Lunch & Learn: Gold Award for Outreach Efforts

The integrated outreach effort centered on the Lunch ‘n Learn Information Technology seminars has just received a gold medal for Best Practices in Communications in the 2009 CASE II Accolades Awards. CASE, the Council for Support and Advancement of Education, makes annual awards to educational institutions in 40 different categories, including alumni relations, communications, design, development, grant writing, magazines, marketing, news writing, photography, portals, publications, and Web.
For more than 15 years, Princeton University’s Office of Information Technology has sponsored the lunch time series featuring speakers with varied affiliations exploring a wide array of cutting edge technology topics. During the past four years, Academic ServicesEducation and Outreach Services have sought to transform the existing series into fully integrated outreach, with these blog posts, high quality podcasts, RSS feeds, and through Facebook, demonstrating how a small outreach office with sophisticated collaboration tools can leverage its resources.

In February, 2006, IT’s Academic, the blog you are reading, was created. Later that same year, podcasts of its LnL seminars became freely available through the Princeton University iTunes site. The remarkable result has been more than 60 million downloads in just more than two years! Even the early podcasts remain very popular.
A worldwide audience appreciates access to the kinds of activities that occur at institutions of higher education like Princeton. After most LnL seminars, stories are produced for the blog that contain links to the podcasts and to the speakers’ slides. The nature of the media also enables the inclusion of video clips, interactive polls, etc. Session attendees and the public are encouraged to sustain the enthusiasm of the seminars by posing questions to the speakers. By signing a list at each seminar, attendees are rewarded with links to these stories in an e-mail reminder. These blog posts also become the basis for an email digest that is produced twice a year.
The most frequntly downloaded podcast has been Assistant Professor of Music Dmitry Tymoczko’s Geometry and Music. There, he demonstrated that major and minor chords map onto a circle in perfect 3:4:5 triangles. In April 2008, Princeton’s new Director of the Broadcast Studio, David Hopkins gave a session on the New World of Digital TV. After only one week in iTunes, his podcast was downloaded more than 330,000 times.
For several months, LnL has had a comprehensive presence on Facebook that provides a summary of upcoming events, easy links to the podcasts and photographs, as well as an RSS feed to the stories in the It’s Academic blog. You’re invited to become a friend of the LnL Facebook page.

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