What Is YouTube Film School?

Imagine majoring in YouTube. Maybe not as far-fetched as you might think. Beginning in spring 2011, the social media website, known for allowing registered users to upload and share videos of their own making, is joining forces with two well-known higher learning institutions to provide an education in digital media to 20 lucky individuals selected for the program. Schools offering Digital Cinematography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Lights, Camera, Learn!

Known as the YouTube Creator Institute, the first-ever partnership between the popular social network and two schools - University of Southern California (USC) and Columbia College Chicago - provides an 'incredibly exciting opportunity', according to Elizabeth M. Daley, the dean of USC's School of Cinematic Arts. Michael Niederman, chairman of Columbia College's Television Department, says that the partnership 'represents the leading edge of media trends, exploring emerging forms of television and what's next in the media landscape.'

Students are chosen based on work uploaded to their YouTube accounts. After YouTube users vote on submissions, finalists are chosen by the partnering schools. Of the 20 students selected, ten will attend the program at USC, and ten will go to the YouTube Creator Institute housed at the Columbia College Chicago Television Department. And the icing on the cake? YouTube is paying the way for these potentially future filmmakers, editors or video producers.

The 5-week summer program combines on-site and online learning opportunities and gives students who have likely been self-taught or who have received minimal training opportunities the chance to get the kind of formal education that could help them develop a career in the field. Students will work with TV, video and film professors while using new media tools, learning social media strategies and developing online audiences. They will also study cinematography, story development and marketing, all while enjoying YouTube's global promotion of their work.

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A Meeting of the Minds

It seems almost a natural merger: one of the largest social networks on the Internet, the country's most well-known film school and the only television department in a U.S. college or university coming together to offer this new media program.

Founded in 1929 in Los Angeles by film producers and directors, USC's School of Cinematic Arts is the oldest and largest film school in the country. Recognizable alumni of this school include Ron Howard, Sam Peckinpah, George Lucas and John Carpenter.

As one of eight departments in the School of Media Arts, Columbia College Chicago's Television Department is the only college department in the United States devoted solely to this medium. Television producing, directing, writing, editing and motion graphics are among the concentrations offered in this department.

YouTube was started in 2005 in a garage office by three former PayPal employees. Purchased by Google in 2006, the site reports over two billion views per day. In 2010, the Web information company Alexa reported that YouTube had surpassed Yahoo! as the third-most viewed site on the Internet.

The Start of a Beautiful Relationship?

Could the YouTube film school program be the start of further integration between social media and higher education? It could, as administrators, professors and instructional designers become increasingly aware of the relevance and importance of social media in today's society and how it can be utilized to impact and advance education.

While not on the same level as the YouTube Creator Institute, changes are already afoot. For instance, in April 2011, ConnectYard, Inc., a company providing social media communication solutions for higher education, announced that it was enabling notifications on Facebook and Twitter via the Blackboard Learn platform. This will allow students and faculty to access discussion threads and view announcements from these social network sites.

It is speculated that the success of the YouTube program could lead to its expansion. Possibly colleges and universities in other states and even other countries will one day host similar programs. Will the next Steven Spielberg get his start on YouTube? You might not want to hedge your bets against it.

Get more interesting facts about how colleges and universities are utilizing social networks to communicate with existing and new audiences.

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