particular, opting to create a largely interactive and
student-controlled course and learning experience.
Pitzer students meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 1:10
p.m. to share with their fellow classmates YouTube videos they came
across and any comments they may have posted in response.
The videos range from film outtakes to spoofs to homemade
movies. Ensuing discussion topics range from political matters to
copyright laws to artistic freedom of expression. The class becomes
a live, open forum for just about anything.
“One thing that I’ve learned in teaching is that it’s okay for
students to teach me, too,” said Juhasz in an online press
The community element that this course exudes is undeniable.
Each class session is videotaped and posted on YouTube as the
Since the main focus of the course is its integration with
online convergence, assignments are also communicated through the
Web site. Previous coursework has often been as quirky as students
posted videos of themselves juggling and whistling.
It sounds silly and some Cal Poly students think it strays too
far from academia.
“I probably visit [the Web site] a few times a week on my own,”
said Ross Womack, a fourth-year biology student at Cal Poly. “But
an actual college class about YouTube? I feel like the Internet’s
important, but that’s just ridiculous.”
When asked what she thought about a YouTube class at Cal Poly,
fourth-year animal science student Veronica May saw the prospect a
“It does sound kind of weird, but it could also be helpful,”
said May. “Our generation uses online media like MySpace and
YouTube so much already, it makes sense that they’ve finally crept
into our college curriculum. It makes sense to learn the social
value in them.”
On the Pitzer College Web site, Juhasz shared her hope that the
class brings “critical ideas about media studies and contemporary
culture,” and remains “academically rigorous, if still
entertaining” for all participants.
She also states she created the class to learn what the fuss
about YouTube was all about.
“I wanted my students and the online community … to learn more
– and teach me – about the potential and pitfalls of
corporate-sponsored democratic media expression,” Juhasz said.
Although Juhasz has claimed YouTube fails as a “model for
democratic media,” she invites the general public to watch and
monitor her students’ progress.
Anyone wishing to see recorded videos of the class sessions,
each reduced to roughly 10 minutes a sitting, can view them at
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