Is this a publicity stunt or a simply a sign of the times?
The New York Times published an article today explaining how Tufts University is encouraged University applicants to include a 60 second supplemental video as part of the application process. According to Lee Coffin, dean of undergraduate admissions, 1,000 of the 15,000 applicants have already submitted a video. There are no video guidelines on style, format or content just the suggestion that video might be an engaging way to show the school who you are.
Is this a publicity stunt? Coffin suggests, “maybe I was naïve, but it didn’t occur to me that these videos would be so public, and so followed.” Coffin goes on to explain that the idea came to him last year Spring as he watched a YouTube video someone had sent him. “I thought, ‘If this kid applied to Tufts, I’d admit him in a minute, without anything else,’ ” Whether this is a well conceived marketing gimmick by the University or simply an admissions officer recognizing the power of a new medium I believe it represents something larger, something that the phenomenal growth of YouTube is just an early indication of – that video is changing how we communicate.
And why not? We all have different learning styles – visual, auditory or tactile, why shouldn’t we encourage different communication styles. Not everyone is a great writer but you know that there are a lot of people with really great projects, hobbies, accomplishments, and passions that might be better showcased with a well conceived video.
Is this the end of the written word? Of course not. Communication isn’t a zero sum game. Our brains aren’t quite full yet. Coffin defends his heretical idea (I imagine in order to protect his good standing with the English Department) by stating, “we will never abandon writing.” “No matter what, it’s important to be able to express yourself elegantly in writing.” He is, of course right, but it is also becoming more important to be able to communicate visually and aurally as well.